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April 1, 2021
In my first two years of college, I felt like the poster child for social inertia.
That time of my life was intensely lonely. In fact, the degree to which I isolated myself is downright embarrassing. Why get involved on campus, meet new people and have enriching experiences, when you can just order food, watch sitcoms and wait for your girlfriend back home to call you?
Not my proudest or healthiest years.
By the time my twentieth birthday came around, it had become much easier to stay at rest than break the chain of inertia.
Newton’s first law is about inertia. He found that the tendency of an object was to resist any change in motion, and that object at rest would stay at rest, unless acted on by some external force.
This property of physics explains why motivation can be so frustrating for certain people. Especially if being at rest has become someone’s default state for too long. Breaking the chain will feel impossible. Without the aid of an unbalanced force, their rest will continue.
Back to my college story.
My object, so to speak, couldn’t resist any change in motion. Thankfully, one of the few friends that I had at the time invited me to some campus event. I can’t tell you what the program was that evening, probably a guest speaker or something, but what I do remember was that all the participants were required to wear nametags. And everybody was so friendly.
There were no awkward introductions or barriers to starting conversation. We greeted each other like old friends. Even if it was fake, even if it was forced, it was still soothing to feel seen, connect with new people and break the chain of social inertia.
Which brings us back to the law of inertia. The key phrase in the definition is, unless acted on by some external force.
That’s what wearing a nametag did for me. It snapped me out of my neurotic loop, hurled me into the present moment with other human beings and forced me to build even the tiniest scrap of social momentum.
Behold, the beauty of physics. You take action, you get results. And whether those results are good or bad doesn’t matter, because it’s still an outcome, and any time you take action to influence the outcome of your progress, that empowers you to stay in motion.
If you’re struggling with inertia right now, figure out which external force might act upon you. And trusting that momentum happens in a piecemeal manner, see if you can find some grounding in small, manageable increments.
Because as long as you’re grateful for every of chunk of progress as a rung on your ladder, the climb will continue.
What decision empowers you a tiny bit more each time you make it?