I really love our couch. It’s one of those big, comfy, leather couches from Restoration Hardware. It cost a fortune.
It’s the kind of couch that knows exactly what it’s job is. I mean, some pieces of furniture aren’t sure what they’re about.
“Am I merely a decorative show piece, or a lighting source?” the wall sconce perhaps ponders. “Am I for people to sleep in or lay their jackets on?” the guest room bed might ask.
See what I mean? Some pieces of furniture lack conviction. They aren’t sure who they are. Not so with my enormous leather couch. Not only does my couch know its purpose, it’s down right cocky about it.
“I know you’re about to go paint in your studio, but just take a load off for a second,” the couch will telepathically communicate. Foolishly, despite knowing better, I take the bait.
“Sit back, relax for a bit. Grab the remote and let me engulf your muscles in abject luxury.” That’s what the couch tells me through its mysterious mind meld.
I don’t have to tell you what happens next, because you’ve been there too.
I settle into the couch and experience complete, unadulterated, irreversible demotivation. And then the remote starts in with its own shameless telepathy.
“Hey, I got fresh batteries. I’m locked and loaded. Why don’t you click me on and we’ll get lost together in another NCIS episode.” That’s what the remote says, with just as much self assuredness as the couch.
In the kitchen I hear a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc call out, “I’ve been bottled up long enough. Release me and I’ll reward you. We both deserve this!”
It’s easy to be seduced by these luxuries, but I must forewarn you.
This is how your artwork suffers.
This is why your creative success is so elusive.
This is why your fitness goals have tanked.
We succumb to the magnetic charms of the couch and its various partners in crime (aka: the remote, the Sauvignon Blanc, etc).
Sir Isaac Newton to the rescue
Poor Isaac Newton. He was born prematurely and was a small child. His Dad died three months prior to his birth.
His mother remarried and Isaac didn’t fancy his stepfather much. He once threatened to burn the house down with his mother and stepfather in it.
Despite these rough beginnings, Isaac Newton eventually landed at Trinity College. He went on to scientific fame as a mathematician, astronomer and physicist. You know, all the easy disciplines.
I don’t think they had Restoration Hardware couches back then, but I’m sure there were other distractions to kill people’s motivation and achievement.
Fortunately, Isaac Newton was not seduced by the whispers of distraction and leisurely callings. His intellectual curiosity and academic rigor resulted in many scientific breakthroughs and published books.
Most importantly, his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), first published in 1687. This is the book that introduced Newton’s first law of motion, sometimes referred to as the law of inertia:
“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
Did you hear that groan in the background? It’s my Restoration Hardware couch. It hates Isaac Newton and his first law of motion.
Why? Because the law of inertia is going to become your second best friend.
Man’s second best friend
Everyone knows that dogs are man’s best friend. Sorry, cat lovers. Felines have their charms, but they don’t try to nudge you off the couch to go for a walk.
In fact, most cats would rather settle in on your lap. Usually, when you’re on the couch watching the Kardasians and related piffle.
Cats are well known collaborators with all the other distractions in your home. They’re probably on the payroll for Restoration Hardware.
There’s a new movie out right now based on the best selling book A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. I’m sure the book and movie are terrific, but I don’t think they’re necessary.
Everybody knows that dogs are all about unconditional love. If you don’t believe me, try this test.
Lock your spouse and your dog in the trunk of a car for an hour. When you open the trunk, guess who will be happy to see you?
Dogs are all about having fun, which typically requires getting out of the house and into mischief. Dogs are our best friends for luring us away from the evils of the couch and it’s nefarious collaborators (the cat, the remote, the wine, etc).
Man’s second best friend has to do with Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion. Specifically, one overlooked tool that will help you skyrocket your creative success.
That overlooked tool is called momentum.
A lot of people are down with the Nike slogan “Just do it.” I love that slogan too, because it cuts through all the excuses. It motivates us to throw on our running shows, start a new gym membership, and earnestly dive in.
The problem is that “Just do it” turns into “Just did it.” Now I’m going to celebrate, have a beer and lay down on my leather couch. For six months.
Almost isn’t good enough
Regrets are like beer guts. Hard to get rid of. So why allow them to happen in the first place?
If we’re truly going to change our lives, lose weight, and start creating the artwork we alway dreamed of, “Just do it” won’t be enough.
We need to adopt a better motto that incorporates the overlooked power of momentum.
The better motto is, “Keep doing it.”
How many times have you met people who shared their unfulfilled goals, plans and dreams with you? All the time, right?
A guy at work once told me, “Man, I almost signed up for that marathon but I don’t have the time to train.” Translation: “I have a Restoration Hardware couch.”
I told my wife, “You know, I almost went painting outdoors today, but it seemed a little chilly out.” She points to the couch and says, “You left potato chip crumbs by the remote.”
I gaze at the sadistic little remote, and you know what? It’s laughing at me.
See, the problem is that your couch, your remote, your cat and your excuses are the ones with all the momentum. They consistently show up, every day. They “Keep doing it.” They keep derailing your dreams.
We, on the other hand, keep repeating the same old lament, “I almost did it.” Well, that’s got to change. “Almost” isn’t good enough. Not if we’re serious about achieving our dreams.
It’s time we start leveraging a little momentum in our favor for a change.
How to create and keep your momentum
Ever start an art project or exercise workout and find yourself in that productive, zen like place? It’s called “the zone.” There’s nothing like it.
Whenever I grab my paint box and hit the coast for a day of plein air painting, I lose complete track of time. It’s awesome.
All my senses are enhanced. I feel completely relaxed and at peace.
Until my iPhone starts buzzing in my backpack.
So, I stop painting and answer the phone (my first mistake). It’s my mother and she wants to tell me that they’ve added beef stroganoff to the menu at her assisted living center.
We chit chat about this and that and then she asks me what day her next doctor’s appointment is. That requires me to put her on speaker while I switch over to my phone calendar (my second mistake).
As I’m looking for my Mom’s doctor appointment, I see that I have a dental appointment to get my teeth cleaned in two weeks. That gets me thinking about how often I’ve been flossing lately.
In short, I’ve completely lost my momentum. I’m no longer in the zone. In fact, it’s more like I got tackled before ever reaching the end zone. By my 83 year old mother!
Had I ignored my iPhone I would have kept my momentum going.
Learn from my mistake. If you’ve set aside precious time to do the thing you love, guard that time closely. Don’t answer the phone or allow distractions to derail you. They’re rabbit holes that you’ll never find your way out of.
Here are several tips for how to create and keep your momentum going.
Consistency is one of the keys to achievement and success. The way you harness consistency is to get a calendar and schedule it.
We do this for just about everything in life, from our colonoscopy appointment to vacations. So why do we skip this important step for the things in life that matter most? Like our health, our art and our families.
Grab your calendar, smartphone or day planner and figure out what pockets of time you’re wasting on the couch. Block in those times for your studio work, exercise and family. Do it now before the couch finds out.
Swiss cheese it
Rome wasn’t built in a day and six pack abs don’t happen with one gym visit. We all have aspirations. We all want that summer swim suit body, one person art show or best selling novel.
Big, hairy goals are intimidating. We dream about them, but then we go watch Law & Order reruns on our leather couch. It’s crazy.
The trick is to “Swiss cheese it.” Think of the holes in Swiss cheese as small, manageable pockets of time to achieve certain tasks.
Instead of writing the great American novel this weekend (a complex task) why not schedule out small pockets of time every day to write. For most working folks, this means early mornings and/or late at night.
Some creative people leverage technology and apps to enhance productivity and goal achievement. Like the slim woman at work who wears a fit bit to track her lunch time walking and fitness.
Or the guy who takes lunch in his car every day and uses an iPad dictation app to write chapters of his novel. Add up a year’s worth of lunches and he’ll have his book completed.
Other people embrace “batching,” which is basically doing two or more tasks simultaneously. Generally, I don’t recommend this for deep work, but it’s a great “Swiss cheese” approach for some tasks.
When I’m stuck in line at the pharmacy, I like to do quick research on my smart phone and save appropriate websites and information in my notes for future articles I plan to write. That’s batching.
Another example of batching would be to listen to audio books while you’re working out.
By breaking down complex tasks into smaller ones, it’s easier to work toward a big goal without getting overwhelmed. And this helps us keep momentum.
Your buddy Joe calls you up and says he’s heading over to the brewery to hoist a few IPA’s. He suggests you drop everything and join him.
The problem is that you’ve been hoisting IPA’s for many years now. In fact, you just made a commitment to yourself to quit drinking and start a cross fit program.
You try to explain this to Joe, but he’s having none of it. Why? Because he’s committed to those IPA’s. He’s thought about them all day while lounging on his leather couch.
In hindsight, it would’ve been better to send an email to your friends announcing your new goal. “Hey everybody,” your email might say, “I’m starting up a cross fit program and have decided to quit drinking. I know, I know. But I really want to focus on my health. So don’t take it personal if I skip the brewskies, okay? Thanks!”
When we announce our plans, however audacious, it puts people on notice. It prevents us from having to explain ourselves every time someone calls about the next wine party.
Announcing your plans also makes them public, which can be a good form of accountability. But be prepared for some non-supporters.
Your positive life changes force others to consider their own bad habits, which can be uncomfortable. At least you’ll know who’s really in your corner.
Sell the damn couch
Okay, this might sound a bit extreme, but hear me out. How much stuff do you have in your home right now? How much of it is contributing to your success? To your dreams?
Best selling author Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, encourages you to get rid of the stuff in your house that doesn’t bring you joy.
Americans love to buy stuff. Probably because we sit on our couches, watch TV and marinate in a barrage of commercials selling stuff we don’t need.
I discovered minimalism a few years ago and it has helped a great deal in building my momentum. One influential minimalist, Joshua Becker, describes minimalism as:
“The intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.”
When you eliminate all the stuff you don’t need in your life, things just get simpler. For example, I used to collect paint boxes (called pochade boxes). I must have had 15 or more, cluttering up my art studio.
Every time I decided to go painting outdoors, I’d panic over which pochade box to use. It got really bad when my wife and I were planning a road trip. I’d literally load up a backpack with one pochade box and all my gear. Then I’d change my mind and start all over again with another paint box. Crazy!
So I sold all my paint boxes and kept two small ones. I kept the small ones because they were light, portable, take up little space and I can travel easily with them in a backpack.
Smaller paint boxes means smaller paintings, so I’m able to complete more small studies when painting outdoors. Also, since the light changes so quickly outside, I’m able to work faster with smaller paintings.
I employed minimalism with my clothes too. I opted for quick drying underwear (for travel) and light, close fitting clothes that takes up less space.
I steer clear of bulky clothes and minimize colors so everything is interchangeable. The result is an uncluttered closet and far less time making decisions. This in turn provides more time to keep the momentum going with my artwork and writing.
You don’t have to sell the couch, but I think you get the point. If it’s there, in your house, it might be distracting you from becoming the person you always dreamed of being.
Do a walk through and take an inventory of your home. What’s holding you back? Sell it, donate it or dump it. I think you’ll like the way it frees you and creates momentum.
Say what you mean, mean what you say
We live in a society mired in superficiality. Some of it can be blamed on the media and our addiction to celebrity, fame and fortune.
Granted, some degree of superficiality is simply the easiest way to navigate through our days. When we say, “How are you?” to a coworker, it’s usually just a pleasantry.
Imagine if your coworker answered, “I’m so glad you asked! My gall bladder has been acting up and last night I had the worst heartburn. I’ve been downing ant-acids all day, but I just keep passing gas. I wonder if it was the sauerkraut last night?”
We exchange superficial pleasantries as informal acknowledgments. It’s better than walking past people. And sure, sometimes we actually do engage in more meaningful conversations.
The point is, if you want to gain real momentum with your goals and dreams, then you need to become more deliberate. That means a lot less superficiality. No waffling and no “maybes.” No gossip and indecisiveness and flaking.
People respect others who say what they mean and mean what they say. The reason why is because such people are seen as focused and deliberate. They know what they’re doing and how to achieve it. They’re reliable.
When we’re deliberate, people are less likely to get in our way and derail our momentum. The challenge is to be deliberate yet still considerate. It’s okay to tell people no, so long as you do it in a thoughtful way.
Shoot for the moon
Awhile back I was in Costa Rica, communing with Capuchin monkeys and Iguanas. I stayed at the Hotel Parador, which has a lovely upstairs library. People leave books they’ve read and pick up ones they haven’t.
While I was there I came across Andrew Weir’s book, The Martian. I picked it up and decided to read it by the pool. Needless to say, I was glued to the book all afternoon. In fact, I think I got a sunburn, but it was worth it.
The Martian was made into a terrific movie staring Matt Damon. I bring it up here because people have been dreaming about astronauts and space travel since way back when. Think Flash Gordon, Lost in Space, Star Trek and Star Wars.
Kids and adults are fascinated with space travel, exploration, new worlds and discoveries. That’s why we always want to shoot for the moon. Because we need to keep growing and learning.
Back here on earth, we can skyrocket our personal growth and creative success by embracing the overlooked power of momentum. With momentum, we can change our own, personal world for the better.
Get off your couch, take your dogs for a walk, and start harnessing Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion.
Don’t be that guy or gal who “almost” achieved your dreams. Employ the five tips outlined above to keep your personal momentum going.
In this way, you too can shoot for the moon and finally achieve everything your heart has been yearning for.
Don’t over think this. Just dive in, commit, build momentum, and maybe we’ll see each other on the other side of our dreams.
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(Originally published in Artplusmarketing.com).