“Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.” -Isaac Newton, translated from The Principia
Most of us are familiar with the concept of inertia stated in Newton’s 1st Law; that is, a body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force. But inertia doesn’t only apply to a meteor hurling towards the earth. In terms of health and fitness (or, honestly, any goal or lifestyle change) the concept of inertia captures an individual’s tendency to remain the same, whether that be active, fit, and healthy . . . or just the opposite.
The key factors to remember when it comes to making inertia work for us rather than against us are:
Find deep and meaningful inspiration
We will stay “at rest” unless pushed or pulled to change. Oftentimes when we are content or comfortable, there is nothing compelling us to make a change. In order to be successful with making a lasting change and building a new lifelong habit, we must start by identifying our driving factor, i.e., the motivating force that is compelling us to continue on a new, oftentimes uncomfortable and challenging, path.
“To make profound changes in your life, you need either inspiration or desperation.” -Anthony Robbins
Take the path of least resistance
Imagine you are playing a game of shuffleboard on an outdoor court. But, unbeknownst to you, the court old and has bumps and dips, making it an uneven surface. You take your first disc, give it a good push, and anticipate it landing in the perfect position on the opposite side of the court. But as it glides along, it hits a bump and slows down, and then another and slows more. Less than halfway across, your disc stops entirely.
Of course, the bumps in this scenario represent an outside force. If the surface had been smooth (for the purpose of this example, without unexpected outside force acting against the disc), the disc would have made it to its intended destination, no problem.
To make inertia work for us as we pursue new goals or lifestyle changes, it is imperative that we take the path of least resistance by working to eliminate as many challenges or barriers to our success as possible. For instance:
- if it’s difficult to get to the gym in the morning, lay out exercise clothes for your morning workout the night before, or pack your real clothes for the next day in your gym bag and put it in your car the night before
- if you struggle to exercise after work, choose a gym that is located on your way home from work and go straight from work to the gym
- if you forget to drink enough water throughout the day, carry a water bottle with you in your purse and keep it visible in your workspace as well
- if you struggle with eating the produce you purchase, wash and chop fresh fruits and veggies immediately after returning from the grocery store, or buy pre-cut options; keep fruits visible in a bowl on the counter for easy snacking
- if eating a healthy dinner is challenging, cook more food than is needed for one meal, and enjoy leftovers the following night or two; better yet, prepare and store freezer meals for added convenience
- if you find it difficult to stop watching t.v. or surfing the web late at night, plug your internet and cable modem/router into a power outlet with a timer, and set it to power off each night at a certain time so you can disconnect from technology and get a good night’s sleep
The path of least resistance will be different for each of us. The key is to make it as easy as possible to stick with our goals and intended lifestyle changes, to allow them to become effortless habits that we incorporate flawlessly into our routine for the long haul.
While it’s true that inertia means sometimes it’s difficult to change our unhealthy habits, the good news is, once we find the oomph to get started and get in a pattern with little resistance, it’s easy to maintain!
How have you made inertia work for you in the past? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Wishing you health and happiness,