How many times have you watched a news story unfold on television and you say at the end, “I could have predicted that.” What you are really doing is noticing the momentum in the story. One thing leads to another and the final outcome seems to have been, in retrospect, completely foreseeable.
There are really very few surprises in this life. A surprise is what comes at the end of a season of being unaware of momentum in a particular direction. The surprise presents itself because we have “awakened” and become intentionally aware.
When I was in my early twenties, I had a brief discussion about goals with my father, an accomplished structural engineer with a global reputation in engineering circles. His career at the time was taking him to many points on the globe. His services were in demand. Yet, he startled me with this revelation: He told me that he had never set a goal. He only prayed and then acted in concert with what he perceived to be God’s will. He lived a life oriented toward heaven, not temporal goals.
Stephen Covey wrote metaphorically about putting one’s ladder up against a wall, and climbing it only to discover the ladder was against the wrong wall. Whether others plant their ladders on the same wall as yours is of no consequence for you. Your job is to pick the right wall for you, your talents and your values. For my dad, despite his successful career, his ladder was against a different wall than almost everyone else in his profession.
Success gurus speak in unison and with no small amount of credibility, saying you need to set goals in life. They say that if you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know if or when you get there. Sounds good to me. I should set some goals, I tell myself. But there’s that pesky conversation with my dad. He never set goals and yet, he left success clues all along his life’s path. There are so many that I’m still picking up some of them ten years after his transition from his earthly body.
My father claimed to have not set goals, but he did actually have one. His goal was to be united with God forever. It’s the direction he chose. That was the intention of his life. I prefer not to get into the semantics of whether this a is a goal or a mission or a purpose. No matter what you call it, there is one thing that makes them neighbors in the success lexicon. That one thing is MOMENTUM.
Momentum has three categories, which are illustrated in these clips:
Just what is a goal, anyway? Here is how I have come to define the word “goal.”
A goal is a personal intention to create momentum toward an improved state of being.
Momentum is visible–tangible, in that it can be recorded, photographed or measured. Intention is not visible or clear to onlookers until the final step of momentum is accomplished. Even when intention can be inferred or intuited by a third party, it can only be confirmed by actual observable events.
Here is a little scenario to help color in the difference between intention and momentum.
I am in my garage. I am in the car. I am opening the garage door. I am backing the car out of the garage. I am steering my car in a general direction. I am parking the car in the shopping center lot. I am exiting the vehicle. I am walking toward the door of the store. I am entering the store. All of that is momentum. You can see it, even if my intention is not yet clear.
I am standing in the store holding a loaf of bread, a package of deli-sliced turkey, a package of swiss cheese and a two-liter bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper, the four items on my shopping list. That is a measure of how far momentum has taken me.
But you are now seeing enough momentum that it is becoming more clear and a strong indicator of what is next.
I pay for the food. I carry the food back to my car in the parking lot. I enter the car. I start the ignition. I steer back to my home. I park the car in the garage. I exit the car with the bag of food. I close the garage. I enter my home. All of this is simply more momentum. With each new action, the momentum more clearly reveals what is coming next.
I am in the kitchen. I open the silverware drawer and take out a knife, I open the fridge and retrieve a jar of mayo and a jar of mustard. I open the freezer and grab a few cubes of ice. I put the ice in a glass. More observable momentum.
You can write the rest of the scenario, can’t you? How did you get to the point where you could say with some certainty what is next? It’s because you noticed the momentum toward my improved state of being, that is, no longer feeling hungry. Your brain kept assembling and reinterpreting the circumstances until there was really only one thing that could happen. A sandwich would be made and eaten and a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper would be consumed. In retrospect, there was really no other outcome.
But there could have been. Since the intention was to feel something other than hungry, the sandwich was only incidental. I could have created momentum on an entirely different path: Buying a slice of pizza or a taco or a hamburger, for example. Each would have meant different choices and thus different paths on which momentum could travel. That is to say, I could have made an entirely different set of choices and still fulfilled my intention or my goal.
Based on momentum, what is next for you?