I read a very inspired essay by Anne at life in pencil the other day all about the concept of living from scratch. In other words, starting anew, paving a new path in any part of our lives. And oddly, my father’s voice appears in my head when reflecting on this idea: the words inertia and trajectory. He was a scientist and his work dealt largely with mechanical physics. But these two familiar subjects of physics apply to our lives, perhaps in more ways than we care to admit.
Inertia tells us that an object will continue to move along its current path unless acted upon by an external force. A human-life example of inertia is the person who remains in an unloving relationship without taking proactive steps to make a change for the better. Or a person who has an unfulfilling job but makes no attempt to change the situation. A couple of less obvious examples might be the person who does make an attempt at change, but upon meeting the first obstacle, decides that change is impossible and accepts inertia as inevitable, or the person who selects a change strategy that turns out to be an unsuccessful approach at achieving the desired change, but continues to make the same unsuccessful attempt time after time.
How many of us have fallen under the spell of inertia?
The term trajectory refers to the direction of the new path of an object once a force has been applied to initiate movement. In mechanical physics, we have to compensate for the effect of gravity in order for our object to reach its targeted destination. In life, we have to compensate for other unquantifiable factors, if we hope to succeed in our quest to make progress along a new path. These factors are things like the seductive comforts of our old habits and the voices of fear and shame that play inside our heads.
Creating change in our lives requires some amount of fortitude, perseverance and vision. We need to be able to visualize that the difference we are seeking will prove beneficial and hopefully, increase our level of happiness.
How many of us have stumbled along a new path because we were ill prepared to expend the energy needed to compensate for the unforeseen roadblocks to our visualized success?
I am personally able to check both of these boxes. Time and again I can recall complaining about some circumstance in my life that caused me dissatisfaction, but I made excuses to myself to justify living with the inertia. Or opened the door to a new relationship without acknowledging the need to clean up my behavioral mistakes from the past.
Change is work. It is not as simple as deciding. In physics, there is a formula for computing work, a function of force and distance. In my own life, change has been successful through humility, gratitude, imagination, forgiveness and perseverance over a span of time. The force applied, in this case is not physical at all. A difficult lesson to grasp.
I don’t know if my dad ever thought about physics in these terms, but I am finding comfort in deriving abstract life lessons from the concrete principles he applied in his life’s work.