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There are many paths you can go down in life.
In fact, every day presents opportunities to choose one of several paths.
Do you watch TV, or do you read a book?
Do you text a friend, or do you call them?
Choices abound, and some are easier than others.
But even the easiest choices have unintended consequences.
The Long-Term Results of Simple Choices
There are many ways we can approach our lives.
We can do what’s most convenient, and we’ll probably be just fine. But is that always the best approach? Personally, I’ve found that it isn’t.
Let me explain.
Years ago, I used to spend far too much time on Facebook. I would scroll through my feed to see what kind of exciting information I could find. And when I say that, I actually mean that I would mindlessly scroll to escape boredom and whatever other feelings I had at the time. I just didn’t realize that was what was going on years ago.
And this is what would happen. I would click on a few posts there. I would make a comment or two here. And I felt accomplished. But not really.
What I actually felt was the curse of comparison. I would see something that someone else had posted and think, They got that much attention for that post? That’s not even a good post! I could do that!
And so I would let my emotional response guide my actions, and I would post something that I knew would draw “likes” from others, even if it wasn’t something I truly believed in, even if it wasn’t my truth at the time.
Has this ever happened to you?
This is but one example of taking the easier path instead of the harder one.
And what happened was typically predictable. Yes, I got attention for posts that I knew would get attention. But it felt hollow. It didn’t feel like I had actually earned anything. Because, in reality, I hadn’t. I played the game, and the game worked.
But life isn’t a game. It’s a meaningful journey that requires difficult choices.
How to Take the Harder Path
This is where I turn the spotlight onto you.
How often do you do what’s convenient instead of what’s meaningful and true for you?
Doing what you think others want you to do, or doing what you feel will get immediate gratification, doesn’t provide a whole lot of nourishment for your body and soul. It ends up feeling empty, much like I felt when I let others’ cries for attention dictate my own.
I am no expert on following the harder path. I only know what I’ve learned from others — and what I’ve discovered has worked for me.
For instance, when I write, I feel productive.
When I sit down to put my thoughts down on paper or the computer screen, I have to actually consider what I want to say. I have to group my arguments into some kind of coherent structure. And this has great benefits.
It makes me analyze what I believe about what the world. It forces me to be thoughtful and convincing. Writing is as much a process of thinking as it is getting words the words out there.
Speaking of words, how often do we share our words in ways that don’t actually carry the weight of what we want to say? It’s difficult to convey strong emotions over a text message or a comment on social media.
The harder path would be having a conversation on the phone or in person.
Because the harder path is the way of skill development.
This is the case because when we talk with someone on the phone or face-to-face, we get feedback in the moment. We can pick up the tone and inflection of the other person’s voice. We can use context clues to learn about how they are feeling. And we do all this so we can respond in kind.
We lose so much context when we communicate via the easier path, whatever easy path that may be.
Which Path is the Right One?
It’s hard for me to answer this for you. Sometimes the easier path is totally fine. Other times, it has long-term consequences, such as decreased connection with others or increased attention-seeking behavior. Consider this when you choose your paths in life.
What I think you’ll find is that the harder path doesn’t feel so great at first. It’s the harder path for a reason. It’s like walking on cobblestone or gravel instead of a paved surface.
But walking on uneven surfaces builds strength and stability.
It teaches you about yourself. It teaches you what you’re capable of.
And, in reality, you’re capable of a lot more than you think.