Feeling stuck? Inertia is your frenemy

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An object in motion tends to stay in motion. (istockphoto © wojciech_gajda)

Ever have a time when it’s just too tough to get going? That feeling that everything – everything! – is just too haaaard? Hours, days, maybe weeks can tick by while you struggle in vain to get moving and get something done.

So when you get stuck, you flop on the sofa (or hide in your office). Maybe in the morning you swear that today will be different. Then in the evening you swear that tomorrow will be different. The only sign of movement is the shame spiral in your brain when another day goes by. Ugh.

Why can it be so tough to get unstuck? Think back to your last physics class. (And if you didn’t take physics, think back to your last day in a hammock.) It’s the principle of inertia: an object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted on by an outside force.

But that inertia that makes it so hard for motionless you to get going? Turns out, it’s your frenemy. Because what Sir Isaac Newton really wrote is that inertia is the tendency of an object at rest or in motion to stay in its current state.

I learned this the hard way at a young age, when I got panicked after my downhill bike ride got too fast for me and I tried to bail off the back of the bike. A body in motion — downhill and fast — tends to keep going that way, until acted on sooo dramatically by the ground. (It was God’s way of telling me that I needed to learn some physics.)

Ordinarily I recommend knowing the most important things you’d like to accomplish and doing those first. But here I make an exception. Sometimes when inertia has you in its grip, the best thing to do is anything. Clean that sink. Walk around the block. Do the fastest, tiniest thing on your whole task list. Then do the next. Take baby steps. Don’t go for the big win (yet).

Just get in motion. Because once you’re in motion, inertia stops being your enemy and starts acting like your friend, keeping you going. Momentum builds. You’re on your way.

2 Responses to Feeling stuck? Inertia is your frenemy

  1. I was so intrigued by the use of the word frenemy I just had to read your blog now. I thought, “why not use the word enemy?” Never occurred to me inertia could work for me once I get going. Momentum, anyone?

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