I love the word momentum because it has a powerful ring and real sense of purpose about it. If you are going to get anything done in life, you need to keep things moving and to keep things moving, you need momentum. At the heart of every laudable achievement is the ability to organise effort, energise capacity and drive things forward. If you have a goal, set a target or define an objective, you will need momentum to achieve it. Similarly, the better you are at sustaining momentum the quicker your goal will be achieved.
It is important to point out that momentum does not operate in a vacuum. Rather it is the product of our beliefs, values and aspirations. These in turn fuel our passion and enthusiasm and create a highly combustible mixture that, once ignited, produces motivation. It is motivation that provides the momentum to drive us closer to our goals. So how do you build and maintain momentum? Well set out below are the seven things that you need to know.
1. Anything that you build must have a foundation
It is all very well to talk about momentum when things are going well, but what if they are not? What happens if you are faced with apathy, disinterest or outright obstruction? What happens if endless drudgery and monotony present a far more compelling case to slow down rather than speed up? What do you do then? The simple answer is that anything that you are committed to building, must first have a foundation. For momentum that foundation must be established on discipline, determination and dedication. The disciplined are not easily shaken because they have deep-rooted principles, whilst the determined and dedicated, fuelled by their deep-rooted principles, remain resilient even in the most adverse circumstances.
2. It is better to focus who is in front of you, than be distracted by who is at the back
Under normal circumstances you are only as strong as your weakest link. However in a competitive environment, you need to compare yourself with whatever lies ahead of you, not what is trailing behind you. If you peg your performance to those who are going slower than you, the risk is that you will only maintain a level of momentum sufficient enough to remain ahead of them. The disadvantage of that approach is that, in the meantime, the gap between you and those that are ahead of you will likely increase, which will almost certainly leave you in an uncompetitive position. The key learning point here is that with momentum there are times when competition means nothing without comparison.
3. Arithmetical increment always come before geometric progression
In the world of momentum, rapid and massive progression is often the most desirable measure of effectiveness. If you are a business, for example, you want to see exponential growth and expansion into new markets. Unfortunately, as a rule, that is not how momentum actually works. Have you ever watched a sprinter coming off the blocks? You will notice that there is an initial explosive release, but the first few strides are incremental and geared towards building momentum. Then, as momentum increases and pace gathers, the strides become longer and the pace gets even quicker. This is one of the ways in which momentum works; building slowly at the beginning and accelerating more rapidly by the end.
4. Know what you need for the race that you need to run
Staying with the athletics theme; it is well understood that the best sprinter doesn't make the best middle distance runner and the best middle distance runner doesn't make the best long distance runner. My point here is that even in the same discipline (running), the demands and requirements of momentum are distinct and different. In the one instance, momentum is about explosive energy, in another it is measured in moderate endurance and for the other it is all about dogged staying power. To understand momentum therefore, you need to recognise that there is no one size fits all definition. In addition, you need to be able to adapt and adjust to the unique requirements of your operational space.
5. Be mindful that there is no such thing as standing still
It is important to keep in mind that in the context of momentum, you are always moving. In a competitive environment, that movement either takes you towards your end goal or further away from it. There is in reality, no such thing as stagnation. Time does not stand still, when we wait to see what others do next. When others are waiting to take your place, the decision to press pause, means that you will ultimately be overtaken by those who decide to keep going. When we lose momentum, we risk losing our advantage and narrowing the range of options available to us in the market-place of opportunity.
6. The culture of complacency
There is no bigger drain on anyone's progress and momentum, than the ever present risk of complacency. The danger of complacency is that it gives rise to a false sense of security; not just thinking that you know it all, but also thinking that you know enough. Here is an interesting way of looking at it: if, for the sake of argument, we accept that your personal brand is your 'currency' and the influence derived from that brand is your 'credit card', then complacency is your 'tax'. The 'tax' of complacency depletes reserves of aspiration, it saps the energy of ambition and ultimately robs you of momentum.
7. That which propels you forward may also move you to the side
When we think of momentum, it is all too easy to view this in a linear context (ie: as a movement forward in a straight line). However, momentum is also lateral (ie: a movement to the side or from side to side). This nuance is important because in the wider world of opportunity and access, if you only see momentum through a narrow linear prism, then you won't see what is in your lateral peripheral vision. As such, the definition of momentum is the extent to which you are progressing in whatever direction in which you need to go in order to arrive at whichever destination that you need to be.
So in conclusion, momentum is not just the energy you need to reach your destination, it is evidence of the progress you are making to get there. Critical to momentum is the realisation that it is not just about how fast you can go, or indeed how far you can reach, but perhaps more importantly how sustainably you can endure. As surprising as it seems, to maintain momentum you need to allow yourself to be defined by your failures or disappointments. By so doing, you will be able to draw positive insights from experiences that might ordinarily be seen through a negative lens.