Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Why Change is So Hard

I think the couch in my college dorm room had magnets in it. I would sit for countless hours watching TV. Even though my task list was multiple pages long, I just . . . could . . . not . . . get . . . up.

Sometimes I still feel like that. Do you?

You are trying hard to change, but some force is holding you where you are. In physics, this force is called Inertia.

Copyright El Alvi (Creative Commons)

Copyright El Alvi (Creative Commons)

What is Inertia?

I started thinking about Inertia after a reader commented on my recent interview with The Resistance. Sanela wrote, “Inertia . . . is an analogy for the state of body, mind and spirit. This is a perfect example that some of the basic laws in physics could apply to our minds too. Inertia is one of the main forces in nature, and I do believe that struggling with it is our main battle in life . . .”

What is this thing called inertia?

The idea was first developed by Sir Isaac Newton and documented in his book,  Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”). It is the first of his three Laws of Motion.

First Law of Motion: Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed thereon.

In other words, an object does not move unless it is forced to move. It “wants” to remain as it is. This resistance to change is called Inertia.

Newtons Law 1

Motion needs a Force

A 40-year-old man has a heart attack. Five years later he is in the best shape of his life.
A business woman quits her job to stay home with her children after her oldest daughter runs away from home.
A student loses a key scholarship and transforms into a disciplined student the next semester.

Change does not happen unless something is forcing us in that direction. Think of the times you have experienced a great improvement in your life. Behind that, I would bet, you will find a force.

Perhaps the biggest change-inducing force in my life are my kids. Want to wake up earlier? Have a baby. They are living alarm clocks. Because of my children, I have become much more disciplined. I get up earlier. I work harder. I protect family time, because I want to come home in the evening and roll around on the floor with them. When laziness attempts a takeover, I see their cute faces and get back to work.

When God drops a living human being in your lap, you change or die. But you don’t stay the same.

That’s what I mean by a compelling force.

Creating a Force for Change

Donald Miller and his team over at Storyline have an idea that I really like. They call it the “inciting incident.” You know it from films. In every movie, the main character is forced to change through an inciting incident—his plane is highjacked by terrorists, she discovers cancer, his wife dies leaving him with the kids, she is accused of a murder she did not commit. These events force the person to change.

What if you could create your own inciting incident?

Do you want to get into shape? Sign up for a triathlon.
Do you want to write a book? Set a release date. And advertise it!
Do you want to go back and get your degree? Register at your local college.

Inciting incidents are the answer to inertia. They are the force that create change. Without them, there is no motion.

You, my Inciting Incident

Just so you know, you are part of my inciting incident. I started this blog in order to grow as a writer and develop the ideas floating around in my head. Not a week passes that I don’t think about taking a break. Inertia is strong. Finding time to write is difficult. Quitting would be easier.

But you read my posts and comment and send encouraging emails. You incite me to action. Your presence compels me to write. So, I open up my computer and fill the blank page.

For that, I am thankful.

What inciting incident do you need to create for yourself?


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