A lot of people don’t know this but Isaac Newton was a total party animal. He smoked like a chimney. He drank like a fraternity pledge. No goldfish or flagpole was safe in his presence. And I would prove it by linking to the spot in his Wikipedia page where it says this but Wikipedia wisely locked his entry so I can’t make that edit. Anyway, by working with a Health Coach, Sir Issac became a changed man. Not only did his coach guide him back to the straight and narrow but it was from that experience that Newton developed his three laws of motion. Let’s explore what transpired.
Newton’s First Law of Motion
An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
Newton really loved to party. Not only was it a source of personal enjoyment but his social circle really expected it of him. (That Christopher Wren was such an enabler!!!) He was in a state of inertia, an object at rest. He wasn’t even considering change. Then one day his doctor told him if he didn’t mend his errant ways toute de suite (which was odd because his doctor, like Isaac, was a Brit), he wouldn’t live long enough to invent the calculus. That meant calculus wouldn’t be invented at all (which would have made my high school and college years more pleasant) or, even worse, his arch-rival Gottfried Leibniz would get all the credit.
That news kind of got Newton’s goat (everyone had goats back then too). He sought out a health coach. Newton became an object in motion. And once that happened, he just kept on moving in that direction. Sure, Wren tried to move him back towards relapse. But Newton’s Health Coach had a special kind of kung fu that kept Newton moving towards positive change.
It is thanks to this turn of events, that the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (←a legit Wikipedia link) was born. That model lays out what the stages of change are. Those stages are depicted in the following graph:
As you can see, change is an uphill battle. It’s hard. It requires a purposeful force to make it happen. Like an object at rest, a person needs a reason to make positive changes in his or her life. That reason has to be something that really matters. It can’t be “4 out of 5 doctors recommend against swallowing live goldfish as it can be harmful to one’s math skills.” Newton’s Health Coach had to help Isaac make the connection that Leibniz will get all the fame and glory unless Newton got his act together.
Meanwhile, you had Christopher Wren trying to cause a Newtonian Relapse (which, to credit Dave Barry, would be an excellent name for a rock and roll band). To call Wren an “unbalanced force” would be putting it mildly. Newton’s Health Coach worked with Sir Isaac to come up with strategies to honor his friendship with Wren in a way that would neutralize temptation.
And that brings us to the next law…
Newton’s Second Law of Motion
Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).
Before we delve too far into the second law, it’s important that we note the difference between “weight” and “mass.” To a wide, ahem, mass of folks, “weight” and “mass” are synonymous. But in scientific terms, weight is the force experienced by an object due to gravity. Mass, however, is the amount of matter in an object.
When it comes to habit formation, the longer the habit is held, the more matter it consumes in our mind, our soul, and our being. I know that doesn’t sound very scientific but it’s true. Those habits start to become us. They start to define us. For Newton, he went from Isaac Newton, pious goat farmer to Izzy Newton, Party Animal.
It took a strong but subtle force to accelerate Newton’s transformation. Newton’s health coach knew that the partnership with Isaac would be a lot like pushing a giant boulder up a steep (transtheoretical) hill. With a boulder, you need to compensate for its irregular shape, the grade of the hill, and the direction of the wind. With Newton, the coach helped navigate around lagging confidence, the comfort of old ways, and the temptations of the Beta Phi Zeta Black and White Russian Party.
But before even getting up that hill, the Isaac Newton-Health Coach team had to experience what became…
Newton’s Third Law of Healthy Habit Formation
For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.
Prior to developing a change plan, Newton needed to want to change. Before that fateful doctor visit, Newton had no interest in moving up the aforementioned Transtheoretical Hill. He was in the precontemplation stage (which is a presumptive way of saying “he wasn’t even thinking about it”). Any attempts by the coach to force him into change would be met with an equal and opposite reaction from Newton to stay the same.
Even after the Doctor’s warning, when Newton became “contemplative” about change, he was still ambivalent. He had as many reasons to stay the same as he did to change and staying the same was easier and more fun. Taking action in the direction of change before Newton was fully prepared would have resulted in push back and a beeline to Christopher Wren’s House of Keg Stands and Goldfish.
It wasn’t until his Health Coach helped Newton uncover what really mattered to him that he started to “prepare” for change. By helping Sir Isaac to see that adopting healthy habits would better his chances to one-up Leibniz, Newton became motivated and committed to change. Now they were both moving in the same direction and the opposing force became manageable. In fact, much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Newton had what he needed to get home again all along. And when he took charge of the process, nothing could stop him.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After
It is from this experience that Newton derived his 3 laws of motion and invented the calculus. All while being beaned in the head by an apple tree. But that is a story for another time.