How many times have you watched a football game and one team gets up by around 10 to 14 points late in the third quarter and starts to play not to lose? They go into a prevent defense and then on offense start calling some very safe running plays to try to take some time off of the clock. The team they are playing begins to hit a few passes because the coverage is a little looser. They gain a little confidence and get a little rhythm going and things begin to click for their offense. They move down the field and are able to score. The team that was ahead realizes that they have to tighten things up and start running their regular offense and defense again. Often times, it is too late though, because they have lost focus and start playing tight. They make a mistake or two and the other team continues to build up steam. The team that is behind moves down the field and scores late to go ahead and win the game.
How does that happen? One team loses momentum and the other gets momentum. There is a common phrase you hear that goes, “Success Breeds Success.” We don’t think that much about it but little victories give us confidence, confidence gives us a belief in the system, a belief in the system gives us focus, and focus makes us unstoppable.
Last year, the Connecticut men’s basketball team was thought to be an average team at best and barely made the NCAA tournament as a #7 seed. They had shown a few flashes of greatness during the season but had just as many times when they just didn’t show up. As they entered the NCAA tournament their team began to gel and play better team basketball. There two star guards began to play with a chemistry they had not played with all season and their role players started to believe in their system. They went on a run in the tournament and went on to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats team loaded with McDonalds All-Americans to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball title.
In 1983, NC State needed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament just to make the NCAA tournament. They were able to beat a Michael Jordan led North Carolina team and a Ralph Sampson led Virginia team and win the ACC tournament. They made the NCAA tournament as a #6 seed. They continued to play better with each game and reached the title game against a Houston team led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler known as Phi Slamma Jamma. They kept the game close and with the game tied Derek Whittenburg threw up a long air ball that was caught and dunked by Lorenzo Charles as time expired. NC State, led by Coach Jim Valvano, became known as the Cardiac Pack and won the NCAA Tournament.
Companies spend millions of dollars each year working with leadership gurus on how to spark momentum in their companies. Let’s look at some truths about momentum that we might be able to put to use in our marriages and families. We will start with some ways that we might be able to build momentum in our marriage and family.
Dan Rockwell with Leadership Freak describes momentum as a “series of successful endings, not beginnings.” Momentum is only beneficial if we carry it out over the long haul. If we set out with good intentions all of the time without finishing anything we defeat any benefits we could gain from it.
John Maxwell describes a truth about momentum to say that it “magnifies a success.” When we have a victory or a breakthrough we need to celebrate it. In your marriage, when you overcome a difficult time or decision, acknowledge that as a success and identify it as a special time. Sometimes our kids are going through things and we try to encourage them to make decisions that may not always be popular. Celebrate when you can see that your influence is making a difference.
Maxwell also says that “momentum shrinks problems and obstacles.” A lot of times we find that when we have our focus on the best in our marriage the noise doesn’t seem near as loud. I read a story recently about a woman who decided that she didn’t want to be married anymore to her husband because he wasn’t as godly as her. One day after he left for work, she packed up with their newborn and headed off to her parents to leave him. Her mom told her that she could leave him with their blessing if she completed one task. She told her to take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side write down all of the things that her husband does that she has a problem with. Realizing that her mom was probably going to ask her to write down all of the good things that her husband does on the right side, she worked really hard to really nitpick and produce as many negatives as she could on the left side of that paper. Her mom then told her to write down how she responded to each of the things that she had a problem with on the right side. This took her by surprise but she did as her mom requested and provided a response for each of her issues with her husband. Her mom then took the paper and tore it down the middle and handed the right side back to her. She told her to go home and spend some time looking at what she had written down. She went home and started looking over the list and as she looked at each response she had she began to realize how her reactions maximized her problems with her husband. She went back home and unpacked her bags and began to change the way she approached her problems with her husband and the problems began to shrink. When she began to focus on her husband’s strengths and not get annoyed by his weaknesses her marriage began to have momentum that it did not have before.
Michael Hyatt describes how we can shift momentum by using sports coaching analogies. He says that often times a coach may call a time out in a game in order to give his team a break, assess the game situation, and also it might disrupt the other team’s momentum. Sometimes a coach will substitute a player into the game that may give an advantage in a certain game situation. A coach may also bench a player that isn’t performing in a way that makes the team better. A coach can also use a trick play or surprise the other team to switch momentum quickly. Sometimes a coach may even take a technical foul to try to show the team that he is committed to them and that might unite the team to play more as one.
John Maxwell also says that momentum enhances performance. Have you ever seen a three point shooter get hot in a basketball game? At some point he starts to believe that the basketball is going to go in every time. Some people describe a shooter in basketball as someone who has no memory of missing. They will keep putting up shots even when it might not be going in because they refuse to believe that they will fail. When we are putting momentum to work in our marriage, there is a feeling that things are going to be better. We tend to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses during periods of momentum.
Lastly, Maxwell says that momentum makes change easier. When we are in periods of momentum we are more likely to let go of some things that may be in the way of our momentum. When we are in a stagnant season we tend to want to control because that gives us security when we are weak. When things are going well we are more open to try to make changes that may increase our happiness and success.
Many of us struggle to find periods of momentum in our jobs, marriage, family, or life. It is a hard thing to really get a grasp on because it is not easy to create but easy to destroy. We can try to maximize the direction of our momentum by choosing how we invest our time, energy, and effort. Do we invest in our wife, family, bible study, prayer, and job? Dan Rockwell describes momentum as “hope, courage, energy, and focus.” Evaluate your priority for these things this week.