Momentum is a Cruel Mistress

If you haven’t seen this piece by Nike, take three minutes to watch it below. I promise it’s worth the time. I listen to it almost every morning right after my alarm goes off at 4:30, and it has a powerful way of lighting a fire in my belly no matter how exhausted I am. As you watch the clip, try to really think about what’s being said.

There are so many great phrases to take away from this video, and it’s likely there were a few that really jumped out at you. It’s hard to deny the motivating power of words when said in the right way, by the right person, at the right time. The things you need to help kick your ass into high gear are dependent on the specific situations you find yourself in. For example, the pick-me-up you’d need to power through a workout when you’re exhausted is different from the encouragement you’d need after getting fired from a job. With that said, there are still some key motivational principles that hold true  — and that I believe can ignite anyone — in every situation. One of them is the principle of momentum. The video touched on the importance of momentum with the following lines:

Momentum is a cruel mistress. She can turn on a dime with the smallest mistake. She is ever searching for the weak place in your armor. That one tiny thing you forgot to prepare for.

There is so much truth to that. How many times have you amped yourself up to do something, only to have that energy slowly fizzle out over time? You convince yourself that this time, you’re gonna nail your goals — whatever they may be. Weight loss, job promotion, finally writing your book, etc. You bubble over with energy. You want to tell everyone about your plan! There’s this thrill, a sense of excitement that accompanies you when you’re in propulsion toward your goals.

THAT is momentum.

Momentum can be a difficult thing to start, but once you get going, the power and energy behind it grows — IF you continue to feed it. Think about pushing a car. If you’ve ever had the joyous experience of being stranded roadside with a stalled vehicle, you can attest that getting a car rolling is tough at first. But once you start moving, the forward momentum begins to assist you. After several yards, the car seems to take on an energy all its own. When you stop pushing it, it will continue to roll forward for a few feet (or to the side if you’re bad like me and don’t get your tires balanced regularly), but eventually, it will come to a stop. Without the input of your energy, the momentum will die.

The same concept can be applied to your goals. The loss of momentum is the biggest culprit of failed goals and missed opportunities. Too often, the excitement and inspiration you felt about achieving the goals you were once so energized by, falls flat. Something happens along the way that causes you to lose momentum. You get discouraged. You become weary. You stop pushing, your fire dies out, and before you know it, you’re at a complete stop. There’s no momentum in sight.

It’s a crappy cycle to get caught in because each failed attempt leaves you with less confidence that you’ll succeed the next time you try. It also gets increasingly difficult to keep kickstarting that momentum, and forcing yourself into repeated kickstarts can become incredibly exhausting.

How To Fill Your Momentum Tank

The key is to keep your forward momentum. You’ve got to nurture forward momentum every day to ensure it consistently gains speed. When you do that, you become unstoppable. You’re a freight train, smashing anything that gets in your way. It’s an awesome place to be, but it requires consistent input and awareness from you. Now, the things that you do to fuel your momentum may be completely different from what I do, but here are a few tactics that work for me.

1. Police your thoughts.

If you’ve not done any research on the power of your thoughts, I suggest you do. Your mind has the ability will take you to great heights or sinking lows. The force that your thoughts have is something you’ve got to be aware of if you want to succeed in anything. A few great books to open your eyes on the topic are The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (Joseph Murphy), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), Change Anything (Ron McMillan), and The Untethered Soul (Michael Singer). There’s a ton of literature on the subject – those are just a couple of my top picks.

There’s an incessant chatter going on in your head. Every thought you have takes the form of words, which become the voice of your “self.” The ongoing dialog that you have with yourself includes everything from “what do I want for dinner,” or “did I remember to lock the front door?” to “today’s going to be a great day — I can feel it!” or “man, this outfit makes me look so fat.” Ever just wish your inner voice would shut up? Go catch laryngitis or something? Especially when it gets going with a string of self-destructive, momentum-stalling thoughts.

Well, here’s the thing about your thoughts — you’re the boss. You’re not some sort of passive bystander. They’re YOUR thoughts and YOU have total control over them. The voice that you hear is YOU — and if it isn’t consistently telling you how awesome you are and what great things are going to happen, it’s time to step in and give him it an adjustment.

I’m not kidding. I know it sounds like some sort of psycho babble, but it isn’t. You must develop an acute awareness of your inner dialog and put the immediate beatdown on any negative ideas that creep into your head. Most of us are so accustomed to the ongoing chatter of “I’m a loser,” “I could never do that,” “I wish I were able to…” “I’m too fat,” “I’m not pretty enough,” “nobody is ever going to want me,” “I hate my boss,” “how am I going to pay my rent?” “I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this obstacle,” that we don’t even realize when it’s happening. Tune in and pay attention to the things in your head at every moment. If you catch yourself thinking negatively, remove the thought and replace it with something positive. In this way, “I’m too tired to go to the gym today” becomes “I’m going to feel so much more energized once I get in my workout!” After time, this deliberate thought-policing will become a habitual and powerful accomplice to your momentum. Positive energy speeds you up – and negative energy slows you down.

2. Be aware of negative influences.

I’ve touched on this a little bit in past posts, but it’s worth repeating. If you want to maintain positive momentum toward realizing your dreams, you must eliminate the negative influences in your life. From the people you surround yourself with to the places you visit, the music you listen to, and the television you watch, your life is full of influences. And unless you’re careful, the overwhelming majority of them can be negative and destructive. Have you ever been around a person that just…sucked the life out of you? Or know someone who can single-handedly deflate the energy from an entire group of people when he or she walks in the room? Ever catch yourself feeling cynical or depressed after watching the news? Or downright disgusted with society after wasting an hour of your life with some reality television? Those feelings are indications of the presence of negative influences which can place your momentum at serious risk. Be conscious of those feelings and work to surround yourself with influences that fill you with energy and optimism. Stomp out the ones that drain and stunt you.

3. Zero in on slow-downs and make immediate corrections.

Once you become hyper-aware of your thoughts and influences, it’s easy to zero in on momentum-zappers as soon as they appear. When you notice a threat to your momentum, don’t take the time to stand around and marvel at it. Don’t make small talk. Don’t try to dissect the why or how of it. Jut kick that $*!@ out! Take immediate action and remove the factor. Period.

4. Finally — Pour in the good.

This last suggestion is the easiest to employ. Just as important as it is to be self-aware and monitor your thoughts and behaviors, you’ve got to fill up your tank with good stuff– EVERY DAY. Spend ten minutes each day reading something that inspires you. Watch a few motivational YouTube videos (I’ve created a few playlists to go to when I need a boost). Listen to an upbeat audiobook. Review your goals. Practice positive affirmations. Pray. Meditate. There are tons of ways you can bolster yourself up each day, but it’s critical that you put them into regular practice. Experiment to find what works for you. For example, during the last 15 minutes of my cardio each morning, I watch a motivational video clip on my iPhone that completely charges me. Those last minutes fly by and leave me amped up to take on the day.

So there you have it. My unusually long post on momentum :) Get yourself moving.