Momentum is a hell of a drug

On Friday, after being down by 16 at halftime. Colorado came out and scored 21 straight points on Illinois before Illinois put another point up on the board. Illinois had gone cold. Dead cold. Colorado had all the momentum in the world. I love momentum shifts.

But then Illinois started scoring again and Colorado started missing shots that they would have made when the adrenaline was flowing. Colorado got cold. Illinois got hot. Another momentum shift. Illinois eventually won the game.

What a shame. But it got me thinking a lot about momentum.

It’s incredibly hard to start, and continue, a lot of things. A new habit, a small behavioral change, and even scoring streaks (á la Colorado).

One of the primary reasons that it’s so hard is because we’re subject to the natural triggers of our environment and our diminishing willpower throughout the day.

You were going to work on that personal project on Thursday night after work right? But then work wore you out and your friends were going to that Passion Pit show downtown and just happened to have an extra ticket. Decisions, right?

How do we build defenses against the triggers of our environment other than our willpower? We do it by creating and sustaining momentum.

If there is no net force on an object, then its velocity is constant. - Newton’s First Law of Motion

Let’s say you’re starting a software project, something you’ve always wanted to build but never really prioritized before. It’s lived on a notepad somewhere in your apartment for the better part of six months.

Today you’re going to start. No excuses.

Start by making a list of the things you need to do. Then break down each of those pieces into incredibly small pieces.

(Personally, I put things on my list that I’ve already done, to trick my brain into thinking how accomplished I already am!)

You start attacking things on the list, crossing them off as you go. As you’re building, you add things to the bottom of the list. More small steps you need to take, as you pull things off the top of the list and complete them.

Feel that adrenaline? The pulsing and excitement in your body? That’s momentum. That’s you exerting a force on the previously immovable object. By moving your project, you’ve established velocity. Every item you cross off your list increases your velocity.

Keep going!

Streaks are incredibly powerful psychological triggers.

Streaks get us to keep doing what we’ve been doing and keep coming back for more.

When we see that we’re on a streak, our brains want to do more to continue the streak. The longer the streak, the greater the disappointment if we break the streak.

If you’ve done something for 61 days in a row, don’t you want to hit 62? Wouldn’t it suck to start over again at one?

So today, I encourage you to take the first step in starting a streak.

Make a list. Backfill it with things you’ve already done today.

Now do the first item on that list. Maybe you do the second one too. Keep it going and don’t stop.

Excellence is momentum.

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