Sir Isaac Newton’s Motivation 101


Inertia Helps us Reach our Goals

Some of the stories we hear about historical figures are a bit, exaggerated.  It is doubtful that Sir Isaac Newton, one of the brightest minds ever known to the world, was inspired to develop the theory of gravity when getting bashed on the head by a falling apple.  Regardless of the particulars, the rest of us are quite fortunate that he was introduced to some stimulus that catalyzed into the  ‘three laws of motion,’ , albeit in a less whimsical fashion.  The first of these, the law of inertia, states that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion (at the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.)”   This article will find it sufficient to ignore the portion in parentheses.

You don’t have to be a scientist to profit from this knowledge; this law’s application extends far beyond the realm of physics.  Our mental and emotional states are subject to the same rules as the physical world, yet we often fail to realize this because our thoughts and feelings are intangible.  If every other object in the world is subject to a particular phenomenon, our thoughts probably are also. Better understanding how these forces operate in relation to our minds leaves us more prepared to approach our goals in an optimal way.


Just Start Pedaling

I’m sure we’ve all seen that Nike commercial where a variety of professional athletes perform some incredible endeavor, followed by the screen dramatically fading to black as bold letters materialize to give the command “Just Do It”.  While most of us aren’t likely to “Just” dunk a basketball anytime soon, there is actually some sound advice promoting the realization of our own goals buried within this marketing ploy.  Most of the time, when the inkling to start a new endeavor invades our minds, we initially feel lost, like a child in the supermarket who’s misplaced his mother.  We don’t know what to do, we don’t know how to do it, and we don’t know what to expect even if we do get to the place we don’t know how to find. 

All of these things serve to prevent us from getting our most ambitious plans off the ground, the simple remedy to this dilemma being routinely overlooked. The most effective course of action is to start trying anything, even if it’s the wrong thing, without thinking so much.  In time, this first step will allow us to clarify a more specific direction to head in.  The law of inertia easily proves this to anybody who’s ever ridden a bike; it’s much easier to build some momentum and then turn in the direction of the destination, than to get the bike to turn whilst remaining in a stationary position.  Concern yourself with beginning to pedal, and initiate the motion making it possible to steer to the next course of action, prior to worrying about navigation .


Browse the Menu First

Most of life’s tasks are pretty straightforward, so we don’t give much thought to planning them out before engaging in them.  Going to the grocery store, we don’t plan every single step from our car to where they keep the carts just beyond the entrance.  Even if we did, the parking spot we initially planned on utilizing might be taken, and our path might have to be adjusted to accommodate this fact. Otherwise, some pesky shoppers engaged in conversation, directly in front of the door, no less, might require circumnavigation. Trusting ourselves to be able to make these small adjustments on the fly,  limited effort is wasted on preparing for each contingency, thus allowing us to be at full speed by the time any decisions need to be made. 

Yet some events in our mind, usually the ones we consider to hold great influence over the course of our future, coax us into the trap of preparing for every conceivable outcome in an effort to avoid the apprehension of uncertainty.  Thinking this will alleviate our anxiety, it actually makes it worse; this behavior is tantamount to planning what you’re going to order at a new restaurant without knowing the type of cuisine they serve.  Once you’ve entered the situation with momentum, and you’re seated at the table, flipping through the menu, it’s quite easy to choose a desirable entree.  But until personal experience has given you access to the requisite information, trying to prepare for an infinite set of potential outcomes creates for more stress than it serves to alleviate, leaving you to fight an uphill battle, in lieu of using Inertia to your advantage.


Unlocking Your Potential

In the majority of motivational speeches successful individuals deliver, they state that you must fail many times before you can succeed even once. Personally, I don’t believe this to be the case.  For something to be described as a failure, you must have made such a catastrophic mistake that all the work you’ve done to that point proves pointless, starting from scratch remaining the only way forward.  This is exactly the type of occurrence that destroys our momentum, an unbalanced force pushing back against the inertia that has been aiding our progress. Realistically, many attempts labeled as failures are the very endeavors we set out to accomplish in disguise.  

Conceptualize achieving success as opening a big padlock with a comically large set of keys in every conceivable shape, size, and metallic hue.  Having no idea which key opens the lock, there is no reasonable way of ascertaining the appropriate key short of engaging in a simple process of trial-and-error.  Trying one to find it doesn’t work, are you going to engage in self-deprecation, immediately labeling yourself a failure? (I certainly hope not.) Making a mental note of each key that doesn’t work, each new attempt may be considered a necessary step that brings you mathematically closer to your desired outcome.  

Adopting such a healthy, pragmatic attitude towards unlocking our life goals proves challenging because we consider ourselves to be fairly intelligent, and despise setbacks that challenge this opinion.  We certainly are intelligent, but most of us share a fundamental misunderstanding of exactly what this means.  Intelligence is measured as the ability to evolve our current abilities to learn a new task, to collect knowledge and then apply that knowledge in a concerted effort to improve at a given endeavor.  Intelligence cannot be measured in terms of how ‘naturally’ adept we feel during our first engagement with a new pursuit.  Humans are born into the world naked, knowing nothing but how to cry, and having any intimate understanding of what it takes to achieve a particular goal is impossible before going and participating in it directly.  General life experience does not automatically prepare us to succeed at specific tasks, so we must gather up the strength to gain some initial speed, and learn to view each incorrect approach as a force that helps us adjust to travel more precisely in the direction of our goals.  


Fall on Success

This article is only an entry level course, but I hope it assisted in helping you feel at least slightly more comfortable in calling yourself an amateur physicist- at least in terms of your own mind. Objects in the material world have little influence over the laws of motion exerting forces upon them, but you have significant control over the forces that promote achievement within yourself.  Start as soon as you have the impulse, don’t over-plan, and realize that building momentum, even in the opposite direction of your goals, makes finding the correct path much easier than hesitation.  Taking these few simple steps will ensure, in due time, that you’ll be descending upon success at an even faster rate than the apple that most certainly did not fall on Sir Isaac Newton’s head.