• cstollenmaier

Two things your brain is doing that will either destroy you or guarantee your success

Updated: Dec 8, 2018

Newton's Cradle in motion
Behavioral Inertia and Decision Inertia are shaping your life, with or without you


Remember this one from high school? Inertia is “the tendency for an object at rest to remain at rest, or an object in motion to remain in motion, unless acted on by an outside force.” Exactly. You’ve got it. But inertia applies to a lot more than rocks in the dirt. Let's talk about 2 other kinds: behavioral inertia and decision inertia. These two related concepts are not good or bad--they simply are. How you interact with them will determine whether they are great allies or even greater obstacles in your path to success.

First, behavioral inertia: the tendency for an organism to continue enacting a certain behavior, regardless of the outcome. Let’s be real: you know it’s the fast food and the late night potato chips making you fat. And you know you should be at the gym instead of binge-watching tv shows. But it’s just so dang hard to break the cycle! Why can’t I resist the urge to pull into the drive-thru? Why can’t I stop the TV when this episode finishes (and why does it autoplay, damnit?!)? The answer is, in part, behavioral inertia. Once you have established a given behavior, it will persist unless altered--and because inertia is the tendency to remain constant unless acted upon, it takes far more effort to alter the behavior than to engage in the behavior.

Similarly, decision inertia is the proclivity to make the same decision on repeat, once again without regard for the outcome of that decision. You know it’s a bad idea to compare your spouse with their parent, but you just keep doing it every time they do something that annoys you. So far, you’ve ended up fighting every time, and they haven’t stopped doing that frustrating thing yet! Common sense would say stop, decision inertia says it’s easier to just keep doing the same thing.

As you can see, behavioral and decision inertia are very closely related and are usually working together. Decision inertia is about the mental process (the choice) and behavioral inertia is about the physical expression (the action). Combined, these two forms of inertia create a powerful force of maintaining consistency in your life (good or bad).

If you liked what you read here, then you'll love my new book, Enough! Stop Failing, Start Following Through: A guide for people who are tired of letting themselves down. Available January 11. Pre-order your copy now at or wherever you get your eBooks.

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