Building momentum is very difficult, even for the most capable and motivated individuals.
At first, it’s like attempting to budge an enormous boulder. It takes enormous energy just to move it a few inches. Even then, momentum isn’t created yet; when it finally starts inching forward, you must continue pushing it. Otherwise, it’ll lose what small momentum it has.
This is the point where most people stop. In some grand show of sheer willpower, they exert all their energy towards some worthy goal — starting to write a book, working out, going back to school, etc.
But they find their initial push produces little to no effect — the boulder barely moved.
Since they were riding almost entirely on adrenaline and a surge of inspiration, they tire out almost immediately. And the result is the same result as a dozen times before — they stop pushing.
The boulder inches to a complete stop. And life goes on the same way as before — unchanged and uninspired.
Building momentum isn’t easy. But it’s simple. If you follow this simple formula, you’ll be able to build unstoppable momentum in any endeavor you want. Here’s how.
Understand This — It’s Going to Suck At First
“If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.” Navy SEAL mantra
Back in college, I had an ambitious friend named Beau. He was on our top-ranked college golf team, and was extremely busy with practice, tournaments, classes.
One semester, he decided to sign up for two additional classes, on top of his already-packed workload. For most people, adding additional work in this situation would be a guaranteed burnout. But not Beau.
Before the semester started, he created an incredibly detailed schedule down to the hour for his whole semester. All semester long, he followed his schedule with strict discipline he didn’t even know he was capable of. It would turn out to be his most efficient and productive semester of college.
The only way he was able to push through the initial shock was planning ahead for it, and having a plan to follow no matter what. He followed his plan, and no outside distraction could throw him off.
When you introduce a change to the system, even a small one, the change brings a shock to the entire system.
Change is hard. Your level of absorbing the initial shock directly determines how successful you’ll end up.
In the words of author Mark Manson in his best-selling book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.”
If it’s not difficult, it’s probably not worth doing.
They key is knowing this before you start.
“95% of our society — the ‘mediocre majority’ — fail, time and time again, to start exercise routines, quit smoking, improve their diets, stick to a budget, or any other life habit that would improve their quality of life. Why? Most people don’t realize the seemingly unbearable first 10 days of a new habit is only temporary.”
Consistency is the Most Fundamental Factor to Building Momentum
“Small, seemingly inconsistent steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.” -Darren Hardy, former editor of SUCCESS Magazine
The next step of the formula is all about consistency. Without it, you can’t build momentum, period.
This is where all the advice, motivational quotes, and inspirational articles stop helping you. It’s up to you now. We have reached the point where you must make your choice — are you going to do whatever it takes, or not?
Most people won’t. They see the price tag for success and balk.
When I first joined a 12-step program for an addiction to pornography, being consistent was the hardest thing I had ever done. It took me years to finally start doing what I needed to do, every day.
Want to know how I finally became consistent?
I only focused on today. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, sometimes not even the next hour. Only right now. Sorry if that doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me.
Best-selling author Ryan Holiday once wrote:
“Focus on the moment, the present, not the monsters that may not be ahead.”
Someone once told me the people who are the best at staying sober are simply the ones who can tack on yet another day of sobriety. Just one more day. One more time. One more tally mark.
That’s your only goal: one more tally mark before bed.
You must learn to cultivate this daily practice if you want to be consistent.
The wonderful news is, it becomes very easy, very quickly. Once you learn how to focus all your energy on just today, you find you always have enough energy to do the next step.
Successful entrepreneur and author James Altucher once wrote that whenever you find yourself “time traveling” in your mind to the past or future, you’re just wasting precious energy.
Stop time traveling and start living in the right now. Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.
We always have enough fuel for the next step.
“Most people knock on the door of their dreams once, then run away before anyone has a chance to the open the door. But if you keep knocking, persistently and endlessly, eventually the door will open.” -Les Brown
Making a Decision is Only the Beginning
“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” -Paulo Coelho
Making a firm decision triggers your mind to make that dream a vivid reality. You might not know how yet — but making a decision starts the process.
Wrote prolific author David Schwartz:
“Belief, strong belief, triggers the mind to figure ways and means how-to.”
Once you make the decision, becoming consistent is far easier.
I blogged inconsistently for four years. I would write in a frenzy for two–three weeks, publishing a new article every other day. But then no one would read my stuff, so I’d stop writing for three–six months at a time.
It wasn’t until about six months ago that I made a firm decision to become a consistent writer.
It was this decision that led to bigger and bigger momentum. I bought several books on writing and personal growth. I bought a $500 writing course. I got featured on CNBC, then Thought Catalog, then Business Insider. Before, my top traffic day over three years was 754 views. Now, I regularly get tens of thousands of views a day.
I don’t say this to brag or show off. I say it to demonstrate the power one firm decision can create.
Making a decision is only the beginning, but it’s a crucial step of the process that opens your mind to the possibility of more.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” — Paulo Coelho
Obstacles Will Spring Out at Every Turn
“What stands in the way becomes the way.” -Marcus Aurelius
The times when I’ve attempted to go to the gym consistently, a few things seem to always happen:
-I get sick
-The weather gets colder
-Great new shows come out on Netflix
-I go on vacation
-My family needs me
-I twist my ankle
These and a dozen other problems always seem to come up when I’m trying to change.
And they always will.
This is the nature of change itself. As Sir Isaac Newton’s third law states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Whenever you attempt to change a routine of your life, your old self will fight back with every obstacle in its arsenal.
Your old self doesn’t want to change. It will do almost anything to stay where it is. Prolific author C. S. Lewis put this idea into a metaphor:
“Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.”
Personal evolution and growth means leaving parts of your old self behind.
Overcoming obstacles is the average way of proceeding. The extraordinary path is going right through the obstacle itself. As Ryan Holiday wrote, “the obstacle is the way.”
Your ability to overcome obstacles is what will help you stay afloat.
But your ability to make obstacles bend to your will will make you unstoppable.
“Repetition can be boring or tedious — which is why so few people ever master anything.” -Hal Elrod
Most people will end up failing when attempting to build momentum.
It’s not easy. If you rely on willpower alone, you won’t get very far. Building unstoppable momentum can be boring, tedious, and very un-sexy.
But once you gain a little momentum, everything begins falling in place. Success attracts success. Momentum breeds more momentum. Your ability to handle the increased speed will grow.
If you want to achieve the greatest success life has to offer, you need to make a habit of building unstoppable momentum. Apply this to the most important parts of your life.
If you manage to get through the initial phase where your work seems to have no effect (the phase where 90% of people quit)…
You can achieve anything you want.