“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien “The Hobbit”
You can start with a step, then another. The steps build and become a slow walk, then a fast one, and then a trot. The next thing you know, you’re jogging, faster and faster, then it’s a run. The energy builds as you speed up, into a full sprint, and then the fastest run of your life, feeling your heart pump and your body working all at once, pushing harder to the goal.
Momentum is something you have to build, whether it’s physical momentum as you build up speed running, or forward motion toward a goal. You can start with something small, and do it each day. As the days go on you can add to it, build on it, and eventually it grows into something you never thought you would see when you started.
This can be in any area of your life. Maybe you have a pet project you’ve always wanted to work on, or maybe you want to start a new exercise program, or change the way you eat, or organize your home. You work on it a little bit every day, and before you know it you’ve made huge leaps.
So how do we build momentum in the right direction?
Before we can start building positive momentum, we have to realize that everything takes time, and that we have to overcome our nature of instant gratification, wanting everything right away for no effort, and being discouraged when something doesn’t come to us right away. Once you’ve accepted this, you can start the process, and it all begins with one thing.
Awareness. This is paramount. We can’t determine our direction if we aren’t aware of our current situation. To gain awareness we need to track, write, record, and recall. We need to think about where we are and actually physically quantify our situation. We need to look at where we have been, where we are going, and where we want to go. We have to look to the future and see where our current path can take us. If nothing changes from the way it is right now, where will you go? Will it be somewhere amazing? Or will things never get better, leaving you years from now wishing things were better. Is this future person someone you want to be? Or do you want something else? Something better? Something more.
Then, start with a goal, a vision of where you want to be, and it can be a big goal, but make sure it’s realistic, that you can actually picture yourself achieving it. Then choose a timeline, how long it will take you to achieve it. Again make sure this is realistic and even a little generous. We want to make sure we aren’t setting up unreal expectations because we want success not failure.
Then comes action. take action. Do something small, start. A step in the right direction. I encourage you to make it a small step, and then take another small step the next day, and every day after that.
But old habits creep in all the time, how do we keep making those small steps each day? Track! Write! Catalogue! Measure your journey. This is the only way to ensure awareness, progress, and forward momentum. Do it every day, write it every day, and then every do often look back and see how things have changed.
It’s important to note that momentum can be in any direction, not just forward. Sometimes you realize that all your momentum is taking you in the wrong direction, and it can’t be stopped all at once. So if you find yourself moving in the wrong direction, remember that there is no quick fix, things don’t turn around instantly. You have to fight against that negative motion, and slowly you will bring it to a halt. If you keep going, you will turn yourself in the right direction. Even if you are still unhappy with the way things are, you can see progress in the right direction, and that can be motivating. Whichever way you are going, if you want to create positive momentum, the principles are the same. Become aware, set goals, track your progress, and make it realistic.
Sharing with Others
Momentum can also be shared. When you have a positive momentum built up, you can start to transfer it to others, like balls on a pool table, you can help push people in the right direction, and they can do the same for you. Leverage this. Find others who know what they are doing, and ask them for help. Look for people moving forward, who’ve built up a lot of momentum and are willing to share some of it with you. The leaps can truly be extraordinary. Do the same for others. When you help others gain some momentum in their own lives, it just reinforces your path and reminds you that what you are doing is right.
The most important thing is to remember that whatever your situation, however hopeless it may seem, it can be changed. You can build momentum, and you can succeed.