Energy moves along the path of least resistance (POLR). This is true from how atoms interact to how planets, stars, and galaxies move. The POLR gets a bad rap these days. We get the impression that if we just follow the POLR then we are taking the easy way out and not really applying ourselves. The emphasis seems to be that people should strive really hard against heavy resistance and force themselves to achieve great goals. There is something heroic about this approach: we face great odds and rise to the occasion. But there is a bigger cowardly aspect: we are afraid of change and learning from it. The emphasis in the former example is to force the situation to our will; the emphasis in the latter example is to modify our approach to the will of the situation. In other words, since we need to learn (not the situation), it is us that needs to modify our approach.
Think of a river and how it achieves great work, eroding huge landscapes like the Grand Canyon. It does this totally by following the POLR. It flows the easiest way toward the sea. When water hits a rock it flows around it. It is easier for water to move around the rock than it is to go through it, unless the water has enough energy. Then, water will move the rock rather than go around it, because it is easier, with that amount of energy, to move the rock.
In climbing, we need similar flow. When we meet a “rock” while climbing we can go through it if it is easier, like making a dyno rather than a static move. Or, we can go around it if there is an easier, more energy efficient sequence.
So, the first part of this process is to fully embrace that following the POLR is the preferred approach to challenges. Next, we’ll identify and discuss other important aspects that help channel our energy along that easy path toward our goals.
In the next eLessons we’ll see how to strategically fit this basic concept into our climbing. It will begin with clarifying our current reality, identifying clear end goals, understanding the structural tension created between the two, and finish with making effective decisions.

1-WarriorsWaylogo®Energy moves along the path of least resistance (POLR). This is true from how atoms interact to how planets, stars, and galaxies move. The POLR gets a bad rap these days. We get the impression that if we just follow the POLR then we are taking the easy way out and not really applying ourselves. The emphasis seems to be that people should strive really hard against heavy resistance and force themselves to achieve great goals. There is something heroic about this approach: we face great odds and rise to the occasion. But there is a bigger cowardly aspect: we are afraid of change and learning from it. The emphasis in the former example is to force the situation to our will; the emphasis in the latter example is to modify our approach to the will of the situation. In other words, since we need to learn (not the situation), it is us that needs to modify our approach.

Think of a river and how it achieves great work, eroding huge landscapes like the Grand Canyon. It does this totally by following the POLR. It flows the easiest way toward the sea. When water hits a rock it flows around it. It is easier for water to move around the rock than it is to go through it, unless the water has enough energy. Then, water will move the rock rather than go around it, because it is easier, with that amount of energy, to move the rock.

In climbing, we need similar flow. When we meet a “rock” while climbing we can go through it if it is easier, like making a dyno rather than a static move. Or, we can go around it if there is an easier, more energy efficient sequence.

So, the first part of this process is to fully embrace that following the POLR is the preferred approach to challenges. Next, we’ll identify and discuss other important aspects that help channel our energy along that easy path toward our goals.

In the next eLessons we’ll see how to strategically fit this basic concept into our climbing. It will begin with clarifying our current reality, identifying clear end goals, understanding the structural tension created between the two, and finish with making effective decisions.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Since coming back from surgery, the POLR has been my primary focus. I think I have been more rather than less successful the majority of times. Watching others climb (an invaluable technique for finding both the best and worst paths), I often pride myself on doing it better. Sometimes I’m stunned when I see someone do a move that’s clearly easier than I do it. I know that move is hard because I’ve done it a hundred times. Why didn’t I see that alternative? Why didn’t I look for it. Why did I decide to stop learning at that point?

    I was working an 8 and figured out, with help, all the moves done as efficiently as possible. Then I had a golden moment. I followed the yellow-brick road to the top. I had turned an 8 into a 6. Every move was succinct and effortless. My next attempt a few days later was a complete botch. Each effort after has turned, at least, part of the climb into a wrestling match with the route.

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