Think back to being 9 years old. You’re running down a hill, chasing a friend, you’re neck and neck. The trees, the grass, the sky it’s all a blur of summertime warmth and glee. You didn’t know your legs could go this fast… you pull ahead. Your legs pump in Olympic fashion, and suddenly, you’ve lost control. Bones and flesh turn to jelly and in your mind, you picture a cartoon character with a blur of limbs circling beneath. You really want to win this race so you let your legs do their own work. Your legs are no longer yours to speed up or slow down, but you continue running. Legs keep doing what they have been trained to do. Heart pumping, win or lose, energy is in your favor and with nothing to slow them down, they just keep circling.
Newton’s Law of Inertia: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by another opposite force.
Warm in your bed, sleeping like a lamb, you continue to slumber until an alarm clock, a barking dog, a brain wave, a temperature change wakes you and shakes alert. Inertia broken. You’re awake.
Two weeks of exercise, a daily practice becomes the norm and you are on a roll. Suddenly going to the gym is not the exception, but rather the rule. Inertia is rockin’ your world. You get used to feeling a certain way and you like it. You may even love it.
Going to the grocery store… that’s way too hard. I’ll just grab something quick on the way home. Insert low quality, cheap, fast, bloating, greasy, super tasty food. Get home, feel like the mashed up, human version of what you just put in your mouth, turn on television and zone out with a cocktail… one of the toughest forms of inertia to resist continuing. Sounds like a great life, right?
We have all heard the superhero-like people that we look up to say things like, ‘you’ve just got to make the good stuff a habit’, ‘the good stuff has to be a daily practice’, ‘the good stuff has to be your way of life.’ We have all heard the people who want to make a change say things like, ‘the bad stuff became a habit’, ‘the bad stuff became a daily practice’, and ‘the bad stuff became my way of life.’ Hmm.
Take inertia in the most literal sense: What if your last five actions became the path of the rest of your life? What if inertia kept you rolling in the same direction of the last five things you thought, did, ate, or felt? Consider the following options:
Situation One: Last 5 actions 1)complaining about a co-worker’s actions 2)skipping the gym or any form of physical activity 3)ignoring a friend’s call because you knew they needed your thoughts and your ear on an important issue 4)eating low energy, junk and feeling like junk afterwards 5)sleeping in whining when you finally do have to get out of bed because yesterday’s actions and thoughts gave you nothing to look forward to the next day.
Situation Two: Last 5 actions 1)waking up with a goal in mind, you made plans for something that excites you and you are looking forward to engaging in it 2)You move around a little, you shake it, you get your blood pumping, you smile at the kid in the grocery store because you have no particular reason to feel bad 3)You take the call from a friend and help them see that little changes can make a big difference and that every problem can be solved with a new perspective and by taking things one step at a time 4)You eat something that tastes, looks, feels, smells and like the stuff that fuels a healthy body 5)You encourage the coworker that is probably going through something at home that’s affecting their work performance. You offer help at work, but don’t feel like you have to complain or change the situation. You are simply a friendly face.
I don’t know about you, but to me, it is pretty easy to see how the actions in each situation could lead to inertia in either direction. Either you remain on a path of lazy, negative, yuck or you remain on a path of energy, health and optimism.
What were your last 5 actions?
More importantly, what are your next 5 actions?
Whatever they were, there you are. Deal with it. Either continue to be the inertia or start to be the change. Your next 5 actions can be completely opposite of the last five or they can be as radiant as the last. We are, of course, what we repeatedly do.
Say you’re working towards a goal. You chip away at it every day, you quietly put in the effort and just get on it. One of my favorite authors, Tim Ferriss, has a good way of explaining what that looks like from the outside. Ferriss says, “most people are fast to stop you before you get started but hesitate to get in the way if you’re moving.” It turns out that he has a lot in common with Amelia Earhart… She once said, “never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.” The reason I dig this way of thinking is because when you are setting out to do big things, people who live in the “Situation 1” form of negative inertia will try to hack away at your goals. Even if they don’t say it to your face, they will think it, and probably tell their friends. It is always a compliment when this happens, as they are spending time thinking about what you are up to and wondering how the hell you are pulling it off.
Once you are on a roll, there you are, day by day, getting closer to your goal. It is hard to argue with results.
So here’s to a new year filled with the inertia that you choose. We all know that big goals, whether weight loss, a job promotion, an invention, a great relationship, a new skill, expanded learning, planning a flight around the world, whatever it is, it all requires a whole lot of hard work and elbow grease. These things don’t get accomplished through magic, they get accomplished through a series of steps that lead toward your goal. Inertia wants to work in your favor… an object at rest wants to stay at rest and an object in motion wants to stay in motion. You are the force acting against inertia. Either stop the bad or keep up the good. Your choice.
Every last drop of the best parts of this big beautiful world are yours for the experiencing. Go get what you want, feel it deeply, teach others how you did it, and by all means, keep being oh so curiously engaged.
As Danielle Laporte says, “Life is full of opportunities to feel exactly how you want to feel.”
Take this opportunity to feel that way.
Why 5 decisions? Why not. High 5.