Momentum: 1: a property of a moving body that the body has by virtue of its mass and motion and that is equal to the product of the body’s mass and velocity; broadly a property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to a rest when under the action of a constant force or moment 2: strength or force gained by motion or through the development of events. – Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
To build and maintain momentum with a project, we need to be willing and able to be with discomfort.
Most of us have experienced (and really like) flow. It is a momentum of ease and effortless focused attention. But, when we hit a snag that disrupts our flow, we can become discouraged or even infuriated and fall prey to an internal dynamic that steals our thunder and stalls our momentum.
We might allow distractions to lead us to further distractions and voila, we soon discover our project is in a dormant state.
Starting an engine takes much more effort than keeping it running, particularly if it has been unused for some time. (Think of the lawn mower after a long cold winter.) And, we are not machines. We can play all kinds of games with ourselves creating our own virtual winters leading to the energy drain of starting our creative action engines over and over again.
Our momentum might be disrupted by circumstances; both honest and illusory.
Honest circumstances are the stuff of life like death, natural disaster, birth of a child, illness, moving.
When our momentum is disrupted by honest circumstances, we need to find our own center of gravity and dance with it, knowing we can and will begin again. We must be willing to be with the discomfort of starting the engine again. The least we might do is nurture our love for our project in some small way every day to keep the spark alive, keep the engine warm.
Illusory circumstances are excuses we use to avoid our project and pretend we are not at choice in order to avoid discomfort. These might be things like blaming other people for taking up our time, doing things for everyone else except ourselves, busying ourselves with many small but low priority tasks, trying to do everything ourselves.
Some reasons we reach for excuses and blame are that we get stuck on some aspect of our project, we arrive at a complex point and need to spend time working through it and we run into something we don’t know how to do.
Remember the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” Simply put, this means we need to learn to stay with the discomfort. Don’t run from it.
I know, when I hit a snag in my creative work, I become like a Mexican jumping bean. I become wired with anxiety and can hardly sit still. I walk into the kitchen looking for something to eat multiple times. Well, I call it anxiety, but maybe it is just the extra fire I need to push through something. Creativity requires resistance.
Sometimes a walk is good if we stay focused on the question, carry the inquiry. Sometimes we need to gently redirect ourselves back to the chair and stay put. Sometimes we need to ask for help.
Showers, walking, and gardening are all flow activities: ones where you can engage your body while your mind is free to muse and problem solve creatively. Sometimes sleeping on it helps. My father, an engineer and systems designer, used to doze in front of the TV and would suddenly pop up and say “I’ve got it!” meaning he’d solved a problem he’d been working on in his half-awake state.
Most importantly, when you hit a bump in the momentum road, don’t let it derail you. Stop, get grounded and be with what is. Don’t fight it. Be like water. Work with, through and around it.
Hitting a plateau can feel like a disruption of momentum, but it is really a different form of momentum. It is a time when it feels like we’ve completely stalled out for weeks at a time after a period when we’d been making steady progress. This is most obvious when we are engaged in projects with a learning curve, like learning to play an instrument, learning a language, spiritual growth and practices and it is also true of some instances of writer’s block.
During a plateau, we think nothing is happening and we’ve lost momentum. Actually, it is an essential part of our process which is integration and assimilation. This is the time that is needed for us to embody a new skill, a new habit, a new way of being. We don’t just think ourselves into something. We build a field which becomes us and align all aspects of ourselves in the embodiment of that field. This is where the magic happens. It looks like nothing is happening, but once it is over, the new skill, the new way of being is established and we can rely upon it in a way we could not before.
Momentum takes time to take hold and build speed. Whether experienced incrementally or exponentially, the more momentum you have with something the easier it feels to sustain. Some like to think of momentum as a wheel that goes around in a cycle. I prefer to think of it as a spiral, because we never really return to the same place where we started. Spirals represent duality: increasing-decreasing, rising-falling, growing-decaying. It depends on the direction of the spiral. Is it expanding outwardly or contracting inwardly? Is it rising in resonance or falling?
So, we can see that we can have momentum that contributes to our desired outcome and momentum that does not. For example, the momentum of a daily writing habit vs the momentum of daily procrastination around that habit; getting to it – putting it off. The longer we procrastinate, the more speed and familiarity (potentially inevitability) the procrastination momentum gains.
At the top of this post, I wrote that we have to be willing to be with discomfort to build momentum. Consider the irony that we also need to be with discomfort to procrastinate; the discomfort of not making any progress toward our dreams and desires and the discomfort of changing our momentum direction.
We’ve got to stop, become present, make a powerful and often uncomfortable choice (or two or three), turn ourselves around, get some traction in your new direction and stick with it until we have new expanding momentum. We can do this by becoming still and stepping into the center of the spiral as an observer of our world, our direction, our life. From there, we can find our center of gravity and empower ourselves to make the shift.
Having completed something before helps build momentum, because now you know we can do it. So, if you are making things, make lots of them. If you are writing poetry or songs, write lots of them. Be willing to make bad things on the way to what you saw in your mind’s eye. This is difficult for visionaries who see things whole and perfect but must now fumble through the imperfection of manifestation in physical form. Each step prepares you for the next.
Be willing to be with the mystery of what you don’t yet know and challenge yourself. You will bring forward what you have already assimilated and what is next will be revealed to you or even created by you. If you wait to know how to do the entire thing, you will blow your momentum.
When I used to play tennis, I remember being told to play with someone more skilled than me. That way, I could be challenged to rise to the next level whether I felt ready for it or not, even if I fumbled and flailed. Be willing to fumble and flail when you stall out, when you are blocked. Don’t wait for the perfect feeling or time. Stay and keep going. Don’t judge. Get curious.
Something else to remember about momentum is that it is a force that is not necessarily entirely created by your muscle and effort. Your commitment, your daily meeting with the muse, your self-trust, the project itself and even the future participate in momentum.
When we birth something, it takes on a life of its own, which is to say a momentum of its own. Know that you can tap into that like a surfer rides a wave.
When we seed the future with the vision of something we are creating, that future, that vision, reaches back and pulls us toward it, if we allow it. It sends us opportunities and signs. We need only pay attention and lean into it with our commitment and awareness. This means we need to be willing to be with discomfort of mystery, because we do not necessarily know the outcome. It is being created as we go. We need to release control. It’s not all about our ego.
We also may face having to be willing to be with the discomfort of being seen and standing out as a tall poppy. We are revealed by what we create. It is vulnerable to stand out in the world and make a big noise, a big splash. Momentum might be destroyed by too much worrying about these things along the creative path or too much sensitivity to the opinions of others along the way.
Next, I will write about motivation, form and function and their impact on our momentum, willingness and capacity to getting things done.
Ready to stop procrastinating and get some momentum going toward the life you really want? Consider hiring me as your coach. I’ve helped many people get off the train to nowhere and fall in love with life again. I invite you to contact me for an exploratory consultation to see if coaching is right for you.
Copyright © October 2015,Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved Photograph of original art copyright © 2007 Jordonna Dores, Used with permission.