motivated by momentum

How to Build Momentum When You Feel Paralyzed

Have you ever felt totally paralyzed to the point you had no idea how to move? Stuck because you didn’t know how to build momentum to get things done?

I have this crazy fear of heights and a husband who is a restless explorer. One time on a family trip at Lake Powell we took a little hike up a canyon to some Indian ruins.

As we climbed up this canyon, rather than thinking about how beautiful it was, I found myself lost in thoughts like “This is so steep!” “How am I going to get down?” “This is so dangerous.” “Why are we doing this?” My anxiety was quickly building into a panic attack and all I could do was sit down in a paralyzed state of hysteria.

Luckily, my father-in-law knew what to do. He got me to look into his eyes and take a couple of deep cleansing breaths. Then he said all I had to focus on was the one-foot circle around me. He said don’t think about anything except where your foot is, and then where your next step is.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. It wasn’t about “fixing” my fear of heights it was about choosing a different focus. When life gets a bit too much and we feel our momentum for motivation flying out the door – remember it isn’t about “fixing” it all at once. It’s about just taking one step at a time.

8 Strategies to Build Momentum

If you’re feeling a little bit of paralysis taking root in your life here’s a quick checklist to help get back on track:

1 | Try the 5 Second Rule.

No this is not for when you drop food on the floor. It’s a theory Mel Robbins came up with to get your brain to kick in and get the momentum rolling.

This is how it works. There is a split second when we are faced with a decision – a moment where we can either hesitate or jump right in. In that micro-moment, our brain naturally starts down the path of self-doubt, fear, and other overwhelming feelings.

The idea is to start counting down. Like a rocket taking off —5, 4, 3, 2 and ACT before you get to 1. If we launch ourselves before our self-defeating thoughts take root we are able to interrupt our old habits for a new one. Motivation is all about creating momentum.

2 | Don’t let overwhelm become a buzzkill.

But when I’m feeling this way, that’s when I know it is time to regroup. To take a few minutes to get re-centered, stop spinning and instead make sure I’m focusing on the things that matter most. Because I know that if I don’t, I’ll end up frustrated and overwhelmed and anxious and even angry or emotional.

I do best if I focus on my immediate surroundings and move one foot at a time. Try not to look at the whole picture, just start with the first step.

3 | Look for what excites you.

The biggest mistake, when it comes to momentum, is that people start too big and fall short. Allow enthusiasm and passion to fuel your momentum rather than being dependent on your actions.

Nothing fuels momentum more than excitement. So pay attention to what excites you. Use that excitement to fuel your motivation and goals. When you are excited, you create your own momentum.

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4 | Do a brain dump.

Take five minutes to make a list of all the activities, commitments, and to-do items on your plate —all those things spinning around in your head and causing stress. Set the timer for this activity, and don’t just make a list in your head—actually take the time to write down every single thing that is taking up space in your brain.

5 | Get brutally honest.

Once you have everything written down, it’s time to get honest. What can you get rid of on your list? Anything you can either delegate to someone else or get rid of completely?  It might mean making a few hard phone calls or writing an apologetic email. The truth is, if you are overcommitted it’s harder to build momentum and stay motivated.

6 | Create a plan.

Now, with the items that are left on your list, rank each activity in order of importance. Remember, not everything can be equally important! Each item MUST have a number—there can be no ties. Once you’ve determined the order, re-write your list in order of priority.

Once you have a plan you’ll begin to notice your momentum building; however, you need to remember not to get overzealous. You may find yourself getting sidetracked with other exciting ideas. Create a plan of action as to where your momentum will take you.

7 | Believe in yourself.

Believe in who you are. Don’t let yourself fixate on the voices or opinions of others. No one can do it all. So be kind to yourself and be proud of what you can do. Remember life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Sometimes we trip up and fall, just get back up and keep moving forward. Even if it means doing a little at a time.

8 | Choose joy.

Don’t make your happiness dependent on what you can accomplish or how your plan turns out. Chances are there will always be something not quite perfect. Instead, remind yourself to choose joy, contentment, and gratitude — even in the midst of chaos.

When we’re struggling with our motivation, sometimes all we can do is just put one foot in front of the other, and resolve to choose joy along the way. Remember true joy comes from within, not from external circumstances.

Motivation is about momentum


One last, interesting side note: remember my paralyzed fear on the side of a cliff at Lake Powell? Well, my geeky-self did a little research and discovered a connection between the word momentum and acrophobia (fear of heights), and I thought you might be intrigued.

Momentum is defined as a force or speed of movement and acrophobia is part of the phobia family related to space and motion discomfort. Isn’t it fascinating? Sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable to get our momentum rolling. It might require us to try new things, and that’s okay! Take a moment, sit down and regroup, or maybe even adjust our focus. If you are intentional in creating momentum, I know you can make great things happen!

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My challenge for you this week is to take a few minutes and try some of these strategies. Rather than becoming paralyzed with all you have to do, see if you can get that momentum ball rolling. It’s amazing what a difference even the smallest change in our action can make. I promise.

How to Build Momentum When You Feel Paralyzed

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4 thoughts on “How to Build Momentum When You Feel Paralyzed”

  1. I especially love #4-6 on this list. And actually do them on a regular basis in my Bullet Journal. (Fortunately, though, since a few years back I have little left in #5 – have purged all the unimportant/unnecessary from my life to leave room for the “best stuff”! 🙂 ) #heartandsoullinkup

    1. Bullet journals are awesome for building momentum! And…purging frees us from all the “stuff” that is often holding us back! Motivation is really is all about the best stuff and making time for what we value most! Thanks for the comment, Flossie!

  2. I LOVE your father-in-law’s advice! That’s perfect. (I, too, am afraid of heights!) These are great suggestions for getting the momentum going. #3 and #4 are the big ones for me. I think-think-think all the time about everything, and I really need to brain dump more often. Thanks for sharing at #heartandsoullinkup

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