A Thousand Tiny Pushes: Creating Momentum That Gets You Unstuck
Have you ever had a dream where you are trying to run or walk but you can’t?
Whether you’re running from a dinosaur, trying to win a race, or even just trying to go talk to somebody across the room – it feels like it’s impossible to move faster than molasses on a cold day in Antarctica. These are some of the most frustrating and weirdest kind of dreams out there.
This paralyzed feeling happens because our bodies are still sleeping but our brain is trying to make it move. Instead of going into sleep science however, I bring this up because it’s a close metaphor to a feeling many of us experience when we're doing something that doesn't involve sleeping at all:
Sometimes it feels like we are running toward our goals through a wall of Jello. We can see where we want to go, but it feels like we're exerting all our energy and focus and still moving in slow motion.
What do you do when your brain or heart is saying “GO”, but the rest of you isn’t moving? How do you overcome this kind of resistance? How do you get through these doldrums [i.e.: a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump. An area of the ocean where there is no wind to move a ship forward.] and actually arrive at the goal that you set out for?
I’ve found that when I am having trouble moving forward in one area of life, one thing that helps me progress is to create momentum in a different area of life.
And what happens is that as I create momentum in one area, that momentum transfers over to the other areas of my life.
When something seems hard, like writing, or making something, or following through on being a super cool inspiring person; my default way of creating momentum for myself is pushups. Yep, good ol' fashioned pushups.
Because doing pushups is a relatively easy way to accomplish something. They change both my physical and my mental state. I started out by setting the bar low: 25 pushups a day. That’s it. Doesn’t matter when I do them, just as long as they’re done. My wife Shannon mentions something similar to this that helped her climb out of depression in her blog post Battling The Anti-Me; except her goal was just ONE pushup per day, to do something rather than nothing.
And what happens as a result of this activity is that I start to feel stronger, feel better about myself, my self-esteem goes up because I can actually feel a physical change inside. Those good feelings start to translate to how I feel about the other things in life that I want to accomplish. I start to feel like they aren’t as big of an obstacle as they originally seemed. They start to seem more within grasp.
Being self employed brings it’s own set of challenges.
Imagine it like having a day off from work, like a Saturday, and you have a half-dozen different things around the house that need to get done; and it’s your decision to either make them happen or, on the flip side, you could put them off and spend the day watching tv.
Except the main difference is that when you’re self employed, you’re in charge of your hours EVERY day, and instead of household tasks to do, it’s work for clients, and how you choose to use your time determines whether you can pay your bills or not. Higher stakes.
I’ve been self-employed for a number of years, and the reality is that I don’t always feel motivated to get things done. To combat this, I’ve come up with another method to create momentum:
I give myself an “Early Win”, an accomplishment in the beginning of the day that creates momentum for me to move into the rest of the day.
So rather than doing something like checking email first thing in the morning, I tackle one of the tasks that I have, usually the one that I want to do the least. So once that’s out of the way, then the rest of the day feels like I’m coasting downhill.
It is much easier to get things done when you start out your day tackling the biggest obstacle; then it’s not looming over your head and crushing your mental energy.
I’ll also sometimes combine an “Early Win” with “Little Wins”, like writing things down on my list that I’ve already done and then check them off. Small things like, “Eat breakfast.” These little wins can be anything that provides me with a sense of accomplishment.
The purpose of these exercises is to create momentum when I don’t have any. It’s the act of compounding a lot of little wins to provide me with the momentum to tackle the bigger things.
"A thousand tiny pushes equals one big push.”
This is a game that I used to play with friends, where one of us would suddenly give the other a whole bunch of rapid little shoves, pushing them off balance, while saying, “A thousand tiny pushes equals one big push!”
It was just a random funny thing to do to mess with each other, but in it, there is a lesson:
If you don’t have the strength to give one big push toward a goal, instead, give a thousand tiny pushes towards it.
It’s less intimidating to move multiple small pebbles than it is to shove a boulder, but in the end, you’ve still moved a ton of rock all the same.
The little things matter.
- Focusing on individual steps can get you through a marathon.
- Writing one paragraph at a time can create book.
- Doing a small workout a day for months can drastically increase your fitness.
- A thousand ants can move an object thousands of times their weight.
The key to making big things happen is momentum.
When you have momentum, things that would have been impossible to move while standing still get busted out of your path.
I’m reminded of this analogy of a locomotive:
If you took a small rock and wedge it in front of the wheel of an unmoving train, it can stop the massive train from rolling forward. But if that same train is moving, the momentum it has could smash through a concrete wall. Same train, but with momentum.
You have a powerful purpose, you have abilities, you have knowledge, you have big dreams, you have specific goals. If you’ve been feeling stuck, what you need is momentum.
So put into practice this concept:
Momentum Creates Momentum.
Find ways you can create a thousand tiny pushes to knock over your obstacles. Use the compounding power of those accomplishments to fuel you toward the big, amazing, goals you have.