“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, it’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone; Rocky Balboa)
“All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail.”
“Life leaps like a geyser for those who drill through the rock of inertia.”
Inertia is the enemy of action.
For the last few months, I’ve focused exclusively on direction. My last 22 posts have discussed how to find your purpose in life and how to align everything you think, say, and do around that purpose. Now it’s time to focus on action. Once you’ve established a new direction for your life, you have to start building momentum towards achieving your goal.
Momentum reduces friction and multiplies force. Momentum is the one thing that separates people who get what they want from people who don’t. Think of momentum as your ability to take consistent and productive action in the direction of your biggest dreams. The key is that momentum builds over time, making it easier and easier to take action while giving your actions more and more force. Momentum is energy. With enough momentum, anything is possible. The problem is that life is full of things that are constantly trying to sap your momentum. Things like haters, negative emotions, and difficult circumstances are constantly working against you. This inertia acts to slow you down, increasing friction and reducing force.
Inertia Is A Dream-Killer
When I was an undergrad at Franklin & Marshall College, everyone was given a month off in between the fall and spring semesters. That is, everyone except for the wrestlers and basketball players. Winter sport athletes continued to practice and compete during the academic break. This was cool because we had the entire college to ourselves. This sucked because we spent all of our time in the practice room, working out 2-3 times a day. When classes started up again in mid-January, going back to our normal practice schedule was easy. Working out felt like coasting. Why? Because I generated a ton of momentum towards my wrestling pursuits. At the same time, going back to class was excruciating. Studying felt like climbing Mount Everest. Why? Because I lost all of my momentum towards my academic pursuits.
Inertia is heavy. Why is it so hard to get back into the swing of things after spending a few days away from the office? Why does is feel so painful to go back to the gym after missing a few workouts? The answer is inertia. Inertia is defined as a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. Once you stop taking action in a particular direction, inertia begins to pile up. The longer you wait to take action again, the more inertia you will have to overcome. This inertia can keep you from fulfilling your purpose in life. Inertia can also inhibit your ability to increase happiness, generate influence, and improve self-confidence.
Picture your mind as a river. The faster this river moves, the clearer your thoughts and the more forceful your actions. Haters, destructive emotions, and crappy circumstances are like boulders, rocks, and mud in this river. All of these things create inertia. If left unchecked, inertia, in all of its forms, can hold you back from your dreams. Understand: inertia is the gatekeeper of all change and achievement. The first thing you have to do on your way to achieving your goal is overcome the inertia that is either already holding you back, or will inevitably try to hold you back.
A hater’s goal is to limit your potential. Haters are destructive critics who try to keep you from being your best or doing your best. More than anything else, haters have the ability to create massive levels of inertia in your life. This is because haters can come between you and your goals directly, or indirectly, by negatively influencing your emotions and circumstances. Haterade is anything a person does to try to keep you from achieving your goal under the guise of trying to help you. If you are going to fulfill your purpose in life, you have to have a razor sharp understanding of what a hater is, and what a hater is not. A critic offering you unsolicited advice on why you will fail is a hater. A critic responding to your request for advice with a negative answer is not a hater. A friend supporting your project to your face and trashing it behind your back is a hater. A friend offering you productive solutions to a problem is not a hater. Someone trying to slow down your productivity, bring down your emotions, or limit your options while pretending to cooperate with you is a hater. Someone taking productive action and competing with you openly is not a hater.
The cost of being a hater is significant. Haters and their targets usually have similar wants and interests, but haters choose to focus on their rivals rather than their mutual desires. As a result, haters spend their time and energy trying to cut you down and prevent you from achieving your goal rather than figuring out how to enjoy life and achieve their own goals. For the most part, haters will take care of themselves. The time and energy haters spend trying to keep someone else down is time and energy they could have used to advance their own purposes. And really, their loss is two-fold, because while they are wasting their most valuable resources; time and energy, their targets are using their own resources to get further ahead. The best way to deal with haters is to leapfrog over them. In other words, use them to positively influence motivation and increase ambition.
Haters are cowards. Subconsciously, haters know they are doomed. When they come across a confident, can-do person, haters ask, “Why is she acting so confidently?” and “Who does she think she is?” On a deeper level, they are asking, “Why am I scared to act?” and “Who am I?” Rather than answer these difficult questions and improve their own self-confidence, haters will try to bring down your confidence levels. Any effort you make to increase happiness by setting a hater straight is completely worthless. By engaging with haters, you give them more fuel and provide them with a larger target to attack. And if you’re not careful, you can get sucked into becoming a hater yourself. Keep your attention off of your rivals and on your desires. Focus on finding ways to enjoy life more and generate influence, not hating. That being said, don’t give haters a free pass. If you witness someone trying to limit the potential of another person, call attention to what the hater is doing and support the person who is being limited.
Self-mastery inhibits inertia. Negative emotions like guilt, anger, fear, and pain are incredibly powerful forces. Once unleashed, these emotions are almost impossible to stop. In the blink of an eye, negative emotions can hijack you focus and completely derail pursuits. Understand: one damaging emotional decision can result in a lifetime of inertia. When negative emotions take control of your behavior, they become your master. The only way to maintain a state of self-mastery is to control your emotions. And the best way to control your emotions, is to counterbalance them by immediately adjusting your focus and physiology. For example, you can quickly counteract anger by shifting your attention inward and choosing to be still.
Anger is only good for one thing: damage. Almost everyone knows what it’s like to be angry. Anger is that feeling you get when someone says or does something that pushes you over the edge. Snap, your entire world shrinks to the size of a quarter. All you can see is what that person did wrong and how you are going to fix it. They screwed up big time and you’re going to show them exactly why they’re wrong. Of course, none of this does any good. By getting angry, you only add negative energy to a situation and distract yourself from the big picture. This wastes valuable time and resources, setting you back from achieving your goal. The next time you get angry, try counteracting it will stillness and reflection. First, recognize that you are feeling angry. Then, be still and turn your thoughts inward. Treat any angry feelings you encounter as a bell signaling you to pause and reflect. This means that you stop moving, talking, writing, posting, and texting. This stillness will calm your mind and turn your thoughts inward, giving you time to figure out how to best exit the situation.
Everyone wants to make something happen. Instigating is encoded in our DNA. Humanity’s search for purpose and meaning are all tied to our ability to exert some level of control, no matter how minute, over the universe. The problem is that sooner or later, everyone feels like they are limited by their circumstances. This point might come after the freshness of a new job fades and you find yourself doing the same repetitive tasks, waiting on a promotion. Or it might come after the excitement of a new relationship wears off and you start feeling trapped or bored, wishing for something more. Though you might feel tied down physically, there are several things you can do to move forward mentally. And where the mind goes, the body follows.
First, turn a deaf ear to the word, “no”. Refusing to take “no” for an answer is not arrogance, it’s dedication to an outcome. The average person accepts the word “no” like a baby accepts a pacifier because it relieves them of any responsibility for their failure. Of course “no means no” in certain situations, but when it comes to making a positive and productive change in your own life, “no” is only temporary. Second, stop asking for permission and start picking yourself. Are you still waiting to be called on by a teacher? Are you still waiting to be picked by one of your playmates on the schoolyard? Are you waiting to be picked for a promotion? Try this: pick yourself. Picking yourself might sound absurd, but do you know what’s more absurd, waiting for permission to do the things you want in life. Finally, start shaking things up. The best way to do this is to start asking different kinds of questions. For example, instead of asking: “How can I do what I’ve been doing better, faster and easier?,”start asking: “What happens if I do the exact opposite of what I’m doing?,” “What happens if I go completely against the status quo?,” and “What happens if I don’t do what I’m told?”
Inertia, in all of its forms, has the power to keep you from your purpose of living. Haters, negative emotions, and unwelcoming circumstances are not permanent obstacles. They are temporary setbacks or stepping stones. In my next post, I will zero in on the first of these three forms of inertia: Haterade.