I’ll always remember being super stressed about giving a presentation on Agni (Sanskrit for digestive fire) as part of my Ayurvedic Educator certification. We were in small groups, and while I knew everyone was supportive and wanted me to succeed, my ego wanted to be the best presenter of the afternoon. You’ve got to love the ego – there’s a reason it’s the most constricted layer of life. I rehearsed and rehearsed and then rehearsed some more. I had colorful slides and put so much effort into the afternoon that I was beyond prepared. When it was time to meet, the first thing the evaluator said? Today is Wednesday. Ok. Let us all practice the Law of least effort. What?
Least effort. Did she know how many hours I had invested in this presentation? My type A personality was like what exactly is least effort. I mean, ego aside, this is a certification test. There is no “least effort” when it comes to a test. I obviously still had a lot to learn. LOL I know first-hand that for doers and achievers, it can be challenging to step back and see how things will unfold.
My entire life has been spent identifying hurdles and overcoming them. But I was about to learn something new. And the anxiety shifted when I realized that, more often than not, I was the cause of my own anxiety over succeeding.
So how does this Law of Least Effort she was talking about work? I picked up the book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra to gain more insight. The Law is really based on the laws of nature.
If we look at nature, it just is. It doesn’t resist. The tides come and go. Flowers bloom every spring and fade in the fall. The grass grows all summer despite you cutting it back each and every Wednesday, LOL.
One of the best examples of least effort or least resistance is when looking at water. Several years ago, during a trip out west, I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon. If you’ve ever been, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The layered bands of red rock are absolutely breathtaking. The Colorado River gracefully meanders through the canyon. It winds and twists, following the path of least resistance.
Over the years, the waters have carved these beautiful paths as they’ve found the smoothest way down, and they have left this beautiful outline so we can see where they’ve been. It’s not always the straightest path, but it gets where it needs to go.
Observing nature points to how we should live life. We often look for the most direct path and the quickest way to get where we want or what we want. And in doing so, we create so much anxiety for ourselves trying to figure things out. What if we could let go and follow the path of least resistance too.
So, after reading the book and looking at all the ways nature is so effortless, I got to thinking, you know – maybe there’s something there. Look at how beautiful the canyons are and how effortlessly nature works. It all turns out ok. Perhaps I could learn something if I let myself drop my guard, have a little faith, and stop trying to control every situation. That day I began consciously looking at how I could start bringing more ease into my life and still create the success I desired.
So, assuming you, too, would like to embrace the Law of Least Effort, there are a couple of things to take into consideration when you consider the Law:
This first is acceptance. When you are anxious, it’s likely because you aren’t totally and completely accepting things as they are. You are trying to change things. No matter how much you try, neither of us can control the outcome of any situation. What will be will be. We can’t cling to the past, and we can’t change the future. We only have the present moment and how we show up in the moment. So let go of how you want it to be or let go of anticipating how things will end up. Your task and only task for right now is to accept that everything is as it should be and give up the need to struggle.
Anxiety is a form of suffering. It doesn’t feel good. The Dalai Lama shared the wisdom that “pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” How about we make anxiety optional? Right! So accept and move forward! And we are talking about not only circumstances but people, too, because Lord knows there will be some people who come to test and teach us.
At the end of the day, each path of your journey, each obstacle you face, every bit of anxiety you encounter, and how you show up is crucial to your entire story.
Surrender Into Resistance
Ok, so I’ve already alluded to this second step but surrender to the resistance. And this is hard. It’s called resistance for a reason, LOL.
If you think about the last time you were anxious about something, I’d bet the house that it was likely because you felt out of control. Am I right, or am I right? Control is a tough thing to relinquish. It’s not like going to a restaurant and telling the waitress to pick between two entrees and surprise you, right? There are certain things in life you feel like you need to choose. I get it.
Sometimes though, allowing the universe to take control means we get to go where we are meant to go versus where we think we want. I’ll tell you from experience sometimes the plans laid out for us are far greater than we could have ever dreamt of.
In The Clarity Club, I talk about a major life disruption I had in 2001. At the time, there was no way I could see how the disruption was connected to a much bigger plan. It felt so big. So overwhelming. I was so lost that the only thing I could do was surrender because I couldn’t see any other solution.
Here’s the thing. Surrender is complicated. Especially when we are trying to help our families, build a career, and make a difference. But surrender isn’t giving up.
During COVID, I took an online flexibility certification class through YogaBody. The reason I did this was twofold. One, it was COVID, so I had a lot more time on my hands, and two, I always remember that darn middle school fitness test. Do you remember the one where they’d have you sit on the floor and reach forward to assess your lower back and hamstring flexibility? Well, I’ll go ahead and tell you I sucked at it. I couldn’t even get to my knees. It was embarrassing. And in retrospect, I don’t ever remember a teacher telling me how I could do better.
Anyway, I’ve had back issues for years, so I thought, well, you could stand to learn a little flexibility. You know what I learned. It all comes down to breathing and relaxing. What? Relaxing into the pose versus forcing. Back to the Colorado River example, right…. No forcing. Go with the flow. Forget that idiom, no pain, no gain.
When it comes to surrendering, it’s often easier, at least for me, to surrender to situations, but as time has gone by, I’ve been working on and learning a lot about surrendering in relationships too. Part of surrendering is also about releasing the need to defend a point of view or persuade others to accept a point of view. How much energy do we waste on arguing our points? And you know what else I’ve learned- when you just let go or agree, the other person has no idea what to think. I’m giggling as I say this, thinking about the number of confused looks I’ve had testing out the principle on loved ones and how disappointed they look when they don’t have an opportunity to use the old stand-by rebuttals.
As an aside, we also learn things by remaining open to all points of view. So, it’s really a win-win. And I’ll say this. Sometimes it takes every fiber in our being to not argue a point. The reality is people will disappoint you. And, as much as you don’t intend to, you’ll disappoint others. We are all flawed. Life, though, is too short to focus on the flaws.
I’m reminded of the meme of this guy playing chess with a pigeon. And the caption says “Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how good you are, the bird is going to shit on the board and strut around like it won anyway.” Next time you are tested- remember that. Have a good chuckle and move on.
Challenges are Opportunities
The third and final point I’d like to share is to approach every challenge as an opportunity. When you do, it allows you to take whatever you are dealing with and find a way to transform it into a greater benefit.
As I said, in 2001, I was challenged immensely, as I’m sure many others were. I didn’t blame myself for what happened. The whole world seemed to be falling apart. So think back to other times you’ve been challenged, and now with objective eyes, you can see how it was an opportunity in disguise. Can you see how everything was ultimately unfolding for you? Doing so will help the next time you face a challenging situation because you’ll realize that if you trust the situation, each detour and delay is being arranged specifically for your ultimate benefit. You and I each have unique paths. We don’t need to have the exact steps; we just need to know the direction and trust there is an extraordinary plan just for us.
Ok, I’ve chatted your ear off enough. As you go about your day today, I’d love for you to think about how your anxiety might be caused by you trying too much and just ask yourself, what would happen if you just let things unfold naturally? How would you have less stress and more energy if you could focus elsewhere as you start putting the Law into effect to help with anxiety, you’ll see improvements rather quickly.
You’ll begin to notice the traps that you used to easily fall into. And over time, the quality of your life will skyrocket. You’ll find your problems start leading you to signs of your purpose.
So, until next time. Minimize your effort. Maximize your effect. Let yourself flow effortlessly like the river. And allow yourself to be motivated by love.