Do you ever feel that it’s hard to gain momentum on a new habit that you’re trying to start for the first time, or even trying to start up again? Or perhaps if you are starting something completely new that you gain a lot of rushing momentum right off the bat, because there’s something refreshing, exciting and novel about this new thing that you’re very curious and excited to explore. Perhaps we are very passionate and invested, even obsessed over this new thing that the boulder started down the steep hill and it’s going fast.
But then there are those other new changes and habits that we try to start up for the first time, or try to “restart” if we have tried to before that just never seem to gain any momentum at all. Usually these are positive habits and changes we wish we had in our lives, such as better nutrition, or getting in more movement and exercise throughout the day, or trying to adapt a new hobby or skill. We try to integrate this new habit, or action, or system in our life and it doesn’t seem to take off and catch momentum. Why does that happen? What can we do to help these new desires and wishes of ours gain more speed sooner?
Let’s add an analogy here of a giant truck driving down a hill, or even perhaps about to start a long distance road trip across the country from Rhode Island to Oregon. The truck obviously needs to be driving in the direction we want to go, but most likely the truck may have been driving east when we need to stop the truck and get it to head west. There may also be several bumps, turns, road blocks and giant boulders along the way that need to be avoided or pushed aside to make a clearer path.
Generally when we’re trying to adopt new habits in our lives, we are never starting the truck at a standstill, but trying to stop a truck that’s already moving in the opposite direction that we want to go (maybe down a hill) and force it back in the other direction. That itself takes more energy and effort than just starting from a standstill.
For example, your diet and eating habits may consist of going out to eat often, having at least one meal with bread (pancakes, a sandwich, etc) per day, or always going next door to the pizza place for lunch because it’s more convenient for you. These habits you already do already have momentum in the direction you don’t want to be in…thus the truck is already moving and you have to stop it and reverse the direction. This is where it gets hard, and will take a lot of aggressive movement and focus up front to get the truck turned around. What, you thought there was a simple solution, or pill to solve this issue?
However, here is the great news: once you’ve put in the initial effort to gain that momentum in the right direction, it’s easier to continue maintaining that momentum. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve stayed strict and clean on my diet for a considerable amount of time, I feel that I want to keep that momentum going and I’m more likely to pass on the treats and goodies because I want to maintain all the hard work and effort I’ve put in so far. I feel like I’ve made so much progress….why halt it now? Why stop the momentum?
But it’s hard to really capture that feeling of momentum when you’re just starting up new habits, or reversing bad habits that were opposite of what you wanted. It’s the kickstart to the journey that most of us have a hard time sticking to and where we run into the most roadblocks. I’ve definitely said “I need to cut X lbs for this meet coming up in a month” and two days later I’m already binging on bags of sweet potato chips and a handful of Hershey kisses left in the faculty room at school because I didn’t feel I had the momentum of staying strict quite yet (procrastination and the feeling that you can “make it up later” is a road block we’ll talk about in a moment). My upfront motivation and drive to get things turning around wasn’t aggressive or disciplined enough.
Changing and creating new habits is HARD. It takes discipline, persistence, self-control and continuous effort to push through the road blocks.
Sometimes, you need to figure out and address why you resort back to your old ways. What are the road blocks that are preventing you from making progress?
- Do you have a significant other who is also reluctant to change ways and is convincing you to fall back so he/she doesn’t feel left out?
- Do your friends and family support you and understand what you’re trying to start?
- Do you have to rearrange your schedule to accommodate for needing more time to complete and learn new things?
- Do you need to adopt and learn new skills in order to make your new habits and routines work?
- Do you want to make this habit a priority in your life, and if so, what else will you compromise or give up to make it happen?
These (and many other) road blocks will attempt to slow you down from gaining more momentum or from getting the truck moving. Let’s talk about a couple of solutions that can help you get the truck gaining more momentum in the direction it’s supposed to go…
Get a rocket boost and turn this new habit into a sudden obsession where you are willing to push everything aside to make this new thing your priority…
…Or just keep picking at it, remove those road blocks one at a time, and don’t let the truck slow down once it starts to go in the right direction. Eventually you will pick up speed, but it might take a bit of patience and persistence to get there.
The Rocket Boost Effect
The rocket boost doesn’t always come easily (nor does it come with a pill or magic product), but when it does, it is usually driven by a strong passion for that new routine or hobby, alongside a strong intent and willingness to make that new routine or hobby a priority above all other things and push aside everything else. But you know, once we develop that driving momentum, whether it started with a rocket boost or accumulated speed over steady effort and time, the momentum can feel just as fast and powerful as that rocket speed once it gets going.
Making Small but Continuous Progress
We’re undoubtedly impatient people sometimes. We want positive change to happen quick and rapidly (and even moreso now with phones, computers, internet and technology always giving us access to communication with others and answers much quicker than we could have ever imagined years ago). We wish there was a rocket-boost answer for everything, but really if you think of the amount of time and frequent action it took to get you to where you are…it didn’t happen overnight nor did it happen as a result of a “magic pill”…change and progress usually takes time, especially if you’re changing to achieve long term, sustainable results.
The Cost of Trying to Go Over the Speed Limit
Again, change and progress takes time. Don’t try to rush your way to your destination by “speeding”!
The truck can only go so fast to get to its destination (and should also follow the speed limit)…it’s not like you can gun the gas pedal and go 300mph to get there instantly without destroying the engine, needing to stop and refuel along the way., or eventually getting pulled over. Going “over the speed limit” is the metaphorical equivalent of thinking you can drop to a 500 calorie/day diet to lose weight quicker, or staying at the gym for hours on end and doing an extensively long workout thinking that will get you “in shape”, stronger, and burn more calories faster. Or, perhaps you’re “speeding” by spending an entire 10 hours of your day trapped in a room trying to figure out guitar fingerings or sewing a new project while ignoring other chores that need to get done or ignoring other people. You may get away with your tactics in the short run. However, in the end, that kind of approach…going “way over the speed limit” to get there faster will only result in speeding tickets and fines you have to pay later on…the “fines” being a drastic drop in energy levels, burn-out, fatigue, binge-eating to make up for lost calories, muscle breakdown, chores that pile up, and other similar negative costs.
So, How Can We Actually Remove Road Blocks and Gain Momentum, Practically:
The biggest road block and momentum influencer is undoubtedly time.
If your current habits are a result of time management and convenience, then you have to move your schedule around to fit the new habit. Time is fixed…we can’t add time to our day nor take it away, but we can only switch around our schedule to accommodate how much time is allotted to us each day. Moving a schedule around requires sacrifice and compromise with other aspects in your life to fit this new thing that you’re trying to integrate into your lifestyle.
For some of us, that bit of momentum can’t get started because there are so many rocks and bumps (items on the agenda) in the way that are preventing the smooth path. Maybe you can’t find the time to prep meals due to kids or your work schedule, or the gym is too far away for it to be a convenient option. You’re so busy that you just can’t find the time to squeeze in this new skill you’re trying to learn. This is where you have to cleverly pick around the rocks to make enough of a path to gain some speed to keep a continuous pace, and shift a lot of things around to get it to work.
Generally, when you introduce some type of new change, habit, routine or hobby (especially if it affects your overall health), you’ll find you need to modify many of the other things in your life to either accommodate it or compromise. The larger the change or routine you’re trying to implement, the larger the changes and modifications you’ll need to make to everything. You have to be comfortable breaking out of routine to start a new routine…and if you’re not comfortable, fight through the discomfort until it becomes comfortable.
Increase Your Passion, Knowledge & Curiosity about the Habit
The more we seem genuinely curious about exploring a topic or learning more about it, the more we want to dedicate our current interests towards that topic. Perhaps you are starting a new nutrition plan that is completely new to you and you want to find out more about WHY this will work for you, aside from any gimmicky marketing that got you into this diet in the first place.
I find that when I start extensively researching and finding out more about a particular hobby or routine that I plan on doing (How has it worked for other people? What are the biggest challenges? What do all the professionals and experienced know about this? Who else can share my experience?), I feel that I have more momentum to help support my newfound hobby or routine, and it keeps me driving and yearning for more. When I switched to Paleo from a life of glutenous foods, I did a crazy amount of exploring on the internet for ways to really dive in and try it out – I was genuinely curious as to why this would change my ways, and that overpowered any lack of willpower I had to stick to the diet when temptation arrived.
Have you found that you develop sudden obsessions for some new hobbies, such as learning a new instrument, getting absorbed in fishing season, developing a passion for art and drawing, or picking up sewing a dress or quilt? It’s because with these novel ideas, the truck was probably starting at a standstill rather than going in an opposite direction. It gets that “rocket boost” of passion, drive, and curiosity that doesn’t usually happen with lifestyle habits that already are in place, such as diet or exercise. See if you can bring the same amount of “novelty” and passion to your lifestyle habits too…maybe you need to switch up your exercise routine to something different and interesting? Perhaps you need to be more curious as to how strictly eliminating something from your diet can really change you?
Remove any sense of doubt and “I can make up for this later” procrastination attitude.
You know that familiar thought that comes into your head as you are about to embark on a “cheat meal” or you skip out on a day at the gym that you had intended to go to…”I can make up for this tomorrow…” But how often do you actually genuinely make up for it? Do these types of new habits, routines and hobbies you pick up magically complete themselves in a matter of short days? No! You know that these things take time to develop and manifest with constant persistence at doing them. The key is consistency and maintaining that steady effort. If you’re going to get that truck to the other side of the country, it’s better to be going a steady few hundred miles each day rather than make frequent stops that prevent progress or even push you back in the other direction. If you stay steady and consistent in your diet, in your strive to go to the gym more frequently, in your goals of making more meals at home to save on budget versus eating out, in practicing on a new instrument or sewing a new project, your new routine or hobby will cultivate over time, gain momentum and lead you to succeed in your goals.
I should probably conclude my rant, since you are probably on your toes at this moment waiting to get started on developing your new habit or routine. By all means, if you have the drive, then get out and get started!
I’ll just leave you with one last thought for the day about gaining momentum: Remember it’s not about how much you schedule, plan NOW what you want to get done in the future (or anticipating how much momentum you will have), but about whether you performed and followed through with your new routine when that day or time comes. Momentum is not a one time wish…it is an ongoing process. Habits and actions keep building upon themselves the more often we do them.