“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” –Aristotle
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” or so the saying goes. I’ve always found that when I’m working and get into a “flow,” I accomplish a lot. As soon as I stop to sit down or take a break, getting started again takes a massive effort, and I usually fail. I can accomplish most of what I need to get done in a short period of time if I simply DON’T STOP MOVING.
Thus, one of my life lesson’s is to “fear inertia.”
1. a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged: the bureaucratic inertia of government.
2. Physics. A property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.
When I start getting tired and gravitate towards the couch, I try to remind myself of how much extra effort it is going to take to get going again. Sometimes this works and I’m able to keep going. Other times I give in and plop down, ending the work.
Developing a healthy fear of inertia can help to overcome the tendency to stop, and result in a more productive person.
This is the first in a series of articles about the life lessons I’ve learned over the years. Some of these I’ve learned on my own, others I’ve been taught. These are things that work for me. Maybe they’ll work for you.
Shortly before I got out of the Army, I started to collect a couple of tenets that seemed to make my days go better. Short sentences or phrases that when repeated, would remind me of some truth that can get me past a bad day or tough obstacle. These tenets needed to meet certain criteria. First, they needed to work. Second, they needed to be easy to understand. Third, they needed to be easy to apply. If they met this criteria, I would write them down somewhere. The idea is that these things are so good, they are worth living by. Over the years, I’ve collected 27 of them.
The first one I learned from a colleague in the Army. Positive Mental Attitude – PMA. It’s the best life lesson I have in my arsenal. When applied, I can’t go wrong. The idea is simple, be cheerful and positive as often as possible. Little is gained from being negative. As individuals, we are ultimately responsible for our actions and reactions. The only person I control is myself, and I can choose how I react to anything that happens, ultimately creating my own reality. That sounds airy, I know, but it works. If you try to be positive, over time it happens naturally. There will be days where it’s near impossible to look on the bright side. But trust me, it can always be worse.
There’s a quote that encapsulates this idea better than I can put it down on this blog. It is popularly attributed to the German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And at the risk of landing on On Violence’s “quotes behaving badly” series, I’ll admit that I don’t know who really said this, as this page says that the quote is misattributed to Goethe. Whatever. It’s a good quote:
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture, or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de–escalated, and a person humanized or dehumanized.”