Lifes Paths of Least Resistance Can Lead To Unstable Ground

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Problem: at some point or another, you realize what came easy or obvious in your life or business choices (big AND small) may have led you to a place that is limiting your fullest potential.

Our paths in life and business can take us to so many wonderful places.  To new people, love, education, business or career success, you name it.  Sometimes, it seems as though when you're on a particular "path" that things unfold before you and choices and action come easier and easier.  This can play out in many different ways, to the ends of fulfilling your wildest dreams or perhaps to places that are comfortable and safe.  Other times, it may play out in a number of scenario's, you could be awakened to a sense that we hadn't REALLY been in the drivers seat the whole time, that these "least resistance" paths that came so easily in fact led us into roles, structures, and assumptions about life and business that, in the long run, don't play out well or at a minimum, aren't aligned to a core values.  I sometimes describe this as Life happening TO you instead of FOR you.  This post is about taking the first step to break free of assumptions about your life that may be limiting your fullest potential and perhaps, at a minimum, creating a sense of confinement or malaise, where, if you address your base assumptions about your life or business, a new world of perceptions might open up and be the start of positive change.

Tony Robbins calls the underlying framework for these paths our "blue prints" in our life.  His work strives to expose them and create massive, positive change in your world, be it in business or in the rest of your life. I'm no Tony Robbins, but I'd like to describe a few scenarios where many of us come face to face with these assumptions, that we really hadn't anticipated would be such a challenge, and I'll propose some first steps to start addressing them.  I have personal experienced some of these scenario's in my life, one after another, and so I'm speaking from a place of direct understanding.  This post isn't about fear or driving anyones anxiety, it's about taking Step 1: Recognize.  Recognize your assumptions and find the first step of surfacing them as empowering.  Next step is take action to address the ones most critical to you!

Scenario 1: Economic downturn directly affects you

Some of the assumptions that surface at times like these can be: 

  • You'll always have a steady income
  • That your lifestyle is fixed and you, your business, or your family will have a REALLY hard time adapting
  • You don't have a safety net of support in your family, community, or elsewhere

Scenario 2: Tragedy directly affects you: death in the family, personal injury, etc.

Some assumptions that could come out might be:

  • Rare events are just that, rare, and that means they won't happen to you.
  • You're unique in this tragedy and no one will relate in any meaningful or valuable way
  • Life won't continue to ask much of you in the midst of your suffering and struggle

Scenario 3: The long and slow unfolding of life eventually results, at some point, in a flash of insight

Some assumptions that might become apparently could be:

  • That nagging yearn for change or growth will go away and is best kept suppressed
  • That your lifestyle is rigid and will be very difficult to change
  • If I was going to do something, it would have been useful to do something X years ago

Possible Approaches to Addressing These Assumptions BEFORE They Happen to You

  1. Conduct Simple Business or Life Scenario Planning - I suggest doing this with at least one other person, perhaps your spouse or business partner.  Explore a wide range of scenarios like demand for your product dropping by 50% or losing the equivalent in household income.  How would you adapt? What would you change? What are variables would you keep constant or unchanging and what others would you be ok with modifying?  Take the opposite view too to get a glimpse of what to do if all of a sudden you doubled your income or demand for your product jumped 50% and exceeded your current capacity, what then?  Spending at least a few hours on this can help alleviate feelings of uncertainty, at a minimum, but can also create a common understand (and therefore faster adaptability) would any of these events come to pass.
  2. Write Out a List of Major Milestones, In Retrospect, That Brought You to Where You Are - this is more of a retrospective to uncover major influences, drivers, and decision making criteria for the major stages in your life or business.  Really dig deep into what influenced you to surface some of the assumptions you have about your business or life.  You may find validation here or you may be enlightened.  I personally came to a lot of realization about how influenced I'd been by consumer marketing after reading Robert Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.  I changed many buying and attention giving behaviors I had personally and for my business after reading this book. The other side benefit to this exercise is also crafting a meaningful narrative, a "connecting the dots" to your life or business and that alone can be empowering as well.
  3. For Your Current State in Life or Business, Ask "If I had/did the opposite of what is, how might things have played out or how might they play out?" - I sometimes use this question with my clients and it can be a mind expanding exercise.  What would the other path have looked like? Sometimes you might make choices between alternatives that were very similar but often we make decisions for alternatives that are dramatically different.  If you think about how you make those decisions, what judgement criteria do you use, or how do you assess alternatives, you might uncover some assumptions about your life or business that you can eliminate or elevate in importance.
  4. Take the "Obstacle As the Way" - in his book, The Obstacle is the Way, author Ryan Holiday explores this seemingly forgotten life and business philosophy of the ancient Stoics and brings it to the modern age.  I highly recommend the book for all sorts of reasons but for this exercise, simply think about "What if I took the challenge I'm having head on and turned what I view as the Obstacle, into the way or path I'm going to take, what then?". While similar to suggestion 3, this thought experiment is sort of "taking the bull by the horns" approach and can help uncover other rooted assumptions you may be having.
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This post has been about Step 1: Recognize.  Recognize the assumptions you have about your life and business, do so when you're not in the midst of strife and suffering, and you may find them empowering, validating, or transformational.  The obvious next steps would be crafting alternatives to your current state (if that makes sense now!), crafting plans, and taking massive action towards a future state more suited to your life or business vision.

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