02 Jan The Object in Motion
See if you can remember this from your junior high science class. Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless an external force acts upon it. Similarly, if the object is at rest, it will remain at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. Newton’s First Law of Motion is also known as the Law of Inertia. I’ll bet your science teacher demonstrated this with all sorts of examples that included forces like gravity and friction that affect the motion of an object.
As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about human behavior, I’ve noticed that the basic concept of inertia also seems to apply there as well. If you want to accomplish some task, the hardest part is often to actually start (the object at rest tends to remain at rest) but when you start, you often find that the completion of the task might not have been as difficult or daunting as the “at rest” you believed it would (the object in motion tends to remain in motion). This makes me think of teenagers that I am working with who are falling behind in school. The more frustrated they become, the less they do and the less they do the further behind they fall and the further behind they fall, the more frustrated they become. Round and round. But if they will sit down, open the book or write the first sentence, they often are nearing completion sooner than expected or are at the very least less frustrated with themselves (and easing the frustration of their parents!). That is not to say that we always complete what we start but I can say without fear of revocation that we none of us has ever completed a task we have not started.
So, here we are at the New Year and the time of resolutions and fresh goals. Some want to lose weight. Others intend to go to the gym. Still others believe they need to read more or visit their parents more or spend time in meditation or on their faith practices. And yes, it is true that many of us (me included) don’t always make it too far before we are back into the old pattern. But again, remember that the only way to do is to start!
Let me add a wrinkle to this New Year’s effort to self-improvement. This year, when you fall off the wagon (hopefully you won’t!) try to be a little kinder to yourself and stop with the self-blame and self-loathing talk. Rather, give yourself some kindness and consider that maybe this year you are going to make this relapse into old habits a part of your journey of recovery from them. The mistake is not the end but a time to reflect, retool, and restart. Get back on the horse! I believe you can make this happen if you can get moving on it some and even then if you don’t finish the thing, nothing truly was lost that cannot be found again.