Inertia is easy to see in physics. An object will continue in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force. A train will keep moving forward along the track once it attempts to stop, until enough external force (breaks) have been applied. But how can this relate to your well-being and why would you need to overcome it?
Great questions, I’d love to answer them!
When we are on auto-pilot, just living our life, going through the motions, going to work, paying bills, cleaning, eating, the lather-rinse-repeat of living, we are said to be producing forward inertia — our lives are moving along without us really exerting much to change things. Yes, you may be struggling, and likely if you are, you’re always in a state of (or close to) struggle, it is still moving along as struggling-forward inertia. Or it may be a boring forward motion, one where you’re not very excited, but you haven’t really much to complain about, it’s just the status quo for you. Therefore, inertia is your life continuing as it is, in a straight line, unless something happens to change it.
When inertia really matters is when you decide to make a change, when you want to switch it up. When you’ve come up with a dream or a goal, or something new to you, this is when you need to learn how to overcome inertia, when you need to take that forward moving train and switch it’s tracks — you must exert enough external force to alter the course of inertia in your own life.
Many of the ways to overcome this forward moving daily living look a lot like setting SMART goals: You want to be specific about the change you’d like to make, you’ll want to know ahead of time what you think it will look like when you’ve made the change, you want to start with smaller steps so you’re not overwhelming yourself, and you want to keep at it, turn it into a new routine.
Most of all, you want to start by believing in your ability to overcome. Whatever the new task or dream or direction you are taking, if you start by thinking you can’t do it, then inertia will come along and bowl you over to prove you right. Getting in the right mindset, speaking your plan into action and then following through again and again is the only way to begin to make a change. In fact, you may also like to give yourself realistic consequences for your actions — whether you reward yourself for completion, or you punish yourself for failing, you’ll know which one motivates you best. For me, I respond better to positive reinforcement, so I might find a tasty treat to share after I’ve done what I set my mind to do — or I might pause to crochet a single square in my blanket project, before moving on to the next steps of my new plan/task.
Just because you have consequences doesn’t mean you’ll always perform perfectly. Be gentle on yourself if you miss a day or three. Sometimes we all get sidelined when emergencies or unexpected responsibilities come up. Just breathe, accept this new state of affairs, and get back to the plan as soon as it is feasible. Remember, it gets easier the more you do it, even if you need to take a break.
After you’ve been working towards this goal for a while, you’ll realize that fitting it into your regular routine will come easier. Carve a slot in your week, slide this change in, and see how it fits. Maybe you need to change up the days, or the time of day — some tasks just work better in the morning, while others cry out for late-night energy. Whatever works for you is your aim, and don’t be afraid to try different options, just because one didn’t work doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. Perseverance over perfection.
One last tidbit is something we all know about, but frequently forget is an option — accountabuddies (aka accountability buddies). Finding a friend who you can trust to keep you on your game is probably as simple as asking any of your good friends, but if that feels like too much, you can also find an online community geared toward your specific theme and reach out there. Sometimes anonymity can make it easier to share your struggles, whether it be on reddit, facebook, or a themed private website. It isn’t likely that you’ll come up with something that other people haven’t already tried before — so ask how it went for them and if they have any suggestions. And then remember to stick around for a while once you’ve completed this phase of your changes, so you can be a wise support to the next new member of the community!
Remind yourself that inertia is actually quite powerful. We’re very stuck in our regular habits. Overcoming it will take time and patience. Sometimes working with a Mentor can be just the shift in your regular schedule that you need. If you’d like to discuss how a Mentor can help you overcome inertia, contact me and let’s set up a free discovery session.
But don’t be afraid to go it alone. You’re stronger than you think. While inertia keeps you going in one direction, remember your willpower is a strong enough external force to change any habit or implement any new plan, you just need to believe this to be true!