More Than This: The Power of Momentum

The following text is an extract from More Than This: Your Heroic Quest to Find Inspiration, Intent, Impact and Insight 

Excellent. Now you are inspired. You have overcome indecision. And you have clearly and specifically set your intent. It’s time to get moving… to overcome inertia.

Have you ever push-started a car?

More Than This Car

It’s less of a thing these days, as modern cars tend to be more reliable (or maybe we simply don’t keep them for as long) but it used to be that cars would breakdown – particularly their batteries would run down if you accidentally left the lights on. And to get them started again, you either needed another car with jumper cables so that you could use its battery to start your car or you needed someone to give you a push so you could ‘bumpstart’ the car once it was moving.

I was on the pushing end of this a few times as a kid. (I also did it once in high-heels on the grounds of the Australian Federal Parliament, but that’s another story!) And the hardest thing was getting the vehicle moving from stationary. Once it was moving a little bit, it became easier and easier to speed it up further, and to keep it moving. Why? Because the vehicle’s own weight started to gain momentum of its own. It was moving, so it would keep moving with only enough force exerted to overcome the friction from the air and a little bit of friction and resistance from the tires and axle.

Changing habits and altering the course of your otherwise relatively comfortable life is like that too.

Compound that effect if you are also talking about a goal that impacts on other people, and even more if your goal involves changing entire systems (like public policy, social service delivery or a commercial entity). All of those people and systems have their own momentum, that gently but forcefully carries them on in the direction they are already going.

More Than This Dog

Early in my public service career, a senior leader I worked for likened changing big systems to altering the course of a large ship. Or even a fleet. It is very hard to change direction once it has built up a head of steam, and when there is more than one entity involved, the change in direction must be incredibly tightly orchestrated and co-ordinated if it is going to have the desired effect quickly and efficiently.

Now Nigel likes this fact. He likes it for a couple of reasons.

First, it means that there isn’t always any discernible impact from your efforts for a while once you start.

“See!” he says, “it’s not working, I told you so!”

Second, he can play on your fears even more than at any other stage to this point…

“It’s going to be really hard to move this beast around, what if you pour all your efforts and hard work into getting the fleet to start changing course only to realise you’ve sent it in the wrong direction? Getting it to turn back again will be even more difficult!”

Nigel would really like you to give up and go back to your safe, routine life. He doesn’t really like the idea of directing fleets of ships… especially through potentially turbulent seas.

At this point, I need to remind you that the ocean-going vessel story is just a metaphor. Unless your goal is actually to redirect a flotilla, it’s just a collection of words that create some mental imagery for you. And as with all metaphors, you should only use them when they are useful to you.

More Than This ShipsIn this case, when you feel a little discouraged that you aren’t seeing the magnitude of results that you’d hoped as quickly as you’d hoped, then remember that it is tricky to start something moving, and even harder to change its direction (but there are ways that you can divert it without directly resisting the forces at play).

Think about nudges.

Sometimes, when an object – a heavy object – is moving at pace in a particular direction, a gentle nudge on the side can help it change direction quite quickly. This works best when it is only a minor correction that is needed. It’s less effective if you actually need the object to go in the opposite direction than the one it was headed in.

When you do need to do a complete 180 degree direction shift, you need to seriously consider whether it will be more effective to exert directly opposite (and greater) pressure to get the object to stop completely, then reverse OR to use a sequence of gentle side-nudges to carefully steer the object round in a complete 180 degrees without directly opposing its momentum.

Sorry for the physics lesson, but sometimes the mental imagery is useful – the trick is figuring out how to apply it to non-physical objects!

But to extend the metaphor just a little, you’ve now got yourself in motion… how do you maintain that when the world conspires to resist your efforts?

My new book, More Than This: Your Heroic Quest to Find Inspiration, Intent, Impact and Insight in a Broken World, is exactly what you need to:

  • Clarify and articulate your passion – to find your why
  • Gain the courage and commitment to do something about it
  • Learn and strengthen the skills you need to create massive impact
  • Stay true, analyse your results and gain powerful insights

More Than This

Available from now.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.