In 1687, Isaac Newton published his revolutionary book, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy,1 in which he stated his three laws of motion.
The Principia formed the foundation of classical mechanics and is to this day considered one of the most important works in the history of science.
And, as we’ll see in this article, Newton’s laws of motion can be used as helpful models to create progress in our lives.
Let’s have a look at the three laws and use my author career as a simple example for each one.
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest.
Whenever you’re procrastinating on something, you’re experiencing the pull of this law firsthand. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.
Luckily, it works the other way around, too. If you just get started, you’ll generally keep going. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
When I started writing, I was constantly fighting this law. I only wrote sporadically and, as a result, getting started was a continuous struggle.
It wasn’t until I got a regular writing routine down that I could start to benefit from this law.
Over time, writing first thing in the morning has become second nature. My new homeostasis, if you will.
And you can do the same thing in any area where you’d like to make progress. Get moving, and you’ll keep going.
F=ma. Force equals mass times acceleration.
There is one important takeaway in the F=ma equation. The force, F, is a vector. Vectors have both magnitude (the amount of effort put in) and direction (where that effort is applied).
If you want an object to accelerate in a particular direction, the amount of effort and the direction of that effort will both affect the outcome.
So whenever you want to make progress, it’s not just about how hard you work (magnitude), but also about where you apply that work (direction).
As a writer, it’s not just the number of quality words I write every day (magnitude) that affects the results in my business.
My decisions about whether to work as a freelancer, ghostwriter, or author (direction) are equally important.
Everything we do has an opportunity cost, so make sure that all your hard work is applied in the most beneficial direction.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Much like this law describes, your progress is a balance of opposing forces in your life.
There are supporting forces like energy, focus, and motivation. And there are opposing forces like fatigue, overwhelm, and discouragement.
Whenever you want to make more progress, you have two options: you can add supporting forces, or you can remove opposing forces.
As a writer, I’ve added supporting forces like my daily writing routine, a high-quality writing application, and regular contact with other authors. I’ve also removed opposing forces like email notifications, desktop clutter, and most social media accounts. As a result, the progress I want to make every day now comes much more easily.
Nudge yourself in the right direction, and your behavior will spontaneously adapt.
Whenever you want to create progress in your life, keep these ideas in mind. Get moving, and you’ll keep going. Apply your hard work in the most beneficial direction. And modify the opposing forces in your life. Use Newton’s laws of motion to your advantage, and they will naturally carry you forward.