Laws of Motion and Metaphysical Inertia

Newton’s first law of motion: a body at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by a force.

If you’re a science geek you will recognize this from physics as inertia. If instead you’re a philosophy geek you will agree that metaphysical inertia is basically no different. Metaphysically speaking, in pursuit of our goals, we tend to stay at rest or tend to stay in motion. In this, inertia is both our greatest enemy and our greatest ally.

As an enemy, when we are at rest, we tend to stay at rest, and is the reason why nothing happens. It’s the part of us that procrastinates, rationalizes, and continues to stay stuck in the same place. Day. After. Day. After. Day. After. Day. Without something to spark us into motion, this “body at rest” will forever remain at rest.

Here’s the good news. The rest of Newton’s first law of motion is that a body in motion will stay in motion. This means is that there doesn’t need to be a huge, grand, magical, explosion of motivation to get out of the “at rest” position. Just a small nudge will do. A little bit of motion will continue in motion.

What this means, is that ANY motion (no matter how miniscule) is more powerful than sitting around doing nothing waiting for a big burst of motion to happen.

For example, when I had the goal to run my first road race, I definitely knew that I needed to get to the gym almost every day for some sort of training. Initially, going to the gym seemed too hard, too overwhelming, too…something…enough that I simply put off going. And put off going. And put off going some more. One day I asked myself what is the smallest movement that I will take? It turned out I was willing to put on my running shoes. So I did. Then I asked myself if there was another motion I could take? I was willing to go out to my car. So I did. Was there another motion I could take? I was willing to drive over to the gym. So I did. Was there another motion I could take? I was willing to go into the gym. So I did. And then was I willing to go into the locker room? Yes. Was I willing to go to the part of the gym that I needed to be in to workout? Yes. And as long as I was already there I might as well do my workout.

It’s been three years, and I generally workout six days a week. And almost every day I have to employ the “What is the smallest possible motion I am willing to take?”

Keep in mind, I do give myself permission to bail at any one of those points—I can put on my shoes, and then take them off and go back to bed, or I can drive to the gym, and drive home and go back to bed. In three years, I have bailed a few times, but the number is so small I can count it on one hand. That’s right the smallest possible motion, has yielded more forward motion than the sitting around waiting for the BIG spark of motivation ever did.

What’s your goal? And what’s the smallest possible motion you WILL do, right now, to achieve it?