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Action Plans and Comfort Zones

Don’t look now, but as I post this on February 9th, we’re almost 11% through the year. How are those New Year’s Resolutions looking? Yeah, I know what you mean. Action plans without execution soon fall away like so many broken dreams.

I don’t make resolutions, I chip away at habit formation. I’m particularly locked in on writing every day, as quirky and all over the map as it might be for the reader. I’m a streaker, if you will, committing to not breaking streaks in the habits I want to have in my life. Writing, reading, learning a bit of a foreign language or two, getting a full night’s sleep and eating relatively well are consistently checked off on the streak list.

But then there are the broken streaks: rowing and lifting every day, not drinking on weekdays, and some work productivity goals that pain my friend on sabbatical too much to mention. My action plan for each of these have all succumbed to the comfort zone. It’s so much easier to just make a coffee first thing in the morning and begin writing than it is to jump on the rowing ergometer and row for 10,000 meters. It’s so much more pleasant to have a glass of red wine with dinner than to drink yet another glass of water. Comfort trumps committed action when you haven’t established routine.

So I’ve put the action plan aside in favor of the habit tracker. Each morning I have my reckoning, checking off the things I did the day before. And leaving a glaring void where the things I meant to do (or not do) missed a day. And then I try to avoid having two of those voids in a row. Sometimes it works, sometimes I go a long, long way between check marks.

Ultimately, life is meant to be lived to our fullest extent possible. But we live in a pay me now, pay me later reality. The bad habits add up, just as the good habits do. Decide what to be and go be it. But don’t lie to yourself.

I still make action plans, but now I try to identify the key daily steps that lead to success down the road. Sometimes I succeed, often I don’t. But I just keep trying to check the box. After all, there’s a certain comfort in established habits too.

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