"Do what is easy and your life will be hard. Do what is hard and your life will become easy." - Les Brown
To some, this quote may seem illogical, backwards, and, perhaps, even a little cliché. Yet, these opinions fail to recognize one thing—the quote is true.
It's estimated that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions per day—35,000 opportunities to do what is easy or to do what is hard. See, every choice we make boils down to these two paths, and, as humans, we are evolved to take the path of least resistance. It's perhaps our most important survival instinct. Yet, living in the 21st century, it is the greatest inhibitor to living the life of our dreams.
Let me explain. Think of the things in life that bring you immediate satisfaction...if you're like most, your phone, social media, television, a burger and fries, ice cream may come to mind. When we have free time, we have to decide how we're going to spend it. When we're hungry, we have to decide what we're going to eat. When it's time to make any decision, we have to make a choice—between short-term gratification and long-term satisfaction, between what is easy and what is hard. What I want you to evaluate is whether you more often choose the former or the latter.
And, this is not to imply that all forms of short-term gratification are bad decisions. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and sometimes that means splurging, indulging, and pampering. However, if we continuously elect to do the things that will bring us instant pleasure, we are often sacrificing lasting, enduring fulfillment. This is what I hope to convey in this post. We have to flip our thinking. It is dangerous to have a mindset that grows upset at the sacrifice of short-term, fleeting bliss for long-term well-being and happiness. A mindset that angers at the thought of bypassing a moment of online shopping, knowing financial security is the benefit, is one that can never grow content. On the other hand, a mindset that is emboldened by the prioritization of long-term goals over short-term superficiality should be the aim.
I'm a firm believer that, deep down, we all typically know the right decisions to make—so often it is the decision that is hard, difficult, painful. But, because of the way we're wired, we shy away from the challenge, preserving our comfort at all costs. We chose the tastiest food, mind-numbing apps, and the couch over the treadmill. Because they are easy. Yet, as science has shown, we are most content when we are doing hard things—things that challenge us to push, extend ourselves beyond what we thought possible. We see our worth, our potential, our growth before our very eyes, and this creates immense feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
We all want to be happy, that is no secret. And, perhaps that's the reason we so frequently choose the easy path. But, doing so means chasing immediate joy, day after day. And, this chase is exactly that...we'll never catch the fulfillment and purpose—the true markers of happiness—we're seeking by hiding from what is hard.
And, doing what is hard is not fun, nor is it glamorous or exciting. But, if you have ambitions of a better life, it is absolutely necessary that you summon the will, courage, and energy to take on the challenge.
What goals do you have? Financial freedom, a better job, to start a business, to lose weight, to be a better spouse, to read more books? Good! Now, recognize the importance of forgoing immediate pleasure for lasting possibility. It may seem like you're giving up so much—fun with friends, good food, TV and social media—but aren't these sacrifices minor compared to potentially sacrificing a better future? We have to weigh our decisions based not on who we are today or what we want this moment, but rather on who we want to be tomorrow and the future we have in mind.
This is a case for doing what is hard. And, yes, it will be not be easy. But, perhaps ironically, it is in doing and achieving difficult things where we are happiest. It is in pursuing and realizing long-term goals where we foster and nurture our sense of fulfillment and purpose.
An easy life is the result of hard choices. Continue to do what is easy and you will find yourself lost, seeking more, and continuously searching—trapped in a perpetual cycle that breeds discontentment and difficulty. So, be sure the next decision you make is the one that makes you slightly uncomfortable, but the one you know is right. Do what is hard.