The Great Plateau

What I’ve Been Wrestling With:

The Plateau.

In everything we do there is always the fear of reaching a point where our ability stagnates. This was the feeling I felt in my own writing before changing careers a few months ago. This stage can often be difficult to recognize and even a greater struggle to emerge from.

When I talk about a plateau, know that I am not talking about “peaking”. Think of this plateau as a false peak or a period of slowed progress relating to skills and competency.


How to recognize when we enter a plateau?

The telltale signs of having reached this point can be linked to a number of negative feelings related to your work or skill. A rut can also be a sign, as can a lack of motivation, discipline, and interest or a combination of all of these.

A plateau is not always a bad thing though. Sometimes it is a sign that you have not challenged yourself recently, or that you have lost discipline and are not putting in the time and care for improvement. This phase can become a springboard for great improvement and achievement, but only with the correct mindset.


How do we emerge from our plateau?

Having to emerge from a place of stagnation can sometimes be a defining moment in a creative or athletic endeavor. After having gone through the cycle of plateau, emergence, plateau, emergence–from an athletic, literary, and professional perspective–I have reflected on a few practices to overcome this.

As stated before, a rut can be synonyms for having reached a plateau. The first step in breaking a rut is rethinking your routine. Discipline is hard to teach and harder to learn but is key to continual improvement. Examining where you lack discipline and where you have it can help restructure your routine. Discipline is the foundation of improvement and development. Without it, everything else falls apart.

From personal experience, there have been times when I recognize a plateau, realizing the cause stemmed from a place of comfort. I was no longer pushing myself, becoming comfortable with my situation. To be comfortable is to be complacent, and becoming complacent cripples development. In this personal example, I had become comfortable in my prior career. The job security and the familiarity of the work had crippled me and my writing goals. You do not always need to do something dramatic (like quit your job or change careers), but recognize your situation and consider what is stopping you from improving.

A challenging situation can also be the solution to climbing out of a plateau. Recently, while training (in jujitsu) I noticed a significant advancement in my technique and overall understanding. In the beginning, when transitioning from wrestling to jujitsu, my grappling game was very logarithmic, eventually leveled off. I had learned and then used a similar combination of moves and sequences, so much so that I began to get telegraphed by my training partners. My fellow coaches pushed me to develop new techniques, challenging me to study the sport and put myself in situations and positions I normally did not initiate. Sometimes challenging your norm and getting comfortable in uncomfortable situations will assist you in emerging from a plateau.


So Try Wrestling with This.

Have you approached a plateau in your life? What does your discipline look like? How can you challenge your norms? What systems do you have to get out of a rut? Let me know what you use and if this was helpful.


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