How This 17th Century Discovery Can Help You Accomplish Your Goals Today

In 1687, Isaac Newton came to a stunning realization:

Objects in motion stay in motion; objects at rest stay at rest.

Today, we know it as Newton’s first law of motion. It may strike us as true in physics or an interesting theory about the way the universe operates.

But what we rarely seem to recognize is that we – human beings – are objects, too.

How The Principle Applies To Us Humans

I’ll never forget…

The first time I saw my brother after a few months apart, he noticed a change in me.

“You seem happier and calmer. Like you have more goodwill towards everyone,” my brother told me.

I was telling him about the benefits of meditation, and how much I thought it was changing my life. How I started to see the world in a different way. How I was bringing light into the world.

He asked, “How do you know it is meditation that is making the difference? You’re also doing all that other stuff too.”

“The other stuff” he was referring to were the components of 75HARD: working out twice per day, drinking a gallon of water, following a clean diet, reading 10 pages, and taking a progress photo. 

His question was… how did I know that those weren’t the reasons my life was changing?

My response was that he might be right. But it didn’t matter what the specific cause was.

I was an object in motion. Improving day after day. And this made me more likely to do other things that would improve my life. Which in turn made me (and those around me) happier.

Objects in motion, stay in motion.

By the opposite notion, have you ever had a period in your life where you just felt plain stuck?

Like no matter what you did, you couldn’t make progress.

When this has happened to me, I’m typically at rest. Literally pulling the sheets over my head. My body is not in motion (not exercising). My mind is not in motion (not reading). I am trying my hardest to stay in the same place.

How to get over this?

We often want to make big changes.

The vision of losing 20 pounds or New Year’s Resolution strikes and inspires us. 

The problem?

The next day (/week/month) we realize just how much work is needed to go into the vision we aspire to…

And we quit.

So how can you effectively not quit?

The answer might be easier than you might expect…

Make It Easier For Yourself to Get Into Motion

We have to make it easier for ourselves.

Try the Ten Minute Rule:

Commit to an activity for ten minutes. If you don’t want to continue it, just stop.

Oftentimes, what you might find is that you will want to pursue the activity after ten minutes. The hardest part was getting yourself in motion.

Can you make the buy-in so small you’d laugh at yourself for not doing it?

For some reason, we believe we have to make massive progress on our goals every day. But we don’t. We only need to do a little bit to move the needle. Day after day.

Instead of attempting to read 50 pages, read five. 

Instead of journaling for 30 minutes, commit to three minutes. 

Instead of sitting down for one hour of meditation, refuse to meditate for more than one minute.

I started doing a yoga routine that takes between three and four minutes. It’s nine different poses, each held for 20 seconds. Sometimes I do this routine as many as five times in a single day. Every time I do it, I feel better. Every single time.

Yes, the person who’s doing an hour of yoga a day will lap me in terms of skill and progress in the short term. But will they be able to consistently perform this habit throughout their life? Is it easy enough?

Additionally, every time I do yoga, I’m becoming more likely to think of myself as someone who does yoga.

This is what the Ten Minute Rule is all about. It works because you are building the habit of consistency. Plus, you’re reinforcing your idea that you are someone who does this activity. Day by day, you are creating a new image of yourself. Even if it’s small, it’s something. It’s 10 minutes you weren’t reinforcing a negative habit. 

How to Continue The Momentum

Once you’ve started the habit, congrats. You’ve done the hardest part. You’ve effectively gotten into motion.

Now, it’s simply a matter of reinforcing the habit by doing the activity every day. 

If you can, try to be accountable to someone else or a group. (That is the goal of Streaks.)

Jerry Seinfeld’s (Fake) Productivity Hack

It was once rumored that Jerry Seinfeld had the following strategy:

Write one joke a day.

If he could do that, he would mark a big, red “X” on his calendar.

The habit was small enough that he could do it every day. But it was big enough that it actually made a difference. Plus, he got the “reward” of marking his accomplishment off on the calendar daily. 

Although Seinfeld has since denied using the strategy, it still works: start small and use consistency.

In Summary

Every time you decide to take an action, it leads you to be more likely to do that action in the future.

To quote James Clear, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

And you can effectively change your identity by doing a bunch of small activities consistently.

We can achieve greatness by applying consistency at the microlevel. In the smallest of tasks. And somehow, someway, it transcends those small tasks into something great.

If you make finishing a habit, if you make completing your to-do list a habit, if you make walking for 15 minutes per day a habit… I don’t know. Maybe it’ll surprise you.

When you go to sleep, ask yourself… “Was I a little better today than yesterday?”

If you are able to say yes, then you’re staying in motion.

And you’ll feel damn good about it too.

Thank you Stew Fortier, Dan Hunt, and Diana Hawk for their input on this post.

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