The scientific definition of momentum is not inspiring: Momentum = mass * velocity. Momentum is important in the world of physics but it is inspiring in the world of business, sports, and personal development.
If you could replicate your best performance over and over in just about any walk of life, you would be successful in that endeavor. Few would argue that when they are “in the groove”, they can accomplish far more than before or after the groove has left. The most memorable and real visions of initiating momentum and then riding it to a seemingly impossible result are associated with individuals and teams forever immortalized for what they were able to accomplish. These athletes, political & military leaders, or ordinary citizens seem to be able to make a personal decision and commitment to massive action and then “will” their way to victory. Names like Michael Jordan, Helen Keller, Steve Jobs, and General Patton inspire us with their ability to build and keep momentum to achieve outstanding results.
So how do they initiate momentum and then maintain it until the result is achieved?
Momentum must start with a vision. If you can’t see/feel/taste/smell the vision of yourself accomplishing something great, it will be impossible to build momemtum towards achieving that goal. The vision is the key to the plan of attack. Without a vision, there is no plan and without a plan, that critical first step can’t be taken. Walt Disney once said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” If your mind can’t build the vision of the end result, then the rest of the steps are done in vain.
Once the vision of the end result is clear and the semblance of a plan emerges, commitment must follow. A clear vision of a desired result backed up by a strong commitment to the plan is a catalyst for momentum. Commitment comes from a strong desire to succeed in achieving the desired result. The commitment need not be directly tied to achieving the result; there are times when things out of your control will delay or prevent achieving the desired result. The commitment must be to the plan; to taking the next step as each step is completed. Each step that is taken brings the goal closer.
Most people do not fail at achieving bold goals because their plan didn’t work. They fail because they never were committed enough to the vision to define the plan. Or if they did define a plan, they did not have the commitment or energy to take that first step and spark the momentum needed to succeed. Commitment is simply a decision to take whatever action is required to execute the plan. Since commitment surrounds a decision and a decision is a personal choice, no one can stop you from making that commitment and taking the first step.
Once the wheels are in motion and the momentum starts to build, it will take extreme focus to keep it going. While the plan needs to account for all activity through the completion of the goal, the focus needs to be on what is directly in front of you. Successful coaches routinely refuse to talk about a Superbowl or National Championship unless that is the next game they are playing. Distractions are everywhere and detractors will remind you of how impossible the result is and how incapable you are to make it happen. The bigger and more audacious the goal, the more frequent and more intense the distractions will be. To maintain momentum requires a unique ability to see the big picture but to remain focused on the next step.
Any good leader needs to have insight to realize which parts of the plan are working and which are not. To maintain momentum, this insight should lead to adjustments to the plan while the plan is in action. If a major course change is required, then it is best to regroup, rebuild the plan, and start with a new first step. However, if only small adjustments are needed on what is largely the correct path to success, it is best to adjust the sails while in motion. The momentum that was so difficult to get started should be defended at almost any cost. Maintaining momentum in the correct general direction is often a better approach than stopping and restarting every time the ship’s course is off by 1 degree.
Momentum is a game changer when it comes to results. It starts with a vision and plan of action that is bound by a firm commitment to take the next step. Momentum is maintained through focus and ability to adjust the sails while in motion. Momentum does not guarantee results but it definitely increases the chance of success. A decision to take the first step is where it all begins. Like anything, practicing these steps will increase your chance of HARNESSING MOMENTUM when you need it the most.