Imagine that you’re out on a bright sunny day on a bike ride. It’s enjoyable. You’ve looked forward to it because you’re heading to the beach. The cycle isn’t that far, but on route there’s a large, steep hill. It’s the hardest part of your trip and you know it’ll be a struggle to climb.
Before the hill, the journey is flat and easy. You’re about half a mile from the hill now. Then, an obvious thought dawns on you: if I start to peddle fast right now, I’ll gather speed and the hill won’t be quite so tough. So, you start to peddle faster. It’s not that much harder and before you know it you’re flown up the hill and are ready to let gravity guide you effortlessly to the beach.
You’ve used your physical momentum.
Momentum is a real phenomenon. We notice physical momentum all the time (riding a bike, breaking a fall). But there’s another type of momentum, no less pervasive or important: Psychological momentum.
Psychological momentum is not quite so obvious. It’s not physical, so it’s much more difficult to perceive. Yet, it's every bit as real. It keeps us moving forward with ease in our lives. It also helps us maneuver around life’s inevitable road blocks without having to come to a screeching stop.
The problem is that, at times, many of of us experience psychological inertia (complete absence of momentum). We sit in a resting state of helplessness or negativity. Or, we simply plod along, never gaining momentum. People often say they feel ‘stuck’ in life or that their ‘drive’ is gone. The thing is that, during these times, they don’t have to figure out their life’s purpose or to solve some existential crisis. They are simply referring to inertia regarding their psychological momentum.
To build momentum requires an initial push. Those first pumps with your thighs when riding a bike are the most difficult. But then, you gather speed. Soon, it feels ‘as easy as riding a bike’.
The psychological push we need to implement each day is basically a choice. It is a choice to be made as soon as we get up each morning. This choice is made on the flat part of the ground. It’s made half a mile from the hill.
Put simply, it’s a choice to start the day well. Seems simple enough, I know. So why do we so rarely choose this for ourselves?
The first reason is alluded to above. While we are acutely aware of physical momentum, we barely perceive psychological momentum, let alone its importance.
The second reason is that we are too distracted with thoughts of the steep hill. We focus on the horrendously difficult challenge of that deadline at work or the meeting we wish we could avoid. We focus on the impossibility of publishing that novel we’re writing or making sales from our new website. We focus on the huge task of saving for our kids’ college fund or finding a new place to live.
Imagine if we thought this way when riding to the beach. We know the hill is coming. We’re so anxious about it, we forget that peddling now makes it almost effortless. We may even justify our decision not to peddle now by saying that ‘I’ll be well rested at the bottom of the hill. I’ll cycle then’. We think we’ll deal with the hill when we have to.
But now the hill doesn’t seem like a hill. We know every wheel rotation will feel like uprooting trees. It seems more like Everest than a mere hill.
The truth of life is that we always have to cycle. We will always have to take some action towards achieving whatever it is we desire in life. But the great news is that we like cycling. We feel most alive when we’re taking action in pursuit of our passions. Life only becomes hard when we focus exclusively on its challenges rather than on how easily they can be overcome with the gathering momentum of almost effortless strides.
The truth is that we don’t even have to focus on cycling on the flat part of the ground. All we need to focus on is our intention to have an enjoyable journey. This is the real choice. Cycling on the easy part of the journey is an effect. The simple choice to make things easy on ourselves is the cause.
Don’t wait. Start as soon as you wake each day. Don’t distract yourself. Decide that you’re going to make things easy on yourself today. Decide that you’ll allow yourself to experience the ease that comes with gathering momentum. Realize that the hill is not going away. The hill is real. But it can be negotiated easily. It will end up guiding you to the beach.
The hill is not your enemy and life’s challenges are nothing worthy of anxiety for you.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do not fear your momentum. You were born to cycle well. You may have fallen off as a child, but you’ve grown out of stabilizers! Choose to trust and believe in yourself. The evidence of your greatness is everywhere in your past. Bravery is also as simple as making a choice.