We all love doing easy things. Why? The answer lies in the brain. Rather, the brain itself is the answer.
It’s just two percent of our body mass but consumes 25 percent of our energy. That’s why it’s always trying to conserve energy by turning everyday actions into habits, looking for patterns in everything, and so on.
To a large extent, this is useful. If we had to use mental energy to brush our teeth, dress up, eat, walk, and drive, we would have no energy left for work and other important things.
But in its attempt to conserve energy, the brain also resorts to black-and-white thinking, and either shuns deep thinking or outsources it to others.
Here are some examples.
The aspiring writer writes dozens of articles and mass-pitches to publications without caring to gather feedback on her work. The stock trader buys and sells stocks by reading tips from “market experts” and ignores her own due diligence. The employee waits for instructions instead of taking initiative. The news watcher forms opinions based on media reports without checking the accuracy of the “facts.”
Easy actions keep us in the comfort zone. But they make the mind like a piece of steel. Etching something new on it becomes as tedious as erasing what’s there. The mind rejects perceptions that challenge its wisdom and avoids anything that stretches it outside its comfort zone.
This feels good until it catches up with us.
The aspiring writer gives up because her work doesn’t get traction. The trader loses all her money when the stock plunges. The employee struggles to find a job after his skills turn redundant. The news-sharer unintentionally turns into a fake-news peddler and becomes the target of trolls.
Not to mention how boring an easy life becomes. People try to fill this void of boredom with substance abuse, empty sex, or mindless content consumption. And that begins the downward spiral into depression.
Taking Action is Easy
We don’t struggle to take action. In fact, the above examples show that we take action all the time. But thinking for ourselves, working mindfully to achieve a goal that stretches us—that’s hard. It’s also incredibly rewarding.
For the aspiring writer, the hard thing would be to keep improving her writing skills by reading better writers, taking feedback on her work, and refining her pitch to get positive responses from more editors.
For the stock trader, it would be to examine the fundamentals of a stock, the company’s leadership, and gauge how external factors could affect the company before buying the stock.
For the employee, it would be to participate in new projects in order to keep skilling up. For people who share news on Twitter, it would be to check for the validity of the news and build educated perspectives before hitting the Tweet button.
It’s easy to think and do what others want us to or to remove ourselves from reality and expect things to fall into place. But that works well in the perfect, make-believe world of fairy tales. (Maybe that’s why people love novels so much.)
Mere action doesn’t differentiate us from animals or machines. Thinking does. Thinking is the core of our being.
Thinking about (and doing) the hard things increases your productivity, improves your ability to make decisions, and enhances your creativity. It engages your brain and keeps you in happy mind frames.
All this makes you a better person.
A good life is engaging, not easy.
To make your life engaging, do just one hard thing each day. You’ll build grit, stretch your limits, and feel in more in control of the present moment.
The better control you have of your present moments, the more promising your future becomes. After all, your future is a result of how you live in the present.