Static and Kinetic Friction

Static Friction > Kinetic Friction

I love analogies, especially analogies between life and physics. On a recent run, I was thinking about the parallel between static friction and the forces that keep us from starting things. We all remember the physics experiment from 8th grade, where we put a block of wood or plastic on a ramp, and see how high we can angle the ramp before the block starts moving. In order for the block to start moving, it has to overcome the static friction, which is the frictional force at work at rest, when the surfaces have time to settle and create a sort of frictional bond. Once the block got started, it only has to overcome kinetic friction, the friction against the object when it is motion. Kinetic frication is always lower than static friction. This point is reinforced by the experiment. You need to get to a much higher angle to overcome the static friction, but with a slight nudge at even a much lower ramp angle, the block will keep going.

Life is very similar. The hardest part of any project or activity is starting it. The status quo is comfortable, it’s easy, it’s known. Something new is uncomfortable, hard, unknown, risky. But everyone knows that. What’s easier to forget is that once you start, the resistant forces, while still present, are actually much lower than what kept (or delayed) you from starting.
So whether you’re lying in bed hating the run you said you’d go on, or hemming and hawing about a project you want to kick off, just start it. Trick yourself into starting it if you need. Start small. For example, if you’re having trouble running regularly, just tell yourself you’ll turn around after 5 minutes in the run if you don’t feel like continuing. You’ll likely never actually turn around after 5 minutes, because you’ll be warmed up, and you’ll feel good, but that trick will get you out of bed.

Whatever it takes to overcome the static friction, just do it.