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Musings on Momentum...


Paul MacCormack

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Lately in my quiet moments, I find myself circling back to the idea of momentum. It would appear to be both elusive and very common, with most of us not even pausing to appreciate it until it vanishes. Our culture doesn’t often reflect on the necessary elements that go into creating momentum, instead spending much of our time chasing quick fixes and expecting instant results. 

My personal life has recently been an interesting paradox in momentum. On one hand something that I have worked incredibly hard to build over a long period of time is beginning to find its own momentum. Things appear to be falling into place without continual extreme effort. Connections are manifesting themselves now almost as by magic, and opportunities are presenting themselves right before my eyes. It feels wonderful.

On the other side of the same personal fence, there are aspects of my life that one could confidently describe as “anti-momentum.” Difficult personal situations which have been exacerbated by variables beyond my control have left me with feelings of being stuck.  

Instead of wonderful, it’s both emotionally draining and physically exhausting and has taken all of my mindful practice and then some to remain upright many days. 
These are two vastly different experiences of the workings of momentum in my own life. Hence my curiosity about the misconceptions that surround it and how erroneous expectations can often times lead us down the wrong path.

Our cultural take on momentum generally falls somewhere in the vicinity of a sports team seemingly waking up one day and finding they have become a dynasty or a musical artist/band that suddenly finds themselves an overnight success. We laud the idea of such grand achievements and act as though someone waved their wand and poof: success materializes! 

Such wonders can feel mysterious because we rarely understand the full complexity of what lies behind a surge in positive momentum. 

Such wonders can feel mysterious because we rarely understand the full complexity of what lies behind a surge in positive momentum...

When we sneak a peek behind the curtain, we are oftentimes too quick to attribute these phenomena to natural ability. Hard work sometimes factors into the conversation, but it’s usually a distant second.  Ironically it’s most often the inverse that is true. Lots of folks have natural talents and gifts, but no idea about the amount of work it takes to develop them to the highest level. It’s a rarity when someone fuses them both successfully. 

People who have a healthy relationship with the idea of momentum generally have a few things in common. Firstly they realize that it’s a long con. Step by step, one day at a time, they put in the work with intention bolstered by passion. 

The idea of a flywheel comes to mind. 

A great amount of consistent effort is necessary to get the wheel moving, until it builds to a point where the momentum of the flywheel itself generates its own continued energy. The key factor is action. It’s impossible to generate momentum in anything by sitting idly by and expecting something to happen. Successful folks take slow, steady action by staying the course and the momentum finds them eventually. 

People who have a healthy relationship with momentum appreciate that progress is not linear. Life never progresses in a straight line and we need to learn to accept everything that comes our way. There are lessons contained within both the ups and the downs, and practicing acceptance allows us to access a deeper sense of ease. 

Think of what goes into building the career of a golf course superintendent. Reflect on the intention, commitment and at times, the personal sacrifices which brought you to where you are today. How long did it take to get to the point when it seemed like things really started going your way? Have you learned to accept the inevitable difficulties?  Are you still working at building your momentum?

The other commonality folks who know how to work with the concept of momentum share is the full realization that everything comes and goes. Nothing lasts forever so it is vital to seize the opportunity and then ride the wave of momentum when it presents itself. 

Nothing lasts forever so it is vital to seize the opportunity and then ride the wave of momentum when it presents itself...

Author and music producer Rick Rubin has a wonderful outlook on this saying basically that we must deeply attune ourselves to the creative process and listen intently for the signs of possibility. His philosophy is that when we are fully dialed into the process, we can take part in the momentum while it exists, and then be willing to let it go once it plays its part. 

What about those moments during the course of the season when we step back, see it all laid out in front of us and say, everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be. When these moments of such super bliss occur its often because we have put in the work, adhered to the process and are then rewarded with a feeling that everything is as it should be. Its rarified air and it’s critical to pause and be grateful for when it occurs. This sense of gratitude is important, because we will need it to reflect back on when this moment moves on. 

As I circle back to the circumstances that have fueled my reflections as of late, I am comforted by the notion that there is purpose in it all. Some things are more trying than others, but the idea that they will shift into something that I cannot yet see gives meaning beyond the suffering. 

Remembering, as well, that all things pass in time gives critical perspective when you still have your shoulder to the wheel. 

I am grateful for the current positive momentum which has gathered in one realm of my life and am deeply thankful to those who have supported me and played a part in the journey. That includes all of you who take the time to pause and read this blog.  

Thanks so much for reading.

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