Beware! Progress is the Devil’s Playground!!

Progress is the Devil's Playground!

Progress is the Devil's Playground!

I’m learning a bit about my relationship to COMFORT ZONES in this process. The good news is that over the past few weeks I have been making PROGRESS! (I will be measured later this week…. check out the “results” page….). I am no longer wearing my fat pants. I’m moved into “Week 4” of the swimming training program, and I’m all-around feeling better. Yeah!

That’s also the bad news…. I’m feeling better and have slipped into a COMFORT ZONE — the comfort zone of “oh, I’m doing pretty well so I can relax a bit…” A few months ago — when I felt like my circumstances were DIRE — my motivation to change was really high because I had slipped BELOW my comfort zone into the territory of “Oh My God Things Must Change!” I could no longer tolerate the weight gain, increasing chest pain, and general low energy. I was so uncomfortable I had to create change. Now, after a few months of focus on diet and exercise, I have slipped INTO my comfort zone… and I have been noticing how seductive it is to take a break from all this hard work and indulge myself a bit. That little voice in the back of my head says “Oh, go ahead… you’ve lost some weight and you’re doing great…. you can have a muffin (or bagel or cookie or sandwich….).

What is your experience with comfort zones?

What is your experience with comfort zones?

This weekend I felt myself being seduced by my progress. I think that the GAP between my current reality and my goal has got to stay sharp and important. It is this gap that creates the discomfort that puts some gas in the engine. Robert Fritz, author of ”Path of Least Resistance“ and other works on creativity, refers to this gap as the ”creative tension.“ He notes that systems want to resolve their inherent tension — and that release can happen either by moving toward the goal, or by diminishing the goal and relaxing back into current reality.

I know that it’s also important to celebrate progress. The satisfaction of moving forward can also be fuel in the engine. I know that the more I stick to my plan and move forward, the more motivated I feel to keep going. So, both of these things are true. I think that a key for me is to be vigilant about keeping a sharp focus on my heart-of-hearts goal, without allowing progress to lull me into the comfort zone in an indulgent way.

And so…. I hereby recommit to my goal, recommit to this process. I must set the goals for this process that I TRULY want… not that are merely “adequate” and have me get comfortable and lazy. For example, as far as my weight is concerned, I notice (if I’m willing to really fess up and be honest) that I have two goals…. the first is the “realistic” goal… the one that I think I can attain and that some part of me is willing to settle for as good enough — this would be getting myself down to the 160-165 lb range. Then, there is my “heart of hearts” goal — the place that feels like a stretch, but that I know if I attained it would make a substantial difference in my life. This would be to get down to the 150-155 lb range. As I write that, it makes me squirm with discomfort… (yeah!). I hereby claim that goal!

I have a question for you: When you are deeply committed to a goal that is meaningful to you (but requires discipline and discomfort to attain), which of these circumstances are MOST LIKELY to throw you off track? Take this poll below, and as always I’d love any reactions you want to share!

Again, THANK YOU for your support and encouragement…. I’m excited to report that there will be T-Shirts for the team of us competing in the triathlon and for anyone who comes to cheer us on! Our team of competitors now includes…. myself, John, Kerry (and her husband JB as our resident babysitter and flat-tire fixer, Lina, Erica and her husband Chris). I am still waiting for someone in some far-away place to challenge me to do a triathlon with them in their hometown…. is that you??

Love you,


~ by Art on March 10, 2009.

12 Responses to “Beware! Progress is the Devil’s Playground!!”

  1. Hi Art,
    First of all I want you to know I have (almost) the same ridiculous hat and it definitely puts me a different perspective when I wear it. I don’t wear it often and i’m glad that because I love that the perspective to be novel each time.
    I want you to know that I am with you as you go for the Finish Line. I know this line is literal as well as symbolic, which makes it and especially good kind of finish line . So you go, guy!
    Thanks for this weekend.

    • Thank you Kate! So glad to get your message. It was a joy being with you this weekend. Yes, this hat is a terrific structure!



  2. Hey Art, I think it’s a pretty common sentiment that the biggest downer to staying motivated is feeling like you’ve made less progress than expected. I’ve felt it myself with regard to my boxing training on many occasions.

    I think what you have to do in times like this is to just keep your head down and keep working hard for the sake of working hard. The fact that you’re still sticking to an intense training & dieting routine for this long is a huge accomplishment in itself. The scale and the tape measure don’t lie, but they also aren’t the only measures of progress either. This is about a lifestyle change, and sometimes, there are going to be plateaus, even backward slips. The important thing is to stick to the plan no matter what the intermittent progress reports say. That is what will get the desired results over the long term.

    You WILL reach your goals! Just stay patient, don’t get discouraged, and keep pushing yourself as hard as you can tolerate. -Kevin

    PS I’ve got you down for Friday morning at 7am. If that’s no good, let me know. Thanks

  3. Hi Art,

    Are you having fun in the process? I hope you are! I am interested in the balance between having fun and achieving the goal. When I set the goal, I often become too serious and focus on the result, and then I forget about enjoying the process.

    While I cannot do triathlon with you, I started 40 minutes of exercise every morning and it is certainly shifting my life! I continue to sending good thoughts and vibe to you from Japan.


  4. Hello dear one:

    What?? I thought that I looked the best with the pom poms?-:) No. . .you’re absolutely correct. As I play it out in my minds eye, John with pom poms does kind of jump out at you-:)

    I love you! I love the way in which you are opening to this process, allowing yourself to be touched, shaped and grown by it.

    On goals. ..I once heard a motivational speaker say something like this “Choose goals not for the goal itself but for who you will get to become in the process of aspiring to it”.

    I love that word, “aspire” it has both reaching and inspiration in it. speaks to our innate desire to BECOME, to evolve and change. And at the center of that is love. ..always. For me, the answer to that question of “what am I aspiring to” consistently some version of “more love”. For myself. For my life. For the world that I am creating with every breath. For Henry, I think that word is “consciousness” which is maybe just another way to say “love”. Of course, that’s how I see it!

    I too am struck by your “heart of hearts” goal. It IS an interesting choice of words. What is the “heart of hearts” that you are aspiring to for and with yourself?

    I love being able to read your blog and track this journey with you Art. Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Karen,

      You will look darn good in those Pom Pom’s too! Did I tell you that all cheerleaders will get a T-Shirt???

      I think that at the heart of the heart-of-heart goal, I aspire to deep acceptance and gratitude for life exactly as it is – side-by-side with the knowledge that I choose life to its fullest (including the choice to be fit and healthy… and the choice to walk when I can’t run… and crawl when I cannot walk….) at every step of the way.

      Thanks so much for being on the journey with me…. means a great deal.

      Love you,


  5. Art,

    First off, you look friggin’ amazing! (that’s a technical term)

    AND, you’re being really hard on yourself. I did read that you agree that celebrating is important too. I just didn’t read much about how you are celebrating…?

    I love what you said about your heart-of-hearts goal. Did you mean to use that phrase? Your “heart-of-hearts” goal??? What would that be aside from the weight? What if your Heart of Hearts had something to say about how you’re approaching this comfort zone?

    You are soo dedicated, soo committed – without question or debate. So, according to YOUR Capital H, Heart-of-Hearts, what else is being called for? How can you ‘indulge’ your HEART-of-HEARTS? Could it be, perhaps, with love?

    With soo much of that for you and your quest,

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for your note…. makes me smile….. OK OK I get the message! I will reflect a bit on the degree of compassion that I have for myself in this endeavor!



  6. Hmm…I’m kinda anti-goal! Something about the whole idea just puts me off – maybe it’s the business connotation. I used to be so big on goals that I had to learn how to let go and let stuff happen in its own way instead. Maybe it’s just the word.

    I just started writing a new book, and I find that trying to be disciplined about writing is just not working at all. If I wait for the muse to strike, I am much more successful. All it requires is a reminder of the bigger dream to write and not watch more of Buffy Season 2.

    Well that was no answer at all to your question but I guess that’s all I’ve got for today!

    Cheering you on, holding you high,

    • Hi you sweet thing!

      Why am I not surprised that you are anti-goal???

      I hear you…. sometimes being really goal-focused really does backfire for me, too…. and at the same time sometimes it helps me. I know at the moment I’m really struggling with food and weight, and it seems important to keep my goal sharply in focus.

      Thanks for your cheering…. thinking of you doing so makes me laugh and smile!



  7. Art,
    It’s really hard to choose on factor that contributes to backsliding from goals for me. I think, though, that a “lack of progress” seems to resonate the most. Even as I write this I’m struck by the narrow definition of progress that I hold in my head particularly when it comes to issues of health & fitness. I think the challenge for me is broadening the definition of progress so that it’s not just about a number on a scale or on a tape measure but broken down into smaller accomplishments. When I am successful at broadening the definition of progress, it strikes me how energized I can feel simply by knowing I have a plan and am sticking to it regardless of the outcome. In the moments when I feel victorious over the temptations of laziness, food, comfort, fatigue or whatever else, I want to experience that as progress in its own rite. Certainly the outcome matters but our black & white thinking about it seems to be a set-up for disappointment. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up for our perceived shortcomings rather than reveling in the day-to-day small successes.

    • I know I need to give myself a break a bit…. as you know… the measurements that I had done AFTER written about progress showed much LESS progress than I had thought…. and I got very discouraged. One one hand, I’ve been living a much much more healthy way in the past few months and am getting in better shape…. that’s great. And…. it is also imperative that I lose weight and stay focused on that as a goal, too…. it does matter. I’m impatient!

      As always thanks for your cheerleading…. you are the best and you look the best with the pom-poms, too…


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