@warrenski via flickr.com
I’m going to be writing about dumpsters. Stay with me. There’s a point.
In September, 2005, I was sitting in a moving truck helping my boss install beds in residence hall rooms. Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf and displaced students were being expeditiously admitted to the university where I worked. Though we were at our official capacity, a number of students in larger rooms volunteered to have an extra bed installed for these new, incoming students.
While my supervisor was inside obtaining the keys to open the back door, I had a perfect view of the hall dumpsters. Both of them. One of them – the open one – was overflowing with garbage bags, some of which were piled outside of it. The other one – closed – was nearly empty. A smattering of students every so often would appear to toss another bag on the pile accumulating in front of the open dumpster.
I got out of the truck, opened the doors of the empty dumpster, tossed in the bags outside the open one, and went back to the truck. With the mess outside the first dumpster gone and the doors to the second dumpster open, students tossed their trash into the empty one.
Why didn’t they just put their trash in the empty dumpster in the first place? The first one was already accumulating trash, so what’s one more bag? Also, the empty one was closed, presenting an easy-to-overcome-but-there-regardless barrier. When your objective is to simply put the trash out, you’re going to take the path of least resistance.
But what if we’re not talking about trash? What if we’re talking about that thing you’re trying to change in your life?
I would venture to guess that there are paths of least resistance in your life, ones that are keeping you from your goals:
- Easy chores you do to keep you away from the important stuff
- Crappy food in the fridge that you “need” to finish first before you buy the healthy stuff
- The TV remote that’s within reach when you get home, pretty much guaranteeing that you won’t do the work you need to do this evening
- A perfect resume that you’ve been struggling to write before you can apply for the job
And on and on and on.
If you really want to make a change, create the path of least resistance around the important stuff and create barriers around the not important stuff. Put the remote in a drawer, or the freezer. Go to a coffee shop after work to finish your resume. Save the household chores for one day a week and focus on your Art the other six. And, for goodness sake, throw out the crappy food; it’s a sunk cost.
Paths and barriers…among the most important decisions you can make is what you do or don’t put in front of you.