THE BLOG
03/23/2012 06:58 am ET Updated May 23, 2012

Changing Your Life 'Inertia' Takes Courage

In a previous post, I first introduced you to my law of life inertia: "the tendency of people, having once established a life trajectory, to continue on that course unless acted on by a greater force." I followed that post with another in which I described the four forces that drive your life inertia: needs, self-esteem, ownership and emotions. This post explores the role of courage in changing the trajectory of your life inertia.

Courage may be the single most important characteristic for changing your life inertia. Making a change requires risk and risk is scary because when you risk, you may fail. (Of course, the other side of the coin is that only by taking risks can we truly succeed.) Courage in the process of changing your life inertia means the willingness to "look in the mirror" and acknowledge aspects of yourself that you may not know about or may not like about yourself. Courage allows you to explore your inner world and to not run from "bad" emotions you might feel as learn about yourself. Courage enables you to reject your old inertia, chart a new course of your life inertia and then "boldly go where no one has gone before."

Courage also provides the commitment that you need to initiate a new life inertia and the conviction to adhere to that new path. Courage enables you to resist your old inertia and its unhealthy habits and patterns, and to make difficult choices to do what is in your best interests, however uncomfortable it might initially make you feel. It is courage that enables you to let go of the familiarity and comfort of your past life inertia and grab on to the hope that a new life inertia will provide you with.

Courage emboldens you to embrace the values that are important to you now. It allows you to act in ways that strengthen rather than undermine your self-esteem. Courage encourages you to take ownership of your life and assume responsibility for everything you do, including your mistakes and failures, as well as achievements and successes. Finally, courage allows you to welcome and accept all of your emotions knowing that only by experiencing the full spectrum of emotions will you ever be able to fully experience the "good" ones such as joy, excitement, fulfillment and happiness.

Having the courage to begin the process of changing your life inertia is much like jumping into cold water. You know it will be a shock at first. It will be uncomfortable and you will initially regret having taken the plunge. But, after you are in the water for a short while, you begin to adapt to the coldness. What was then intimidating is now approachable. What had been unknown is now familiar. What was then painful is now invigorating.

Leap of Faith

The problem with change is that there is no certainty. You never know for sure whether you can actually shift your life inertia in the direction in which you want to go or, if you succeed, whether that change will be what you really want. "Gosh, my current life inertia isn't great, but at least I know it and have learned to deal with it." No one, not your family, your friends, your clergy, or your psychotherapist, can foresee what will happen to your life if you change your life inertia. There is going to be that fear of the unknown -- how will you change psychologically and emotionally, and how will your world around you change.

Ultimately, if you really want to change your life inertia, you must take a leap of faith, like jumping into that cold water. A great philosopher once said, "You do or you do not. There is no try." No, it wasn't Aristotle or Socrates who spoke those simple, yet profound words; the great thinker was... Yoda, the Jedi Master of Star Wars fame (actually, George Lucas, but you get the idea). The leap of faith begins with the conviction that you don't want to continue down the path that your current life inertia has been taking you any longer, that it will only bring you more unhappiness and discontent. The leap of faith involves having a basic belief in yourself and a fundamental trust in the vision of who, what and where you want to be in the future. The leap of faith involves your commitment to creating a healthy, new life inertia and the belief that good things will happen when you do make that change.

I often use an analogy from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which Indiana Jones is in search of the Holy Grail. (An appropriate metaphor here, wouldn't you say?) He is following a map that leads him along a treacherous path toward the Holy Grail. Near the end of his journey, Jones comes to a bottomless chasm across from which is the doorway to the Holy Grail. There is no apparent bridge across the abyss, yet the map speaks of taking a leap of faith that will enable Jones to traverse the gap. Mustering his courage, Jones takes a leap of faith and finds that there is an invisible bridge that he can walk across to seize the Holy Grail. Much as he believed, against the direst of consequences if he was wrong (plummeting to his death!), that the path he had chosen was correct, you must also have the strength of your conviction to take that initial leap into the process of changing your inertia (especially realizing that your worst-case scenario is nothing like that faced by Indiana Jones, though that was just a film, of course).

The leap of faith begins with, well, faith, that you can change your life inertia. That faith involves focusing on the positive aspects of change and directing your thoughts and emotions onto the encouraging new course of your life inertia. Recognize also that some misgivings are a normal part of the process -- because you can never be 100 percent sure that things will work out the way you want -- if you didn't have doubts, it wouldn't require a leap of faith.

You should also regularly dream about the new life that you envision and how wonderful it will feel to find that which you seek. The leap of faith will then initiate an positive upward spiral that will transform your leap of faith into a growing confidence that you can and will change your life inertia for the better.

You must also understand that this leap of faith is not blind faith. Rather, you have a lifetime of knowledge and skills that you can marshal to change your life inertia. Hopefully, you also have extensive resources -- family, friends and other forms of support -- to bolster your efforts.

For more by Dr. Jim Taylor, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.