Like a Bigfoot

Holy crap!  A few things happened this week that all blend together to help me understand one idea….INERTIA.  

Newton’s first law, Duke basketball, and my third year running the Green Legs and Hamstrings trail race.

First of all, my Clark Kentesque personality during the day is mild mannered 8th grade physical science teacher.  This week we learned the classic “Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion” concept and if you don’t remember Newton’s 1st law is thus:

An object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force.


This is the idea of inertia.

Here’s another way of putting it:

It’s a challenge to build momentum.  Starting something new is really hard.  The beginning is the most difficult part. Once something is already in motion it gets easier and easier.  Eventually it’s hard as hell to slow down.  After awhile, stopping is nearly impossible.

I asked my students to think about pushing a truck.  At first you would be straining and straining just to get that truck to move an INCH.  You put in massive amounts of work, push past massive amounts of resistance and it has barely moved…but it has moved.  You keep pushing.  Moving it the second inch is still hard as hell but just a tiny amount easier.  You KEEP pushing.  The third inch is easier.  So is the fourth.  Now the car won’t slow down.  Now you have created momentum.  Inertia is working FOR YOU and not AGAINST YOU.

This concept explains our habits and beliefs.  Launching a new habit is really REALLY hard to do.  You will battle the inertia.  It will be mentally and physically taxing at times.  As my students say “the struggle is real” when you start.

But you need to keep the idea of inertia in the back of your mind.  Eventually you will build momentum and your good habits will become easier and easier until they simply become who you are.  They become part of your inertia, your belief system.

Two examples:

Yesterday I was watching college basketball.  Duke, the defending national champions were destroying Notre Dame.  I think they were up 15 or 16 points in the beginning of the second half.  Everything was going their way….until Notre Dame conquered inertia.

All of a sudden Notre Dame flips the script and makes a couple good plays.  Duke is back on their toes a bit.  Then the Fighting Irish hit some threes and blocks some shots.  Notre Dame has the momentum.  Now the game has flip flopped.

You saw belief in their players eyes and doubt in Duke’s eyes.

Notre Dame was playing with the “we can actually win this” mindset while Duke had the “we could lose this” mindset.

That was the biggest difference.  Once those belief systems were in place, there was no stopping the inevitable.  Newton’s First Law dictated the outcome of that game.

My other example was last Saturday during the third year in a row I have ran the Green Legs and Hamstrings half marathon.  This race was really important to me, because three years ago was the first time I had ever actually WON a race.

Let’s flashback.

Three years ago….I took the lead about halfway through the race and the only thoughts running through my head were “you’re going to mess up”, “they are going to catch you”, “do you really think YOU can win this race?”  These thoughts were BRUTAL and were very difficult to overcome.  (You can read all about it here.)  In fact, although the race was physically hard, I think I was more mentally exhausted when I finished from just facing down my self-doubt.

Two years ago…. I took the lead about two miles in and just TOOK OFF.  My belief in myself had grown.  The year before taught me that victory was possible and to ignore the self doubts, that I could win this race.

This year…. I chased a guy or the first four or five miles and then flew past him up a hill.  Now my mindset was “This is my race.  No one will beat me.”

My mindset changed over time.  At first the adjustment was difficult and uncomfortable, but it became easier and easier as each little victory built my confidence.

That what needs to happen to build new habits.  Celebrate the little victories, especially when you are starting out.  Those little victories will help build momentum (even just the tiniest amount), eventually the habit will become a little easier, and finally you will flip the inertia and make it work FOR YOU instead of AGAINST YOU.

Thanks for reading!  Hope you have a wonderful Friday!