One Sentence Summary of The Path of Least Resistance: Our freedom in life, like our freedom of movement in a building, is partly defined by its structure, thus to be able to create our life, and move towards our ideal, it is better to change its structure rather than change our behavior within the same framework, this book teaches us to do so by showing how we can create a structure in our life, which draws us inexorably, and almost effortlessly, along the path of least resistance- and pushes us to create what we really want for ourselves.
By Robert Fritz, 285 pages, 1984 (first edition), 1989 (current revised edition).
Note: Because this book is extremely heavy and interesting, and somewhat dry (translation: difficult to summarize 🙂 ), I am posting it in two parts. This is the second part (the first part is here).
Summary and Book Report of The Path of Least Resistance:
Part Two – The Creative Process
Chapter 11: The Creative Cycle
There are three major steps in the creative process of constructing your life and its development:
1) Germination. Full of a particular energy – an energy characteristic of new beginnings – this step is the ideal moment to act. Motivation, excitement, and enthusiasm are at their zenith. Unfortunately, most personal development approaches focus on this step exclusively, and while it’s certainly vital it can’t produce sufficient results on its own. Numerous people get stuck at the peak of the energy that comes with this step and procrastinates over the next steps, ultimately forgetting them amongst other activities and never truly advancing.
2) Assimilation. this step is crucial, but it’s the least obvious in human development – particularly in its beginning phases. What we’ve created grows organically during this time, developing within us and calling upon our internal resources while we work on developing it. We teach ourselves our vision – a vision that goes beyond beginner status and becomes like an old friend. This is how intuitions, ideas, and connections appear.
3) Achievement. Completing what we create is a step that few people master. We all know people who haven’t finished what they’ve started, sometimes even with very important projects, and we’ve all surely been there ourselves. This step is characterized not just by the completion of our creation, but by the fact of learning to live with it as well.
Chapter 12: Germination and Choice
Germination doesn’t only consist of conceiving what we want and establishing the direction in which we want to go, but more importantly, sowing the seeds of our creation. The way we get these seeds of our creation started is by making choices about what we want to create. When we make a choice, we mobilize vast quantities of energy and resources that would otherwise remain unused, and very often, people fail to focus their choices on the results, which renders them ultimately ineffective.
Therefore, you must choose to master this germination step. This goes back to learning how to set certain possibilities aside in order to concentrate on those that are the most likely to help us get the results that we want. When we don’t sacrifice some possibilities we are actually sacrificing all of the others because it’s impossible to advance to the next steps and we remain stuck at this stage.
According to the author, there are many ways to make an ineffective choice:
- Choice by limitation – choosing only what seems possible or reasonable.
- Indirect choice – choosing the process instead of the result.
- Choice by elimination – eliminating all of the other possibilities until you have only one choice remaining.
- Default choice – the “choice” to not make a choice, so the result, whatever it is, doesn’t seem to come from a choice.
- Conditional choice – imposing predefined conditions upon a choice.
- Reactionary choice – choice designed to overcome a conflict.
- Choice by concensus – find out what everyone recommends and base your choice on the results.
- Choice by adverse possession – a choice based on a cloudy metaphysical idea about the nature of the universe.
Chapter 13: Primary, Secondary and Fundamental Choice
A primary choice is a choice pertaining to the results that we wish to achieve. It doesn’t serve as a single step in a series of steps, rather, it is the ultimate goal. We can have one in practically every part of our life: we can choose to become one of the most effective managers in our company, to develop a new method of transporting dangerous materials, to open a factory in Singapore, to become a professional blogger, to have a superb relationship with our better half, a beautiful house or wonderful vacations.
A primary choice is based on a result that you want by itself and for itself. If you have doubts about the nature of what you want, whether it’s a primary choice or part of a process, ask yourself the following question:
“What is this choice supposed to accomplish?”
If it was designed to help accomplish something beyond the choice itself, then it is part of a process. Thus, it’s a secondary choice. If it wasn’t designed to take you further, if it is leading you to the result you wish for by and of itself, then it’s a primary choice.
Exercise for Finding your Primary Choices
- Make a list of everything you want, from today until the end of your life. Include both your personal and professional desires. Don’t limit yourself to what’s possible or probable. Treat this list like a first draft.
- Re-read your list to make sure that you’ve included all the major components of your life.
- Test all the items in your list with this question: “If I could have it, would I take it?” If your response is no, cross this off of your list. If your response is yes, formalize your choice by saying “I choose this result: <insert what it is you want>”
- Continue the process until you have chosen all the things you truly want on the list.
A Secondary Choice helps us to advance a step towards our primary goal. If we hope to cook a good meal (primary choice), we have to buy the ingredients at the supermarket (secondary choice).
A Fundamental Choice is a choice we make towards the orientation of our life and our existence. Primary choices only concern themselves and secondary choices support primary choices. A fundamental choice is a foundation upon which primary and secondary choices are laid.
If you haven’t made a fundamental choice to stop smoking, no matter which system or method you try, you will never quit. If you have made the choice, it doesn’t matter what method you use. To be a non-smoker is a basic choice of existence and it is very different from the choice to be a smoker who is trying to quit. It’s a choice made with the soul.
Chapter 14: Assimilation
This is one of the most natural stages in growth and development. We have all experienced it. When we were children learning how to walk, we assimilated the skills of balance, coordination, and movement. When we learned how to speak, we assimilated and incorporated the vocabulary and syntax of our mother tongue. And we continue to use assimilation in our adult life -in sports, at work, in our relationships, and in our daily life.
And yet this assimilation is misunderstood.
In fact, during this step, the progress that we make is hard to see for a while. During long periods it seems as if nothing significant is happening. At this time, when the excitement of the germination phase wears off, and the results of new creative developments should be expected, a lot of people give up. It’s at this point that many students abandon their musical instrument, that many give up their exercise program or fitness routine, or quit learning a language.
If you have a creative orientation rather than one guided by reaction-response, these crucial, beginning moments where nothing seems to be happening are not a problem, for two reasons:
- Creative people understand that there will be periods in their creative process where nothing is produced and that there will certainly be a failure, and they understand that these moments don’t inhibit in any way the development that will lead us to the results we are striving for. Learning to ride a bike includes a period – maybe a day, maybe a week – where the bike rider frequently loses their balance and falls. But he knows that if he continues, he will be able to ride like everybody else. In fact, failure is a part of the process, because it lets you know what you need to learn to get the results you want.
- Even noticing that nothing happens reinforces the clarity of our perception of actual reality, and thus reinforces the structural tension which pushes towards the desired result.
Chapter 15: Momentum
Assimilation is a gradual process. These steps are built one on top of the other. Because they are constructed in this way, the process generates energy; energy which builds on itself and the process gains momentum.
The sooner we take the first steps in our process of growth and learning, the sooner we will be able to assimilate the more advanced parts of the process. It is easier to learn a foreign language if we already know a foreign language. When we learn a foreign language, we assimilate not only the language but also our ability to learn a foreign language. If we master two, the third will be even easier to learn.
Assimilation can, therefore, drive us to exponential results. In fact, with a creative outlook, once we have assimilated our own creative process, mastery of our life in general grows, which allows us to create what’s important to us in a more natural, easygoing way.
Every entrepreneur has succeeded in building momentum. One way to do it is to create a habit of success by deliberately structuring a succession of small victories along the path that leads you to the final objective. Read this article on the art of breaking an objective into mini-objectives to learn more. Momentum is gained by learning the ways we consciously act, whether or not they are successful, and using them to figure out how to advance.
Chapter 16: Strategic Moments
In the creative process, there are key moments when it seems like we are slipping, or going backward. The actions that we take in these moments will largely determine whether we succeed or fail.
Often, we think that we are closer to our objective than we actually are. A climber at the top of a mountain might estimate the distance of a neighboring mountain at around three kilometers, then realize, back in the valley, that it is a lot further than he thought. He might even think that he is on the wrong path and is going further away from his destination when he is actually slowly getting closer to it.
So it is also possible to be mistaken about our place along the road to progress and make decisions based on this erroneous perception. To avoid this, there are several factors to take into account.
First, there’s the delay. When we start to make changes in our life, there is often a delay between the time we start these changes and the time where we come to see the first results. For example, there is a delay between the moment we start a diet and when we start to lose weight. We may even get heavier in the beginning, perhaps because of a diet that we have only just stopped. It is important to not quit during this stage, nor to make the mistake of concluding that our new diet is making us fatter!
Next, it is important to see reality how it actually is, because it is often different than we think it is. If we are often confronted with the fact that present circumstances are different than what we thought they should be, we undermine our ability to use the power of reality to create a sound structural tension that will lead us to the results we want.
The problem with an analysis of reality is that we learn from a very young age to misrepresent it or even to hide it completely so that we don’t hurt others. Therefore, our aunt isn’t fat, she just gained a pound or two, or the di nner was wonderful, even if the vegetables were overcooked, the wine was like vinegar or the meat cooked like leather.
This tendency to protect people from reality assumes that these people couldn’t stand the whole truth. So, when we become used to misrepresenting reality, the truth can somehow seem dangerous. But the truth isn’t dangerous, it allows us to create, by recognizing facts as they really are.
The Pivot Technique
This technique is a tool that allows us to better represent reality to ourselves and use undesirable circumstances like a catalyst to help us move towards what we want.
- Describe where you are. Don’t hesitate to tell yourself “I am lost. I don’t know in what direction my destination lies.”
- Describe where you want to be.
- Once again, formalize the results that you want. Say “I choose…” and add the result that you want to obtain.
- Advance. Once you have described where you are (actual reality) and where you want to go (vision) and you’ve formally chosen the results that you want (re-establishing structural tension), change the focus of your mind so that it quickly thinks beyond the unexpected situation. Change the subject.
Chapter 17: Completion
This final stage is the complete and total accomplishment of the results we wanted to create. It can seem like the source of ultimate joy, but often it’s equally a source of anxiety, just like prisoners who are going to finally be set free and can’t sleep the night before.
Why? Because success often implies an important change in our life.
One of the most important talents needed to create is the ability to harvest the fruits of one’s own labor. When he began to succeed and harvest the fruits of years worth of work, Robert Fritz had the strangest feeling. The more he succeeded, the stronger this feeling grew. He understood that he had learned how to succeed, but not how to receive this success. In a way, he hadn’t given himself permission to get the results he had been working on for all those years.
So he quickly decided to learn how to accept and fully receive these results. He realized that receiving is a very simple process. When somebody sends us a package, we receive it and accept it from the giver. So, when we don’t accept it, we don’t get the package. It’s exactly the same way with these results.
Once we’ve accepted them, it’s equally important to acknowledge receipt, to recognize them. In this way, we judge that the results are complete in the same way a painter signs his canvas signifying that he considers it finished.
Part Three – Transcendence
I won’t spend long on this part, I will content myself with a brief description because it seems to me that these chapters are more of a ‘bonus’ relative to the subject of the book.
Chapter 18: Signs of the Future, Signs of the Times
In this chapter, obviously written in 1984 and presenting therefore a nearly prophetic vision of the importance that computers and information networks will play in people’s liberation and creativity – Robert Fritz talks about his Mac and his son’s Commodore 64 connected via modem to BBS, ancestors of today’s forums, the author maintains that as long as creative people exist, the world will be healthy and demand that society recognizes the value of creative talent.
Chapter 19: The Power of Transcendence
The book finishes on an optimistic note and the notion of transcendence. Transcendence is rebirth, starting from scratch; wiping out the past. Transcendence is the result of fundamental choices and the recognition of obstacles in our life, and the work we do to change them.
This book is deeper and more complex than I was expecting. It took me two weeks to read it and write this summary for you, and that’s the first time this has happened to me since I started my Personal MBA project. It’s a very dry read, difficult, full of jargon, lots of repetition, and often a bit heavy.
But, unlike many other books of this kind, it is worth the effort it takes to hang on and to get through it because the contents hidden behind the heavy format are like a thread of gold hidden behind a thick wall: you must dig to reach it, but once you get there, what a feast! This book gives us a rich, complete method to liberate us from our shackles and lead us to the life we’ve been dreaming of. The creative process is dealt with in the most universal way there is – much more so than in The Creative Habit which was more centered on artistic creation – and applies to everyone, even those most allergic to artistic creation, because it tries above all to give us tools to better create that for which we are the one and only creator: our life.
This is the first book I know of that touches concretely on the notion of structure and system since systematic and structuralist theories exist today mostly in the sciences. The idea to not only change the structure rather than behaviors within the structure but also to use structural tension to push us towards our objectives, seems brilliant to me, even genius. The idea of not changing the structure seems to me like an obvious source of failure that one can see all around on a daily basis.
I realized somewhere in reading this that I have been for a long time – and still am, perhaps to a lesser degree than in the past – hung up on the excitement and adrenaline caused by the beginning stage, that has driven me to experiment in numerous things, rarely going into detail. It’s not entirely a bad thing, as long as I can find the delicate balance between satisfied curiosity and useless waste of time. The balance is difficult to find, and I’m speaking from experience.
I’d be lying to you if I told you that I understood everything in this book on the first reading. Writing the summary helped me enormously to dissect it, and it’s a book that will you definitely benefit from re-reading so that you can extract all of the nuggets, sometimes deeply hidden under layers of jargon. Realize that this two-part summary that took you maybe a half hour to read took me 10 hours to write and bring out the main idea. I hope that you will be able to use some of this work : )
- Complete method, rich and profound
- Concrete use of a system to change our lives
- Many passages that stand out for their intelligence and the impact they cause
- A dense book which will only be completely understood after several readings
- Very dense
- Lots of jargon
- Lots of repetition
Have you read The Path of Least Resistance? How do you rate it?
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