The Wave Diagram


As I was deciding whether or not to pursue a PhD in the field of education here at Stanford, I noticed that I kept talking, thinking, and writing about “momentum.” I communicated as much to others as to myself some momentum that was pulling me in one direction or pushing me in another. To explore the notion of momentum and really understand where it was coming from, I needed an image or metaphor. The result of my design is the wave diagram.

A single wave showcases some beautiful physics. Waves gain their circular shape because the water molecules inside the wave themselves move in circular motion. When large enough, the wave might also receive help from the wind, which pushes it forward. But then the wave breaks, and it does so with a certain force upon impact. A wave therefore exhibits internal, external, and impact momentum, respectively. Once I formulated this model, I translated these three types of momentum to my own life/career options:

  • Internal Momentum – The internal momentum represents all of the effort one expends and achievement one attains in the pursuit of realizing a new life/career path. This type of momentum is all about “What I am doing to making this future happen.”
  • External Momentum – The external momentum represents all of the conditions and trends in one’s environment that help in the pursuit of realizing a new life/career path. This type of momentum is all about “What my environment is doing to making this future happen.”
  • Impact Momentum – The impact momentum represents all of the results one expects and rewards one foresees in the wake of realizing the pursued new life/career path. This type of momentum is all about “What splash am I going to make with this new future.”

The three definitely work together to create a comprehensive understanding of the forces acting on us for each option we are considering.

Wave Diagram Illustration

In the example above, I include 3-4 bullet points per momentum. In reality, my lists were significantly longer, especially when I was filling out the external momentum. I created one of these wave diagrams for each of my options I was deciding between, and the diagrams provided me with a clear visual way of understanding what was pulling me toward each.

I have begun using the wave diagram to evaluate business plan strategies, thesis research directions, and even vacation travel plans. Thus far, the diagrams have been serving me well, and I will continue to refine them as my experience with them evolves.

Wave Diagram Template

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