The Double Edged Sword Of Momentum
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Momentum is often touted as a great thing.
In professional sports, when a team experiences a winning streak they have a winning attitude and momentum on their side.
Momentum can also aid in efficiency.
Once a vehicle achieves cruising speed, maintaining that speed is less energy intensive as forward momentum contributes to preserving the desired velocity.
Building positive momentum in one’s life, financially, emotionally, and physically, is often the fundamental talking point of motivational speakers around the globe.
Well I hate to be the one to burst the positive hype train bubble that is typically associated with momentum, but burst it I will.
In this post I will talk about the less talked about, and more sinister evil twin, negative momentum.
Whereas positive momentum can lift you to reach new heights, negative momentum does its best to drag you down with it to the depths of despair.
My Inner Demons: Weight & Exercise.
It is no secret, but I am a big fan of food.
I have always considered myself a foodie and take great pleasure in the sampling of any epicurean delights.
In fact I have planned multiple vacations where the primary reason for the destination choice was food based.
Because of my love for food, I really have to be careful with my weight.
For the majority of the time I am able to keep my weight in check with regular exercise (60 minutes on the elliptical, 3+ times/week is my ideal method).
Although I do not enjoy working out, I feel that when I get into a routine there is a bit of positive momentum that makes me really want to continue working out.
However this post is more about negative momentum and its effects on me.
As I mentioned above, my elliptical schedule is ideally at least 3 times a week.
However, as we all know, situations in life are rarely ideal.
I am definitely not one of those people who gets up early to exercise and get it out of the way before work.
Nope, I actually prefer to come home after work and hit the elliptical before having my dinner.
Unfortunately this limited time slot is one of the first to be sacrificed, especially since my daughter has come back home to live with me after I petitioned for, and received, full custody.
My daughter is quite active in her school sports teams, taking part in volleyball, during the fall, and lacrosse, during the spring.
As such there are numerous times when I get pulled in various directions to pick her up or attend the various games she participates in.
These extracurricular situations, you may have already guessed, typically conflict with my “golden hour” for exercise.
Throw in a periodic concert performance (she plays the violin) and sometimes an entire week for exercise can be bypassed.
This is where negative momentum is especially onerous.
As I slowly become deconditioned, my mindset also changes.
It is quite ironic but I tend to eat healthier when I am working out.
One would think that the more exercise you put in, the greater the margin you have for eating more.
Yet when I exercise, I now become acutely aware of how much effort it takes to burn X amount of calories.
Therefore, when I view a food item I do a mental calculation of how long it would take for me to burn it off on the elliptical and see if it is worth it (and the majority of those times the answer would be a no).
But a few days of no exercise and my mind seems to conveniently forget these calculations and instead gives me carte blanche to indulge in whatever food may be in my proximity.
The Self-Defeatist Attitude.
This is probably the worst manifestation of negative momentum there is.
This is akin to a heavyweight boxer throwing in the towel before the Round 1 Bell is rung.
This time of year is very hard for me with regards to maintaining weight.
Starting in October the food train picks up steam as I have to navigate through the celebration of 3 loved one’s birthdays in short succession (which entails dining out and engorging myself at each) followed by one of the most calorie intensive weeks of the year, Radiology Tech week (first week of November).
During this week my office manager has lined up various vendors to supply lunch for each day.
Now unlike other specialties that are courted with pharmaceutical reps bringing them lunches throughout the year, radiology typically has no such perks.
[I still remember during my short lived surgery residency how some sales reps would bring us incredible meals during their short pitches (and even one that took us on a deep sea fishing excursion 3 hours away).]
But during this one magical week in November, Radiology takes center stage, and the food is heaped upon us.
Shortly thereafter comes the following lineup that wreaks havoc on my waist:
- Thanksgiving (which really provides two opportunities to indulge with: a work function the week before and then the actual holiday itself).
- Three Christmas office parties (a radiology department specific gathering, a physicians only party at a fine dining restaurant the first weekend of December, and then a general one for the entire workforce the following weekend).
- Christmas celebration.
- New Year’s celebration.
Now you may suggest that I could still refrain from partaking in these smorgasbords and do my waistline a favor.
But for those who have read my previous post about Gluttony, you already know that this is just not in the cards for me.
So partake I do and thus the numbers on the scale I use start trending upward.
Rather than trying to counterbalance this with more dedication to exercise, I let negative momentum carry me into a darker place.
My mind offers excuses to avoid exercise and, since it is an activity I am not particularly fond of, I take the bait:
Why exercise when you know you are going to gain weight during this time regardless?
Wouldn’t it be better just to withstand the damage done during this time and you can work it off later?
To make matters worse, after binging on food all day the furthest thing from my mind is exercise.
It is hard to get on the elliptical and go through the motions when you are feeling bloated.
The Financial Spin Of Negative Momentum.
One of the best examples of how negative momentum can derail your path to wealth/financial independence is the mindset it creates relating to debt.
This is particularly true of the newly graduating physicians.
After years and years of financing their life and education, piling more and more onto their debt burden, new attendings become “debt numb.”
The numbers are so large, often in the $300k-$500k range, that it feels like you are dealing with monopoly money.
You may be pulled into a financial pit of despair from negative momentum as you feel like there is no way to make any progress and therefore just give up.
You come up with excuses like, “What’s another $5k financed for a vacation going to do in the grand scheme of an already enormous pile of debt?”
It is eerily similar to how I came up with excuses not to exercise in my above examples.
Somehow future me will take care of it and therefore I should let present me run wild is a common theme for both scenarios.
Well having gone through this cycle for both weight and finance, I will tell you that “future me” was pissed during the transition to “present me” and I then had to deal with the magnified effects from “past me’s” actions.
How To Combat Negative Momentum.
It would have been easy for me to just end on that down note but that really not be helpful to anyone.
I certainly have not vanquished my negative momentum demons as, at the time I am writing this post, I have fallen prey already to the October birthday celebrations and Radiology Tech week, gaining about 10 lbs in the process.
But it started getting to the point where I felt uncomfortable in my clothes,
This became a turning point for me.
Too often the solution for most people would be to go to larger sized clothing, and believe me in the past I did just that.
But I wanted to make a stand, which is the best way to combat negative momentum.
There has to be some trigger which can be used as a rallying point for you to change your mindset.
Far too often this trigger occurs at a low/rock-bottom point.
However if you can recognize that you may be caught in the grips of negative momentum earlier, you can counteract it much easier and before too much damage is done.
For me the best thing would be to avoid/minimize being in situations where my willpower would be put to the test.
I have already implemented this strategy by completely bypassing my clinic wide Thanksgiving celebration.
I chose instead to stay in my office and have a regular meal I brought from home.
Sure I missed out on some amazing food,.
But I chose to sacrifice short term pleasure for more long term benefits and in the end I will be happier because of it.
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Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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