Let’s do a 30-second experiment. Ready? Grab a piece of paper and a pen, divide the paper into two columns, and label them “Easy Path” and “Hard Path”. Now, put each of the following adjectives in the column where it fits best (don’t overthink it, just follow your initial gut response): 

  1. Boring -
  2. Joyful +
  3. Fulfilling +
  4. Rewarding +
  5. Challenging +
  6. Worthless -
  7. Copout -
  8. Cowardly -
  9. Meaningful +
  10. Desirable +
  11. Uneventful -
  12. Empty -

Done?

If you found the exercise to be quick and easy, you probably ended up with one column full of positively charged words (Joyful, Fulfilling, Rewarding, Challenging, Meaningful, Desirable), and the other column full of negatively charged words (Boring, Worthless, Cop out, Cowardly, Uneventful, Empty). Although your word distribution is affected by the way you were raised, your belief system, and your culture, there is a good chance that you ended up with a positive-sounding Hard Path column, and a negative-sounding Easy Path column.

Why?

Because that’s what we’re often told:

  • The meaning lies in overcoming hardships
  • Work hard if you want to reap the rewards
  • After the hard road, success tastes sweeter
  • Always choose the path with most resistance, because that’s how you grow
  • All great accomplishments take hard work

“Life is a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way. The easy way will always be here to sweep you away, you just need to pick up your feet.” (this one is actually from an awesome motivational 3-min video with Michael Phelps for Men’s Fitness). Is that really true, though, that the hard path is the better one? No, not always. Think of the following scenarios:

  • You were offered a promotion (for which you were well qualified) into your dream job because you were at the right place at the right time rather than because of your qualifications. Easy. Did that promotion lose its appeal because of the ease with which you got it?
  • If you’re a mom who had a fairly easy and uncomplicated labor (say, in comparison to an emergency C-section with complications), and ended up with a healthy baby as a result, did you feel like you were less in any way?
  • You were dreaming of purchasing a certain thing, started putting away the money for it, and then unexpectedly, got that item as a gift. Easy. Did the item lose its value for you because you got it so easily?
  • Your colleagues have been putting in long hours and going crazy trying to solve a particular problem at work. You didn’t participate in that madness, and in a way, gave up on that problem. Then, the most brilliant, elegant, and practical solution to the problem came to you while you were in the shower, and that solution was implemented in your company. Easy. Was your solution not useful or satisfying because it came to you easily?

As you see, Men’s Fitness promo was wrong to contrast “the right way” and “the easy way”. Because often, the easy way is the right way.

The million dollar question is: how can you tell when it’s best to take the hard path and when to take the easy path to get the results that you want, without feeling emptied out (or plain empty) at the end?

Here are some ideas for helping you decide whether to take the hard path or the easy path.

1. Redefine your options from “hard path vs. easy path” to “path that feels right vs. path that feels way off”. Then, take the “feels right” path.

The “feels right” path is always the one that’s joyful (because it’s right, because it’s you), fulfilling, rewarding, challenging, meaningful, and desirable. Sometimes it is an easy path, and other times, it’s hard path.

It’s not a trivial task to differentiate between “feels right” and “feels way off”. At 5 a.m. one can argue that sleeping in feels right, and getting up to run feels way off. At 10 a.m., however, the same person may have a completely different perspective, sitting at the meeting and wishing that he had gone for a run earlier that morning.

To address this, don’t leave this decision for the time when you’re under (for example, when you’re in the middle of a dream at 5 a.m., you may not be in the position to make the best decision). When you’re rested and clear-headed, decide what you stand for, as if no one was judging you. Maybe, you stand for getting enough sleep (which is essential, because our brain does a tremendous amount of work while we’re sleeping that it can’t do while we’re awake). Maybe, you stand for being in great physical shape, no matter what. Your “feels right” path depends on what you decide you stand for. “Easy” and “hard” are not always factors in “feels right” path.

2. Take the easy path when you’ve invested enough into creating conditions for easy paths to show up.

Congratulations, your hard work paid off! Sometimes, the path looks easy when you’re only looking at the tail end of it. If you take into consideration everything that you’ve invested along the way, perhaps, the path wasn’t so easy. For example, a dancer may look effortless on the dance floor not because “the dance is easy”, but because the dancer was so well prepared for the dance that it felt easy.

3. Take the easy path when the hard path is just not happening, no matter what.

You want to get a certain project done – rewrite your resume, write a book, clean out your closet, move out, lose 10 pounds – and yet, you find yourself procrastinating instead of doing it. It often happens when the project seems insurmountable. Sometimes, we find ourselves months and even years later, without moving an inch toward getting that big project done. It just feels too hard. Ask yourself: what would feel more manageable than that BIG project?
Break down into small chunks that you know you can handle. Don’t lose 10 pounds; instead, replace Diet Coke with water – that’s it. Don’t write a book; instead, commit 15 minutes per day to freestyle writing. Little by little, easy step by easy step, over time you’ll find yourself closer to accomplishing your goal.

When a hard path is just not happening, finding a more pleasant, easier alternative as a way to keep yourself moving forward will do the trick.

4. Take the easy path when the hard path takes so much out of you that the outcome becomes “not worth it”.

If, in the process of taking the hard path, you lose the sense of who you are and what is important to you, if you have to compromise your integrity, if there are no rewards other than “having taken the hard road”, if you have to give up on what you value most… take the easy path.

5. Take the easy path when you need or want to invest your time and energy elsewhere.

Pick your battles. It may not matter whether you do all the projects yourself, to perfection, but out of all your projects there may be one or two that really matter. Invest your energy where it matters, and take an easy path elsewhere.

Struggle and suffering don’t prove that you’re on the right path. What proves that you’re on the right path is the feeling of “this is really who I am, in my heart of hearts, and this is what I stand for”.

Decision-Making and Intuition Retreat: Use Your Gut Response to Make Better Decisions

RECENT ARTICLE: Are you Missing Out?
Previous article: The Best Story You’ll Ever Tell
Popular article: Expectations: to Have or Not to Have.

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* DECISION-MAKING & INTUITION RETREAT *

In May 2015, I’m offering a retreat for curious and analytical thinkers who want to learn to use their gut response for making better decisions. This challenging and restorative retreat will be held at the picturesque Garrison Institute, where you will be served wholesome meals, have a chance to live in a former monastery, explore the walking paths of the estate, meditate, and even walk a labyrinth. Want to learn more? Visit http://IntuitionLeap.com/Retreat .

With love and gratitude,

Alina

Alina Bas, M.A., Executive Coach & Life Strategist
I coach leaders through making difficult decisions in a way that is aligned with their core values.
Tel.: (917) 208-8094
MindTerrainCoaching.com
IntuitionLeap.com
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Read my book Skeptic’s Guide to Intuition (available on Amazon)
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ALL HANDS ON DECK: Energy + Strategy
I recently started offering 1.5 hour sessions that consist of a 30-minute intuitive reading, followed by a 1 hour intensive coaching session, and one week of full email support. Are you ready? Schedule a session here. Please share this information with a friend who is brilliant, but feels stuck.

WHERE DOES YOUR COMPANY FIND ENGAGING, HIGH-IMPACT PRESENTERS for your corporate workshops? It’s not an easy task. If you could make a connection between the person in your company who contracts innovative workshop designers/presenters, and me, we both would be thankful.

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Choices and Decisions

(Please don’t miss the “Be the First to Know” update at the end of the article!)

I ran into my ex-ex-ex-boyfriend and his beautiful wife in Manhattan. We chit-chatted a bit, and once my ex-ex-ex stepped away, his wife asked:

“I was wondering: how did you ever let this guy go? Look at him! Tall, handsome, not a hint of arrogance, funny, super smart, super educated, really nice… What were you thinking?!”

Her question was filled with genuine curiosity. I wholeheartedly agreed with her description of her husband, a wonderful guy who was completely unaware that women were constantly turning their heads in his direction any time we walked down the street. So, whatwas I thinking, letting him go?!

Although I am often a model for a classic case of “staircase wit”, this time the answer came spontaneously and effortlessly, without a hint of regret: “Have you ever found a perfect pair of shoes– the right color, great quality, and just the style you were looking for - only to find out that the shoes don’t fit you well? Holding on to them wouldn’t do you any good, would it?”

The words surprised me, as if they came from somewhere outside of me.

Then, I woke up. I smiled with at the realization that even though my meeting with this ex-ex-ex and his wife wasn’t real, the message was 100% on target: when you let go of something that doesn’t fit you, no matter how good it is, you’re not missing out on anything.

Easy, right? Here’s the hard parthow do you know for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, whether something really fits you?

One way is to look at it is by using a tough decision as an opportunity to define yourself, to declare what you stand for (must see: a brilliant TED talk of Dr. Ruth Chang on decision-making). Another way is to honestly get to know yourself, using your own lens, as well as the lenses of people who see The Best You, despite all of your struggles.

     This year, I decided to focus on helping my clients make difficult decisions. We will explore:
- ways in which one can reliably use gut feeling + analysis in critical decision-making
- how one’s personal stories affect his decision-making
- how to redefine available choices for improved decision-making
- what “good decision” and “bad decision” really mean, and
- how to make decisions without regrets.
Want to talk about it? Email me atAlina@MindTerrainCoaching.com .

* * * BE THE FIRST TO KNOW: * * *

If you feel that you need to recharge, regroup, learn something new about yourself, explore practical what-feels-like-magic in a safe group of brilliantly intelligent, analytical leaders, discover how to reliably use your gut feeling for improved decision-making… would you join me on a weekend retreat, “Intuition for Left-Brainers: Intuitive Skills for Brilliant Decision-Making”?

It will take place in early May 2015 on the East coast, at a restorative, nature-based-yet-modern center with wholesome meals, be affordable, and open to the idea of you coming solo,  bringing friends or making it a joint growth experience with your partner. We expect the limited number of spaces to fill up quickly once registration opens. Would you like to stay posted about this retreat, and have advance notice before registration is open to the general public? If YES, please send me a quick email at Alina@MindTerrainCoaching.com with the subject line: “Keep me posted!”, and include your contact info.

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The Best Story You’ll Ever Tell

July 9, 2014 Am I Good Enough?

“Tell me a story!” I asked. It was my favorite line when I was a child. (What was your favorite line as a child?) “What do you want the story to be about? Give me a topic,” my grandma used to reply. “About anything”, which usually meant: “Tell me a story about your life. Tell me about your life [...]

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How World Cup Can Improve Work Engagement

June 18, 2014 Career Change

Let me say this upfront: if you’re trying to get someone you love to watch any sports game with you, or at the very least, to leave you in peace as you’re watching the game, this article will be a powerful weapon in your arsenal.  Since the start of the World Cup, all the boys [...]

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Expectations: to Have or Not to Have

May 23, 2014 Career Change

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “The key to happiness is low expectations”. It’s common wisdom, but is it really true? It seems to ring true: when you don’t expect much, and then get something good, your expectations are exceeded, which, in turn, should theoretically make you happy. (Unless you immediately start questioning whether you have set the bar [...]

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The Real Power of Your Connections

May 13, 2014 Am I Good Enough?

The power of your connections is greater than you think. Your connections define you, more than anything else in your life.  By now, you are either shaking your head with a clear “No way!”, or raising your eyebrows with an “Obviously!” Let’s get on the same page here. When I say “connections”, I’m not talking about [...]

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Worried While Waiting For News? Do These 5 Things.

April 1, 2014 Career Change

Can you recall what it feels like to sit in a waiting room? A waiting room could be literal or metaphorical: … in a doctor’s waiting room, before an appointment or test results. … by a reception desk in a company where you are about to interview for your next project. … on the edge [...]

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10 Snow Day Survival Strategies for Working Parents

February 12, 2014 Am I Good Enough?

A snow storm is coming.  Your company has allowed you to work from home. Your babysitter has already called to say that she probably won’t be able to come in tomorrow. The daycare is closed as a precaution. Your kids’ school hasn’t said anything about closing yet, but you know you will be getting that [...]

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10 Questions That Assess Your Happiness Today.

January 30, 2014 Happiness

“You should follow the advice that you give in your blog posts. Maybe, you’ll feel better”- my mom said. “I’m fine”- I snap back. “I don’t have time for this.” As soon as I hang up the phone, I realize: “Happy people aren’t snappy.” Think about it: have you ever met a truly, deeply happy [...]

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Procrastination: It’s a Great Strategy, Not a Weakness

December 19, 2013 Am I Good Enough?

If you’ve ever tried to stop procrastinating, and if procrastinating family members or colleagues drive you insane, this post will help you put procrastination in perspective. There are numerous articles written about ways to stop procrastinating (or “stop being lazy”), and substantial amount of money is being made on time management books and classes.  Contrary [...]

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