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The Law of Momentum – It’s not just for physicists

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

As a practicing hypnotherapist and coach, I often get clients who come to me and are totally eager to change. Believe me, those are some of my favorite clients, because I know they’re willing to go the extra mile. But, sometimes these clients are so eager, they sabotage themselves with TOO MUCH motivation.

Wait. Too much motivation? How can someone have too much motivation? “I thought motivation was a good thing,” you say.

Motivation is great. But there’s another thing we have to look at, and it’s called the Law of Momentum, and it can either help strengthen your motivation or completely destroy it.

The Law of Momentum simply states that incompletions drain your energy, while completions replenish it. I like to describe it like this:

Have you ever been eating dinner, and normally, you would wash the dishes after your meal, but this time you’re particularly stuffed, so you rinse them off a bit and stick them in the sink and say, “I’ll do them in the morning.” So, morning rolls around, and you have some breakfast. There’s some dishes in the sink that you know you should wash, but you’ve got to get to work. You should also wash the morning dishes, but you’re going to be doing dishes later anyway, so you pile them on. Dinner rolls around, and now that’s a pretty big pile, so you put it off until morning.

Pretty soon, the pile in the sink is so big that just looking at it makes you sigh. You don’t really feel like doing the dishes, because all the incompletions have built up to such a point that you don’t have the energy (defined however you like; mental, emotional, spiritual, etc) to do them. That’s how the Law of Momentum can work against you.

Well, sooner or later, you inevitably run out of silverware. You need a fork for dinner. So, as you’re washing the fork, you realize that you also need a knife. Oh, a plate would be good, too. Then you decide, why stop there, I’ll wash some dishes for breakfast in the morning. Before you know it, you’ve washed the entire sink in a fury, and you feel great. Completions replenish your energy, and with all the momentum building, you just couldn’t walk away from that sink until you did more and more. That’s how the Law of Momentum can work for you.

Of course, the law doesn’t only pertain to dishes, but also to exercise, projects, goals… every area of your life. The cool thing about the Law of Momentum is that, it doesn’t matter if the completion is big or small. Any completion begins to affect the momentum. With my coaching clients, I always have them start on something incredibly simple – even a token completion. It gets the ball rolling.

So, what does this all mean? Well oftentimes, I get clients who say, “I want to work out seven days a week!” When I ask them how much they work out now, they might ask if curling beers and donuts counts… in other words, “not at all.”

Well, seven days a week is very ambitious, and probably even good for you, if you’re already in shape. They might even stick to it for a few weeks.

But just imagine what happens when Aunt Georgina’s birthday comes around, and they have to skip the gym one night to go to her birthday party. Uh oh, that’s an incompletion! Maybe the next week, they find it even easier to skip another night – heck, they did last week, and that worked out ok. Then on another day, they’re a little tired, so they decide to skip again.

And then, as the momentum takes hold, the excuses begins to pile on:

“Well, I skipped some days this week, so I couldn’t possibly work out seven days now. I might as well take the rest of the week off, and I’ll start again next week. Everything will be back to normal.”

Sure it will.

One of the keys to successfully attaining your goals is to start small. Sure, make your goals lofty. Make yourself stretch. But don’t set up goals where the law of momentum will surely work against you!

For most clients who want to work out seven days a week, I suggest they make their goal to work out two days a week, twenty minutes per day, to start with. Of course, they can go more, if they feel like it. But everybody – even the busiest of us – can make it to the gym for forty minutes a week. That sets up successes, which are completions that replenish energy and make future successes even more likely. After a few weeks of completions, we can increase their goals with the assurance that the Law of Momentum is now working for them.

The trick is to manipulate events so you’re always getting completions – big ones if you can, but even little completions will do. You’ll achieve your goals easier and generally feel more fulfilled in life because of it.

-Michael