This weird thing happens when you try something new. Exercising, or writing, or getting up earlier, or changing your diet.
First, the honeymoon. You make the decision and you feel fantastic about it: this is going to change me for the better! New year, new me! This time it’s for good! Maybe you go off the deep end: you hit Amazon and buy a bunch of new gadgets to make the change stick: new exercise equipment, a spangly doohickey for the kitchen, a fancy new word processor, new apps for your phone. And for the first few days, maybe even a week, it’s awesome. Difficult, but awesome. The change washes over you like a cool breeze in the dead of a Georgia summer.
But that’s fleeting. And the honeymoon passes quickly.
They days turn into weeks, and the body begins to resist the change, because the body is like electricity: it follows the path of least resistance. That least resistance means doing what you already know how to do, which is to say, not exercising, not writing, sleeping in late, eating the same old crap. Once the honeymoon is over, your body and mind pull a what is this shit?!?! and essentially revolt. Getting out of bed feels not only difficult, but demoralizing. Writing even a few words seems impossible. The sight of your workout clothes fills you with despair. If you even think about eating another salad, you might conduct your own personal holocaust in the produce section at the Kroger.
This is where most people fail. This is why New Year’s Resolutions collapse. It’s why people lose ten or fifteen pounds on their diets, then turn around and put twenty pounds back on. It’s why the internet is littered with the corpses of blogs that have maybe a dozen posts (I’m looking at you, accidentallyinspired.wordpress.com). It’s why you can always find workout equipment on craigslist and ebay for super-cheap. People make a change, but they can’t escape the gravity of the old way, and before you know it, their momentum peters out and they fall back to earth.
The funny thing, though? That point where gravity pulls you the hardest, where you feel you just can’t find the strength to stick to your plan? That’s the breaking point. When you can find the way to make it past that last stage, find the heart to stay with your plan for just a little bit longer, that’s when you can achieve escape velocity.
Because the thing about the momentum that’s keeping us to our old ways is: it cuts both ways. That moment we can embrace the positive momentum we’ve established and use it to catapult ourselves forward rather than allowing the negative momentum to pull us backwards is the moment where the change is no longer change; it’s a new normal.
Five years ago, I didn’t exercise, I was eating like crap, I hadn’t written anything in years. I went to work, I came home, I chilled with my wife, watched some TV, and that was life. These days, I feel antsy and horribly unproductive if I don’t write at least a little something every day. I get grouchy and irritable if I don’t go for a run. I get up at the crack of dawn basically every day (though I have my kids to thank for that). And … well, I still eat like crap. Nobody’s perfect, but we’ll keep trying anyway. But I still go to work. I still chill with my wife. I still watch some TV. But I get all of it done in the same twenty-four hours I’ve always had in every day. This is something I can’t really explain, and I’m not sure I want to look at it too closely. I fear that, like the mirage glimpsed out of the side of the eye, it’ll vanish if I try to focus on it.
I’m not an expert in psychology. I’m not a life-coach. But I know this: We are powerful. We can achieve great things, even if those things are only great in our tiny spheres of influence.
If only we have the heart to seize our potential and take control of our momentum.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.