Plateaus, those moments where it feels like progress has stopped and the stagnancy of same has set in. Everyone experiences plateaus, but I’ve yet to meet the person who would admit to enjoying them. Whether in relationships, life, or leadership, getting stuck on a plateau can quickly strip all the joy of the work that came before it away, leaving only frustration and angst in its wake.
Painful as these plateaus may be they’re a reality of life that can’t be escaped, but I’ve found that with the right mindset any plateau can be pushed through. Want to make sure a plateau doesn’t keep you from accomplishing all that God has laid on your heart to do? Here are five ways to push through the next one you face.
- Remember the Why
There are two basic ways to respond to a plateau. Embracing the one will sap you of your energy and discourage you, while turning to the other can be an incredibly invigorating experience. When we’re faced with a plateau we need to learn to remember the why from behind us instead of looking at the results in front of us.
Plateaus by their nature aren’t times of great results. They’re times of diminishing returns, times where if the only way you have to motivate yourself to work is through results you can see you’ll just end up discouraged. That’s why plateaus are great for looking at the “why” of what got us started doing what we’re doing that’s behind us instead of the results that are in front of us.
A few months ago I started lifting weights again for the first time in about half a decade. After those first few weeks of pain my results were immense. It felt like every workout I was upping my reps and gaining muscle. But these days things are different. I’m still making progress, but it’s slower than it was back then.
When I was first starting out my results were sufficient motivation to get to the gym every week, but not anymore. Now that I’ve reached a plateau I’ve learned to motivate myself by looking not to my results, but to the why behind those results. Where the results have changed, the why hasn’t. Even as my results have slowed working out still keeps me healthy, still makes me feel good, and still helps me score points with the better half (happy wife happy life, right)? When faced with a plateau focus on the why behind you and not the results in front of you to power through.
Ask the Uncomfortable Questions
Let’s face it, when things are going great we don’t usually take the time to slow down and do some deep reflection on who we are and what we’re doing. When you’ve got momentum keeping up with the frenetic pace of the day to day is challenging enough, and taking time away from that to think deeply about the nuts and bolts of how things are working seems like a luxury at best and an exercise in foolishness at worst.
But things are different when you’re at a plateau. The challenge shifts from finding time to keep up with ever growing momentum to finding the same energy to pour into the day you once did when results were better. But this slower season doesn’t have to be a wasted one.
Plateaus provide an amazing opportunity to ask the uncomfortable questions about your organization. Why have our results slowed? Is there any way we can improve our systems? What needs to change for us to be more effective in advancing our mission?
These are the questions that would be easy to fail to slow down and ask in seasons of growth, but are the ones that can make all the difference in propelling you to even further heights of success. Plateaus give us space to slow down and ask the uncomfortable questions that drive results.
Change the Routine
There’s no better time to try something new and change the routine than when facing a plateau. Why? Because by definition plateaus mean the status quo isn’t working. And because the definition of insanity is to do the same thing but expect different results if your outcomes are going to change you’re going to have to change the input that’s producing the current output.
Changing a routine is never easy and often scary- but if you’re plateaued it’s always worth it. So make some changes and experiment. Chances are if you’re plateaued you’ll have some momentum for change, no one likes being stuck. So take advantage and try things you wouldn’t otherwise try. The results may surprise you. You’re already plateaued, what have you really got to lose?