Among the unusual hobbies that I had as a kid was racing drops of waters against each other on a vertical surface. One of the observations from this activity was that if a drop could follow a path traced out by a predecessor, it did so in most cases except when it was massive enough to break free of this influence and follow an independent course. Thus, each drop of water flowing on the surface left behind a trail that affected the paths of drops to come to be more like its own.
|A drop of water following the path traced by an earlier drop
In life, it is often seen that we set off on a certain path and the momentum keeps us going. This happens in many ways. To start with, we acquire tendencies (called karma vasana) which make us predisposed to behave in a similar manner the next time. This is much like the trail left behind by drops of water from my childhood activity and might be thought of as creating a new path of least resistance (or further reducing the resistance of an existing path) in the neural network of our brain, which will determine how our thought process will likely work the next time. This effect is more pronounced in addictive processes such as consumption of alcohol, but nevertheless effective in all conscious and sub-conscious thoughts, words and actions performed by us.
Many a time, we face a mental resistance in doing something which we have never done before. For a well brought up person, stealing seems repulsive even when he’s hungry. But if he manages to overcome that resistance once and begins to steal, the same act starts to appear okay to him. The more he engages in stealing, the more he is desensitized to the crime. Just as while pushing a heavy box across the floor more force is required to get it moving than to keep it in motion (usually, the coefficient of static friction is higher than the coefficient of kinetic friction), the very first check (be it of the conscience or of mental blocks) is the strongest.
Even outside of ourselves, our actions create circumstances that drive us further in the same direction. For example, consider again the case of alcohol consumption. If you have consumed alcohol before, but the addiction has not acquired enough strength to pull you along, it is still likely that you had it with friends who will invite you to a drink again. Somebody else who comes to know of it and thinks you enjoy drinking might even gift you a bottle of alcohol. All these occurrences for which you set the stage with your first step reinforce the same tendency that you once consciously started off.
These effects that we discussed are applicable in the case of good and desirable changes as much as in the case of bad tendencies. A budding businessman typically gives himself a slight push to go and meet people to create a reliable network of contacts. The second time he feels less internal resistance to going and talking to people – the acquired vasana makes it easier for him. Additionally, the contacts that he made in the first round might help him expand his network further, and thus make things easier in the next. Understanding this rule and using it to our advantage is one of the underrated keys to success in life. If you want to be good at something, start doing it, and you’ll get better. Be careful of how you use your choice and freewill, because they have a way of fulfilling your destiny, or sealing your fate.