Momentum: The Secret Ingredient Behind Success

by Amy Steinberg Published Feb 6, 2018 Last updated Feb 6, 2018

Have you hit that sweet spot where both your personal life and career are clicking? It just may be that you’re on a roll, or you recently rekindled that spark within yourself. Perhaps instead you feel as if you’ve hit the “pause” button and need help getting back on track. In any case, the key to progress is momentum. The three key questions are, what is it, how do you kick start it, and how do you keep it up?

What is momentum?

Understanding momentum is the place to start.

We constantly hear the word momentum in the context of sports. As The Physics Classroom notes, “A team that has the momentum is on the move and is going to take some effort to stop. A team that has a lot of momentum is really on the move and is going to be hard to stop. Momentum … refers to the quantity of motion that an object has.”

Momentum is movement, not stagnation

As The Physics Classroom points out, “The momentum of any object that is at rest is 0.” The only way to have any forward momentum is to try, to act, to take a step forward.

Jumpstarting momentum 

To avoid stasis, you need to start with a commitment to a goal. Your goal provides direction, a path, a way to measure your momentum or quantity of motion—in short, without commitment to a goal, it’s impossible to know whether you are moving forward or running in place.

Author Jessica Biber writes in the Huffington Post that if the first steps towards your goal seem too daunting, take smaller ones. Once you have reframed the steps ahead, the next question is, where do I find the energy to take that first step?

Why energy? Psychology Today reports on research which suggests that “getting mentally energized to achieve a goal creates physiological energy. That energy is reflected both in a change in blood pressure as well as an increased ability to perform a physical task.”

Yes, energy is not simply a mental state—it also manifests as physical strength. That makes it a key to forward momentum.

A sure-fire approach to re-energizing is to locate the core of your enthusiasm. As Bryan McGill, a writer, activist, and social entrepreneur, UN Global Champion and Nobel Peace Prize nominee with a Congressional commendation for his work, points out, “Enthusiasm is the energy and force that builds literal momentum of the human soul and mind.”

Focusing on your enthusiasm in itself is energizing. It offers the boost you need to jumpstart your forward momentum.

Keeping it rolling

“One way to keep momentum going is to constantly have greater goals,” according to novelist and editor Michael Korda.

Just like last year’s dollar is not worth the same value as today’s, a goal that provided forward momentum last year is unlikely to stir up the same level of energy and enthusiasm for you this year.

  • Take time to revisit your goal periodically. Tweak it as needed to ensure it fits with your life and career plans in that moment.
  • Stretch that goal beyond your comfort level to kindle more enthusiasm.
  • Surround yourself with positive energy. Invite a small circle of upbeat, energizing friends or colleagues to share your momentum—it’s contagious.
  • Build in the time to re-energize. As little as 15 minutes every day to meditate, exercise, laugh, share a story, do a good deed, or nap ensures that you are able to sustain the energy you need in order to maintain your momentum. Just the act of building in that plan often acts as an energy booster, at least in the beginning.

What about dips?

What if you get discouraged for a period of time? It happens. Your momentum may trend forward steadily for the most part, and still experience a dip here and there. The reality is that the longer you move forward, the more likely you will face periodic slumps.

The key is to recognize the dips as typical and plan your way back to a forward momentum with these suggestions:

  • Remind yourself of the reason you selected your goal. Then review why you made a commitment to reach—or exceed—that goal. Ironically, sometimes it takes a quick visit to the past to regain our forward momentum.
  • Seek out inspiration to re-energize your enthusiasm. That inspiration can come from a book or magazine, a friend or family member, a colleague, or notes you have made related to your goal. It can come from unexpected places, too—so be prepared to embrace it when it does.
  • Remain optimistic. Avoid negativity in all its forms. Escaping those inevitable dips in your forward momentum requires that you turn your back, at least for the present, on the noise of chaos and negativity—our own thoughts, pessimistic friends or colleagues, social media, and the like—that can envelop us if we allow it. As Helen Keller sagely said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
  • Now is a great time to employ that seemingly odd suggestion, fake it till you make it. Have you ever tried faking a smile only to find yourself sporting a genuine grin? Developing ways to move forward towards your goal despite a momentum vacuum likely will spark your momentum anew and help you climb right out of that dip.

“Success comes from taking the initiative and following up…persisting. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?” — Tony Robbins, entrepreneur, life coach, author, and philanthropist.