Marshall Goldsmith blog - Beat Inertia

Beat Inertia with this Simple Exercise

26 Jul 2019

Happiness and meaning – the two things we all want more of in our lives. However, how much of happiness and meaning are we actually experiencing on a daily basis? The answer is probably “not enough.” 

The uncomfortable truth is that our default response in life is not to act on our desires to reach happiness and meaning. Rather, day-to-day, we find ourselves leaning more towards inertia. In other words, we continue to do what we’re already doing. In our defense, it’s a very reliable short-term predictor of what we will be up to next… 

But to stay in this state of mind can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. Going from one mindless routine to the next doesn’t leave much space for happiness and meaning. 

Fortunately, we can break the cycle of inertia. You won’t even need heroic willpower to make this change but just a simple discipline.

 

Breaking the Cycle of Inertia

This exercise involves only two components: 1) follow-up and 2) another person to keep us accountable, and it’s the key to achieving lasting, positive change. When we know that someone will check up on us and measure if we are doing what we intended to do, we are much less likely to give in to inertia. Instead, we can beat old habits and become better versions of ourselves. 

Here is a simple, yet powerful, follow-up exercise that you can implement immediately.

 

Two Daily Questions

Throughout your day, evaluate each activity with two straightforward questions:

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

When considering these questions, rate yourself using a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest). Just make a mental note; no spreadsheets necessary here.

Part of the success of this process is to not fret over the actual scores – at the end of the day, the numbers are not what matters. What’s critical is your awareness that all of your activities will be evaluated on their level of happiness and meaning. The astonishing result is that just by being more intentional about noticing happiness and meaning, we can cultivate and experience more happiness and meaning in each activity. 

We are strong believers that each day is full of happiness and meaning. It just takes a little exercise to train ourselves to be more self-aware and recognize that we can achieve these states of mind every day.

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