By Ethan Maurice | February 9, 2016
In every movie, there's an event or decision that alters the course of a character's life. A moment that sets them down a path or jolts the main character from their everyday routine. This moment is referred to by screenwriters as the inciting incident.
The inciting incident in Spiderman is when Peter Parker is bit by a super spider. In the Hunger Games, it's when Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place as tribute. In the Hangover, it's when they realize Doug is missing, and nobody can remember what happened.
The word inciting is derived from incitare, a Latin word which means “to press, drive, or impel to action.” In a movie, the inciting incident is the essential tool that launches the main character into some sort of journey.
Inciting incidents don't just exist in movies though—they spark all endeavors. And though they may be less dramatic than the inciting incidents of blockbuster movies, we can create our own inciting incidents that compel us to do incredible things.
Travelers create their first inciting incident by one day just deciding to buy that damn plane ticket. For runners, it's usually signing up and committing to their first race. For college students, it's the moment they pay their enrollment deposit.
Once an inciting incident occurs, something in us changes. We no longer think of an endeavor as something we'd LIKE to do in the future, but rather something we ARE going to do. We've set ourselves on a path. We can no longer stall or think how nice it would be to do that someday. After an inciting incident, we are going to do it, and there are consequences if we don't take action.
You can use this.
What's something awesome you want to do? Maybe you want to get a better job? Start working out? Travel somewhere exotic? Learn a language? Develop a skill? Or undertake some sort of endeavor?
Think about it for a minute. What do you want to do? What would it's inciting incident be?
What's so incredible is that creating an inciting incident is often ridiculously easy. Want to learn to rock climb? Sign up for a rock climbing gym. BOOM. You're now going to learn how to rock climb. Learning to rock climb might not be easy, but signing up to learn is. Once you've paid to sign up (the inciting incident), you have the consequence of wasting money if you don't go. If wasting your money isn't a strong enough consequence, artificially make the consequences stronger. Make a rigid contract with someone that if you don't go a certain number of times, you have to pay them too or do some painstakingly large deed for them.
The best inciting incidents make it easier to follow through than to back out. Buying rock climbing shoes does not count as an inciting incident. With rock climbing shoes sitting in your closet, you could justify waiting years before you went rock climbing. Your inciting incident should constantly compel you to take action.
All that's standing between you and becoming a rock climber, traveling somewhere exotic, or anything else you want to do is the right inciting incident—the event that will force you to start.
So... Figure out what your inciting incident is and create it.
I'm calling you out and holding you accountable. Sure, I can't force you to do anything, but if you know your inciting incident and don't follow through, some little part of you will know that you're cheating yourself. That you're taking the easy way out and trying to forget that you're squandering the incredible opportunity that life affords us.
Take two minutes and comment below with the awesome thing you want to do and what your inciting incident is. Once you've put it out there for the world to see, you'll be less tempted to back out... which almost makes commenting an inciting incident for your inciting incident. We can create this incredible wall of inspiring undertakings that we can not only be proud of courageously committing to, but will help reinforce others to commit to their own. Share this article and you get double the points.
Thank you and best of luck in your new quest.