Momentum is tough to build
Courtesy and Copyright of Indiana Transportation Museum

I’m in the process of getting back on the “personal development” train that I drove here on SBYB for so long. It’s tough! There are many things that I did in the past (practice daily affirmations, reading positive development books every night before going to bed, etc.) that helped me cultivate the attitude that I needed to become a better person. I’ve been slacking on all that stuff. It always has been on my mind, but as more and more days have compounded where I’ve not taken any positive steps to become a better person, it becomes harder to get back in the habit.

It’s really very much like the difference between hopping on a train that’s just pulling away from the platform, versus trying to hop on that same train when it’s a top speed, running through the open┬áprairie. One can be a little tricky, but is generally accepted to be much easier to do than the other.

And here’s where we come to momentum. I think most people in my situation would say that I’ve lost all my “personal development” momentum. All the wind has gone out of my sails. And they’d be right, to a certain extent.

But in a very real other sense, they’d be incorrect. All the momentum hasn’t gone from my life. Unfortunately, it’s the momentum of entropy that’s taken over in my life. The train of laziness and apathy is definitely up to speed. And while I don’t feel like I’ve really been doing anything at all of note for the past while (hence it being the train of laziness and apathy), in a very real way, I’ve been in the boiler car shoveling coal into the engine at an alarming rate.

Alright, enough with the train metaphor.

Momentum works in both directions, I think. It’s very difficult to get started when you’ve previously established habits that are no longer how you wish to act. And contrary to common sense, that works both ways. When I began to let my good habits slide, I really noticed for the first few times. I’d have a tough time going to sleep (for instance), knowing that I hadn’t done the reading that I normally did every night. But as that momentum began to build and build, it became tougher and tougher for me to reverse course, and head back to my self-improving ways.

So, it’s obviously important to build momentum. It’s crucial to continue to daily reinforce habits that you wish to cultivate, and choke off ones that you’d rather not. But it’s necessary to remember that you’re building momentum regardless of what you’re doing. Whether it’s developing positive habits, or negative ones, you are developing habits.

Eventually, that train that you worked so hard to get moving out of the station in the beginning will take you to the end of the track at top speed. You just have to make sure you’re on the right track.



These people aren't real. They're paid to spend time together.
These people aren't real. They're paid to spend time together.

My wife and I occasionally mention to each other that we must be the most anti-social couple in the world. It seems (to us, at least) that there are very few people in our “social circle”. We’re not really sure what to do about it, though.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll recall being in high school and college as a time when you made friendships that you were sure would last forever. Much like the cast of Friends (which began my freshman year in college), you’d share your life’s firsts with a group of people that remained the one constant you had. Through hookups and breakups, first “real” jobs and promotions, marriages and kids, your friends would always be by your side.

Anyone find that vision of adulthood to be the truth? Yeah, me either. Oh, I’m still friends with those guys and girls I spent my time with (some more closely than others), but we’re separated by time, distance, jobs and families. We check up on each other through Facebook and Twitter, but we don’t have the opportunity to spend three or four nights a week together like we used to. There’s a space that’s developed between us that can’t be overcome.

That bothers me sometimes. Don’t get me wrong: I love my wife. I love my son. I love my dog and I’m sorta fond of my cat. My son’s fish I can take or leave, but you get the point. Even though I’m happy with how my life is going, I feel as though I’m missing something that I had previously, and I don’t know how to get it back.

Is this natural? It’s so much more difficult to make new friends as we age, but is it also harder to keep the ones we’ve made previously?

It may very well be, due to the simple changes that occur as we age. Most of us do pair off and have families, which naturally (and rightly) begin to take up the majority of our time and attention. Our interests tend to evolve, as do our obligations. We have bills and college to pay for (both our own and our children’s). We don’t have the abundance of free time that we had while in high school and college to just be with people.

But (there’s always a “but” with me, have you noticed?)… It’s also possible that I’ve become more lazy. When I was younger, hanging out with folks and having a social circle that was closely-knit was much easier. It happened somewhat by default. And so, now that there are other things to occupy the attention of others, I don’t happen to be the fallback plan. My formerly close friends may assume that I’m just as busy as they are, and don’t make an effort to reach out as much as I’d like.

Well, what do I expect? If I’m not willing to invite folks over or set a time to meet for lunch, why should I expect them to do all the grunt work? If I’m not intentional in trying to foster those relationships, why would they think I care to continue them?

Friendship is a two-way street. I can’t continue to rely on “hanging out” being the default social activity for the people I’d like to spend more time with. If I want to have closer friends (even though it may be more difficult to maintain than it has been previously), then I need to make an effort to be a better one myself.