3 min read

Just Keep Swimming

Just Keep Swimming
I wonder if I can speak whale too? All credit to the glorious creators at Pixar

Momentum is one of most valuable tools to have in your psychological arsenal.

Getting started from a stationary position requires motivation, which is a finite and fickle resource. Once you've paid that price though, you start using smaller amounts of a different resource in order to keep going; discipline.

This is where the concept of momentum sits. In physics, momentum is the product of mass and velocity. It's what keeps something going in a particular direction until it's acted upon by some sort of opposing force, like friction.

Psychologically, once momentum kicks in, and you're beyond the initial hump, things feel a lot more sustainable. Like you could keep going forever.


Anyway, I'm on holidays right now, so if you hadn't already twigged, this post is going to be another stream of consciousness sort of thing that may or may not ever actually get to a point.

Why bother writing something at all?

To maintain momentum. A little bit of effort to keep things on course so that I don't have to spent an inordinate amount of effort getting things going again later on.

I've written about my need for patterns and habits before, and the concept of momentum is pretty closely tied into that. In fact, in that blog post, I was coming back from being on holidays, having lost all of my momentum and was questioning the very nature of reality as a result.

Momentum is a bit of a double-edged sword for me though, because I think it leads to me being obsessive over things. Once I get focused on something, I find it really hard to stop.

This manifests both in my professional life and in my personal life, especially with video games. Inevitably, it results in me escalating to a point that I can no longer sustain the effort required.

I suppose that's not really the fault of momentum though. That's more about my inability to just keep doing things at the same level.

Though, perhaps there are downsides to momentum regardless of that realisation. While it certainly requires less energy to keep going than to stop and start again, it still requires energy, and that has to come from somewhere.

It's kind of like standing vs walking vs running. In fact, fitness is a pretty good analogy here, so I'm going to, pardon the pun, run with it for a bit.

When you're just getting started, when your muscles are inefficient and hard to use, it requires an exorbitant amount of energy to just walk. Eventually, you have to stop in order to give those muscles a chance to rest, recuperate and repair. If you just keep going, you're unlikely to actually get any better.

Eventually, you reach a point where you can walk for a long period of time because the effort required to maintain that movement is small enough that it's almost infinitely sustainable.

Then comes the escalation. Walking faster or jogging or something else, and you have to go through the exact same sort of transition. Hard, then easier.

Unfortunately, this is where the analogy starts to fall apart, because there is a real physical limit to that sort of activity. No-one can sprint forever.

But when it comes to maintaining a pattern or habit, something that is a long-term thing, I assume that I can just keep going forever.

I know I need to stop and rest because I just explained succinctly why, yet stopping somehow feels worse than just continuing to move forward. I don't get a sense of relief, of rest and recuperation; I just get sad that I couldn't hold the course and keep going.

Obviously, the solution there is to find a balance. Give up on things that aren't worthwhile and use the discipline that maintaining momentum requires to push ahead on the things that do matter.

I don't think I'm good at striking that balance yet.

But I am better than I used to be, so that's something I suppose.

These days I can recognise that stopping is actually important for my long term ability to function. Sure, it requires a bit of effort to get going again, but as long as I don't wait too long, I can pay that price without too much trouble.

Or maybe the key is to just slow down a bit. To reduce the expectations that I have on myself while continuing to move forward. To rest while walking.

Like I just did with this blog post.