Momentum is always at play, and it’s either working for you or against you.
In life, it feels like your momentum can change incredibly quickly. One moment, you’re on a positive trend and cruising forward; the next, you’re undoing the progress you’ve made.
The good news is that with a little force, you can change directions and recapture that energy very quickly. There’s some science behind momentum, but there’s a lot of art and serendipity that go along with it, too.
I like to compare momentum to compound interest. It’s a phenomenon that’s always present and always at work. But is compound interest keeping you in debt with 20% APY on your credit card, or is it enabling your financial freedom with a 20% annual return through reinvesting dividends?
In any financial scenario, somebody is getting wealthy off of compound interest in every transaction. In your life, are you the one charging that interest, or are you being charged?
Momentum in Our Health Journey
In our health journey, there are lots of analogies for the decisions we make and the priorities we choose. The things we commit to doing — either the positive behaviors we add to our life or the negatives we cut out — directly impact our momentum. That goes for our relationships and behaviors, too.
Maybe you’ve heard the old parenting adage “sleep begets sleep.” One of the best ways to have a nice experience with child rearing is to have a sleepy baby, and the best way to have a sleepy baby is to get your baby to sleep. The more sleep they get, the more they sleep.
This pattern isn’t exclusive to parenting. Momentum’s impact spills into every facet of your life.
Health Multipliers and a Positive Energy Cycle
A common example of health momentum is improving your sleep. There’s a nonlinear relationship between getting more quality sleep and reaping exponential benefits — from decreased stress to improved memory to lower risk of heart disease.
These choices are what I call health multipliers — by improving one thing, you end up improving so many others in the process.
I encourage people to focus on those multipliers, because change is hard. It’s very, very difficult to get someone to change one behavior and continue it as a long-term strategy when they only perceive a single result. It’s far more beneficial to focus on one thing and see progress in many things.
The motivation you get from seeing results from a single change is what creates positive momentum. Those results will compound to give you more tailwind on your health journey.
Three Momentum Multipliers
As a doctor, I focus on three powerful health multipliers for improving your long-term vitality:
- How do you feed your body?
- How do you move your body?
- How do you recover your body?
These health multipliers feed into each other to create a lot of positive momentum. Taking the sleep example above, if you improve the quality of your restorative sleep by 25%, you wake up with a certain level of increased energy. That energy surplus carries you throughout the day, and now you have the energy to work out without exhausting yourself.
Then, once you start working out, you’re more motivated not to “undo” your hard work with a bad lunch. So, you start eating better lunches that fuel your day. And because you ate quality meals that didn’t tax your digestive system and you spent your energy exercising, you fall asleep easier and have better sleep overall.
You’re creating a positive energy cycle through three factors. That’s momentum. The trick is finding something you have an appetite to fix first.
If you want to fix your diet, great. Start by changing your diet, but don’t rush to overhaul your sleep schedule and workout plan simultaneously. We don’t have to fix all of these factors at the same time.
If you pick one factor, and you’re successful at it, the others will improve. You’ll end up with a sense of progress and confidence that you’re moving in a positive direction — and that’s when change becomes less difficult.
This all boils down to Newton’s first law of motion, and I say it all the time because it’s true: it’s a lot easier to steer a bus that’s rolling down a highway at 50 miles per hour than it is to steer a bus that’s at a dead stop.
The key to making a change in your health momentum is to just start moving.
Positive and Negative Health Momentum
The challenge with momentum is that it can work both ways. If you’re not careful, challenges can compound against you very quickly and overwhelm you.
I have so much to change.
Everything is such a mess.
I don’t know where to start.
I barely have enough energy to make it through the day. I don’t have the luxury of putting energy into something that may not work.
Because the idea of choosing the wrong thing is too scary, you choose to do nothing. Or, you lean into short-term gratification with another bag of chips, another cocktail, or one more DoorDash delivery of fast food.
The thing is, there’s no such thing as “neutral” momentum. Doing nothing to improve your state won’t keep you neutral. If a choice isn’t explicitly creating positive momentum, it’s creating negative momentum and working against you.
Make the choices that will decrease your resistance to the outcomes you want.
Creating Lasting Positive Momentum
There’s so much noise as to where you should focus in your health. We’ve unnecessarily complicated our health journeys. That’s not to say health isn’t complex, but those three health multipliers are easy solutions that are right in front of you.
The first step is figuring out where to start. Where do you have an appetite to improve? Where do you feel a little sense of confidence?
Maybe you’ve been successful in the past with one of these multipliers. Let’s start there. Once you start moving, you can start making big, lasting strides.
The bottom line here is that there’s an infinite number of things that could improve our health, and infinite ways to do them. But in my experience with helping high achievers create positive momentum, I’ve had the best luck starting with optimizing sleep, diet, and fitness.
Only you can choose which one you start with, so use that to your advantage and pick what will be the quickest win for you.
Dr. Aaron Wenzel is a concierge physician specializing in the care of fast-moving entrepreneurs, executives, and public figures in the Nashville, TN area. Dr. Wenzel’s diverse life experience and extensive training in family medicine, emergency care, nutrition, and hormone replacement therapies give him the unique platform to provide unmatched care for his patients.