How To Make Momentum Work For You.

I was out doing errands on a Sunday afternoon and I made a stop at Home Depot to do two things: One, recycle two boxes of light bulbs and two, pick up a new 5 gallon jug of water for my water dispenser at work.

I pulled up to the front unloading zone, took the two boxes of light bulbs out from the back, and hurriedly brought them to the customer service counter.

Well aware that I shouldn’t be parked in the unloading zone for too long, I quickly dropped the bulbs off, made a hasty exit after exchanging a few words of conversation with the employee, and started to drive away.


I forgot to get the water jug and I was already half way out of the parking lot!

“It’s okay,” I thought to myself.  “I’ll swing back on another day and grab it then.”

I quickly stopped and thought to myself about exactly what I was electing to do…

I couldn’t have been any more than 500 feet away from the front door when I was having this thought.

I was literally still in the parking lot driving next to cars  parked by customers who had walked into the store.

Yet I was willing to drive all the way back home (over 2 miles), allow the thought of having to get the water jug to linger in my thoughts for several days (taking up valuable brain space), and plan out an entirely new trip to Home Depot on a separate day… When I could literally just turn my car, park, and get it done right then and there.

I couldn’t believe I was still in debate about what to do…!

I turned my steering wheel 90 degrees, pulled into a spot, walked inside, got the water jug, and carried on with my day.

What just happened?

A body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest; and what’s particularly interesting about the above example is that a body in motion in a specific direction tends to stay in motion in that particular direction.

The momentum that was carrying me away from Home Depot, as little as the momentum was (500 feet away from the front door, in my car), was almost enough to keep me from turning around and going back in – leaving me to have to come back on another day when the drive could easily have been over two miles out of my way.

500 feet vs. two miles?  Logically speaking, 500 feet makes much more sense; emotionally speaking, coming back on another day and driving the extra 2 miles almost prevailed.

Momentum is a powerful thing.

Think about exercise.

How hard is it to get your workout started?

And how hard is it to keep working out once you’ve started?

I experience this every… single… day… when my alarm clock goes off at 6:30am and I know that my morning workout is on deck.

Getting the body moving and getting that first rep in is way more challenging than pushing through the last rep.

James Clear puts it like this, “Getting started is a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum. You have probably experienced this phenomenon before. For example, going for a run may seem overwhelming or exhausting just to think about before you begin, but if you can muster up the energy to start jogging, you’ll often find that you become more motivated to finish as you go. In other words, it’s easier to finish the run than it was to start it in the first place.” [1]

Other examples of momentum in action:

– “Garbage-Ball:”  You have trash in your hand and you’re walking past a garbage can.  You decide to check your, “garbage-ball” skills and take a shot from a few feet away.  If you make it, you continue to walk away and life couldn’t be better.  If you miss it, you might either decide to stop your momentum, walk to the can and pick up what you missed – or – you might choose to keep walking and pretend like nothing happened.  Admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  

– The “swing” of working out:  You make up your mind, you come up with a plan, you find a great place to workout, and you block out times every week when you can get it done.  The longer you stick to that routine, the more forward momentum you will gather.  After around a month of consistently showing up – it’ll turn into a habit.  Don’t be fooled though.  Skip a workout or two and that giant snowball of positive momentum may come screeching to a halt – and a giant snowball at rest tends to stay at rest.  You may have to start rolling a whole new snowball from scratch.

– Getting started again after stopping:  If you’re running around all day doing errands, cleaning the house, picking up kids, doing the laundry, tending to work issues, etc., then you know that getting it all done back-to-back tends to be much easier than stopping and taking rest breaks in between each task.  Relating this idea to the example above, if you block out your workout time in the evening, after other activities and work, you know that it’s much easier to go right to your workout versus going home, eating, watching tv, relaxing, and then trying to go and get your workout in.  Keeping your body in motion is much easier.

The bottom line(s):

Getting started is the hard part.  How can you make getting started easier?

Movement begets movement.  If getting started is the hard part, how can I keep the momentum going throughout my day so that my tasks become easier?

Sometimes momentum will have you thinking irrationally.  Should I really wait to do this until another day or just turn my momentum around and get it done now?

One final thought from Ralph Marson:

“Is it really so difficult to do what must be done? It’s not difficult at all, when you stop fighting against it.  One little step will get you started, and once you’re started, you become interested and invested. Once you’re started, momentum begins to give you a push that becomes stronger with each effort.  Instead of putting off what you know must be done, what if you could somehow get yourself to be positively enthusiastic about it?  You absolutely can, because you can choose how you wish to feel about anything.The genuine satisfaction in your life comes when you know you’re making a difference. And whatever it is in your world that must be done is your opportunity to make that difference.  Go beyond intending, go beyond planning, go beyond wishing, and go beyond saying you need to get it done. Dive in, go to work, make something happen and be the positive, dynamic difference that makes you feel alive.”

2 Responses to How To Make Momentum Work For You.

  • One of the better short articles I’ve read on getting started and getting things done.
    I started two things while reading the article!!

    • Awesome, Patrick! And how did working on those two things pan out?! Did you find that the momentum carried you through??

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