Momentum. One of the best close friends of many high achievers such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Christiano Ronaldo, Gary Vaynerchuk and many more. But what is momentum exactly and how do you build momentum? In this guide, I will show you the way.
What is momentum?
Ever heard of Newton’s First Law? You probably did in the physics class of high-school. It is the Law of Inertia: Objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, unless something stops their momentum. Put another way, couch potatoes tend to stay couch potatoes. High achievers – people who get into a successful rhythm – continue putting in the work and end up achieving more and more.
Momentum is the secret force behind every process. It is a powerful and magnetic feeling. If you manage to get that wind in the back, there is almost nothing that will stop you.
How to build momentum
To build momentum is a process that mostly consist of one thing: taking the first step and then keep stepping forward. You have to overcome the initial resistance. But once you do overcome that, and you have momentum on your side, it is really powerful.
1. Take that first step
When you want to make a change in your life, you will always face some initial resistance. Resistance is the enemy to every (creative) process. It is hesitation. It is procrastination. It is fear.
You need to get started by just taking that first step. Just start with one action at a time. Progress will be slow, but once a newly formed habit kicked in, momentum will join the party. Your success and results compound rapidly.
Darren Hardy wrote a beautiful analogy to building momentum: “You can compare it to what happens when a rocket ship launches. The space shuttle uses more fuel during the first few minutes of its flight than it does the rest of the entire trip. Why? Because it has to break free from the pull of gravity. Once it does, it can glide in orbit. The hard part? Getting off the ground.”
So, take that first step. Launch your rocket ship into orbit.
If you struggle with the initial resistance a lot, you can read my review of The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. In the review I cover how you can overcome resistance.
2. Write your goals down and break them into small, daily actions
To build momentum you first need to know where you want to build momentum on. This makes it important to write down your goals.
Once you have written down your goals, you should break them down. All the way down to small, daily actions. By doing this you can immediately see what you can do right now to take that first step and where you can work towards.
3. Do something about the goal every day
This is a follow-up to the previous one. If you have written down your goals and broke them down into small, daily actions, it is time to execute on it. When you do something about a goal every day, you are taking a small step forward every day. Over time these small, daily actions will compound into great results.
The most important thing is that you keep executing the small, daily actions while at the same time not expecting to see any great results in the short-term. Be aware of the fact that you probably need to delay your gratification. But that is fine, because by just executing every day you can build momentum and you can find great gratification in that.
Doing a small action day in day out can challenge your self-discipline. After all, you are creating a new habit. A habit of doing something about a goal every day. My tip to you is to block a 30-60 minut time-period every day to work on your goal(s). I personally like to do this early in the morning. That way no one can interrupt me and I have most of my focus and willpower. Try it out!
If you are struggling with creating new habits, like working on a goal every day, you can check out the review I wrote of Atomic Habits, by James Clear.
4. Track the amount of times you have executed the actions
Track the amount of times you have executed the actions. By doing this you will get an overview of how much work you already put in which can motivate you to keep going. Besides that, tracking the actions can also give you new insights about the process.
If you keep track of your days, you can see under which circumstances you could execute the small, daily actions without a problem. But, you can also see under which circusstances you struggled. Use this to your advantage and set yourself up in a way that you minimize difficulties.
5. Keep the wind in your back
After reading the previous four ways of building momentum, you probably noticed something I hammered on: doing something about your goal(s) every day. When it comes to building momentum, consistency is the key element.
Now, lets be realistic. There will be days that you executed the small, daily actions, but got nowhere. Or maybe you even skipped a day. If this happens sometimes, it is fine. If you have build momentum for a while it will probably piss you off that you skipped a day, so that will result in enough motivation to get after it again. However, if you get lazy you will lose your momentum. And that is the truth. So, even when you have a bad day you should still go through the motions. Build that momentum. Maintain that momentum.
Will Smith said something beautiful about working on something that helps me out a lot. It might help you as well when it comes down to working on your goals and building momentum:
“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”