Momentum is a funny thing. Sometimes it feels like you are running wildly down a hill and your feet want to go faster than your mind. Other times, your mind seems to be racing ahead of your body, filled with ideas and to do lists and not nearly enough hours in the day.
Merriam-Webster defines momentum as the strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events. It lists synonyms and related words as catalyst, fuel, spark, spur, motivation and stimulant. Those are great words, huh?
Inertia, on the other hand, is defined as indisposition to motion, exertion or change. Synonyms and related words are listed as inertness, apathy, idleness, lethargy, and sluggishness.
Oddly enough, inertia has its own momentum.
Now wrap your head around that for just a second. 🙂
I have learned that in many areas of life momentum is easier to maintain than to initiate. Remember High School science? Objects in motion, tend to stay in motion. Once you are underway with a project, it overtakes your daily life and you will find that you are more likely to continue on that chosen path. If you let the momentum lag, it is extremely difficult to climb back up on that particular horse.
Let’s take exercise as an example. [Hey, I heard that groaning.] We have all been there. New Year’s comes around and we vow that this is the year we will make positive changes and exercise more, eat right, lose weight and so on. We start out great, consistently logging chunks of time on the treadmill or lifting weights. We weigh our food and make healthier choices, and we see improvement. We start to feel that this is actually doable. We gain momentum.
Then, inevitably, life happens. Work gets crazy; family obligations crop up; we get the flu. We miss a few days or a week of working out and we feel terrible about it. We vow to do better. We beat ourselves up. Next thing we know, it is May and we haven’t gotten back on that treadmill and we have started to buy full fat ice cream again. Admit it – you have done this too.
This is where inertia proves to have a momentum all its own. Once you take a nap instead of exercising for a few days in a row, it becomes much harder to drag on those sneakers and get moving. Your head may say, “move it,” but your heart and body say, “nope!”
I think this is what happens to dreams. We have a goal in mind and we may even have a game plan of how to get there. But life happens, and one day leads to another and we don’t have time to work towards our goal. The next thing we know, years have gone by and it is still a distant dream. Sadly, this is when a lot of people just give up and decide it wasn’t meant to be.
You have just lost your momentum.
I have seem this with my writing. I have always been a “one day” writer, as in “one day I will write a book,” or “one day I will make writing a priority in my life.”
Years Decades have passed without me actually moving toward that dream. I used to think it was just me, but I have come to realize that there are many writers, painters, people stuck in a job they don’t like, wanna-be athletes, gardeners, musicians, etc. that have the same problem with momentum and inertia that I have had all these years.
In her book This Year I Will..: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution or Make a Dream Come True , MJ Ryan tells us to ask ourselves what need is being served by what we are currently doing. My initial thought when I read this was that I wasn’t actually doing anything so no needs were being served, but then I read further. By choosing to do nothing, we are doing something. I realized that the need that I was serving by not writing anything was to maintain the status quo. I would never be a published author and therefore would never have to worry about what may or may not change in my life because of it. I could quietly maintain my anonymity and stay hidden from the public eye. I would never have to risk failing, or worse, succeeding.
Then, MJ asks, what is the price of not changing? Is it worth losing the creative outlet I get from making up stories to maintain complete obscurity? By not trying, I may never fail, but I also will never know if pursuing publication would bring positive changes to my life. By not pursuing a dream at all I would risk sinking into depression since creative outlets have always been a way for me to seek balance in my life.
I started building momentum in following my writing dream in April. I don’t have hours each day to dedicate to editing and writing book proposals. I have a day job that sometimes leaves me less than enthusiastic about thinking in the evening. But every day for the past month or so, I have done something to maintain this momentum. Some days, it is as simple as networking with other writers on a website or a blog. Some days, it is reading one chapter about writing query letters. Some days, I manage to edit five chapters. It varies, but it is always forward motion. And as long as I am moving forward, my goal is getting closer and closer.
Now if I could only use some of this momentum energy to get back on that stationary bike…
What are you doing to gain momentum in your life? Are you following a dream that you have been neglecting due to inertia aka life getting in the way? If not, what can you do to bring some forward motion into your life?