Defeating Inertia

by Stephen Mills on March 9, 2010

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“Our default response in life is not to experience happiness.”

“Our default response in life is not to experience meaning.”

“Our default response in life is to experience Inertia.”

— Marshall Goldsmith

In his excellent little book Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It, Marshall Goldsmith describes his solution to the problem of inertia.  It seems simplistic, but I think in its simplicity lies its effectiveness and elegance.

Inertia is simply the process of continuing to do the same thing you are already doing.

The Two Question Discipline

Evaluate every activity with the following two questions:

  1. How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?
  2. How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?

The simple fact that you know you are going to be monitoring your activities by asking those two questions will make you more mindful and awake and alter your behavior.  But you can take it further and ask yourself these questions before you act.

  1. How much long-term benefit or meaning am I going to experience from this activity?
  2. How much short-term satisfaction or happiness am I going to experience in this activity?

In that way you can alter the activity to get more satisfaction and benefit from it or you can refrain from doing it at all.  You are changing your mindset and no longer defaulting to the inertia of continuing to do what you’ve been doing.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

Simple, elegant, and effective.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Sid Savara March 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Hey Stephen,

I like that, “Our default response in life is to experience Inertia.”

One of the things I’ve found is pretty similar – that most of us will come home and sit on the couch or sit at our computer and check our email as soon as we finish work. Not necessarily because it’s what we want to do, or because we think it’s the best activity at the time – just because it’s our default and what we’re used to doing.

I like evaluating things based on long term benefits, but that doesn’t mean I always follow it, though I try to =)
.-= Sid Savara´s last blog ..7 Common Procrastination Excuses =-.

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Stephen Mills March 10, 2010 at 8:21 am

Hi Sid, you are so right. I find myself operating on habit, doing what seems like the right thing. But when I actually think about it I realize I’m only doing it because that is what I always do. The follow through on asking those questions is what we need to make a habit, so they don’t require discipline anymore.

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Lana-{Daring Clarity} March 10, 2010 at 4:37 am

It is simple, elegant and effective, Stephen. I am definitely going to adopt the questions. And will go check out the book. Thanks!
.-= Lana-{Daring Clarity}´s last blog ..How I Got to The Core, Got Scared… and Survived. =-.

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Stephen Mills March 10, 2010 at 8:22 am

Hello Lana, I think you will really like the book. Thanks for stopping in to comment.

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Marshall Goldsmith March 10, 2010 at 6:55 am

Thank you for this post! I am glad that you found value in my new book.

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Stephen Mills March 10, 2010 at 8:25 am

Hi Marshall, I’m thrilled you found this blog post and took the time to comment. Your book was was excellent and I highly recommend it!

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Tess The Bold Life March 10, 2010 at 9:22 am

Wow this has been a real eye opener for me. It’s so true…the inertia thing.

I was just procrastinating on exercising today;) No more…going to lace up running shoes now!
.-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Bold Solutions For A New World =-.

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Stephen Mills March 10, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Hello Tess, that great! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills March 10, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Hey Stephen,

I really like the idea of asking those two questions before we act. I call this “walking it down the long hallway of consequences.” Or we could just call it foresight. Allowing this one step to become part of our thinking process will have a major impact on the outcomes we produce.

Our current reality is the consequence of past decisions. Improving our decision making process will improve our reality. This post was short but powerful. Well done my friend.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Fear Lessons from a Bear, Rattlesnake, & New Yorker =-.

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Stephen Mills March 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Hi Jonathan, thanks a bunch. I made it short on purpose. I’m trying to focus on packing more punch into smaller packages 🙂

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga March 12, 2010 at 12:52 am

Hi Stephen. I hate to admit it but I do tend to get into the inertia trap once in a while. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep doing the same ole thing–even if the joy has seeped out of it. I’m jotting these questions down so I can remind myself to keep it moving.
.-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..3 Simple Positive Thinking Techniques You’ll Love for Tough Times =-.

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timethief March 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Hello Stephen. In December and in the context of the amount time I was spending on social networking I asked myself those two questions of yours. The answers made it clear to me that I was spending far too much time for far too little gain. So I set myself free for a couple of months. During that time I developed a social networking time management plan, and I find that now that I’m back to social networking again it’s working well for me. 🙂
.-= timethief´s last blog ..Password-stealing virus targets Facebook users =-.

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