If you ever tried to move towards a certain goal, if you ever tried to build a certain skill, you will be familiar with the following scenario: you start out and at first you make progress very fast. You will see your skills improve almost instantly, which will keep you motivated to become better and better. You keep putting in the work, and you keep getting the results that make it worth it. At first. But then something happens. Even though you work hard, your progress starts to slow down. You notice that and because you got hooked on seeing quick results, you want to keep getting them. So you double your effort; Like a junkie chasing his fix, you are chasing the high that you get from seeing your skills improve. But the more you are chasing, the harder you are trying, the less you are advancing, until it seems like no matter huch much you are training, you are not moving forward anymore. Congratulations, you have reached a plateau!
What is a plateau?
A plateau is a period of training in which you seem to not make any progress. You do what you used to do, but you are not getting the results you used to get. It doesn’t make any sense at first sight and can be highly irritating if you don’t know what you are dealing with. Whether it is in sports, fitness, business or other areas, we tend to think goal-oriented. We have something we want to reach and if we are seemingly not getting closer we immediately assume that something is wrong. Most of the time though, we merely reached a plateau. This means that our body, our mind, our personality or even our surroundings need time to adapt to the changes you are going through. When we improve, we are transforming ourselves. But as we grow, the support system that each person builds around himself (body, mind, soul, relationships, willpower….) has to grow as well. And that takes time. So when reaching a plateau, it should not be seen as stagnation. Rather, it gives us much needed time to adapt to changes we are going through. Plateaus should be running starts to taking your skills to the next level.
The danger of plateaus
But what if you are not taking it to the next level? What if you get stuck on your plateau? Well, the problem with plateaus is that you never know how long they will last. As a rule of thumb you can say that the more advanced you are, the longer the plateau will be. Nobody can tell you exactly though how long that will be.
This makes it easy to get frustrated or even quit altogether. Training a skill without seeing any improvement seems pointless at first. Giving up however is the last thing you should do when being on a plateau! This would ruin all the progress you made before. To stop training your skills is the only certain way that you will never improve your skills. This is why it is so important to know that there will be plateaus. You have to be aware that you will stagnate for weeks or even months at a time so that you don’t let that stop you. Just keep pushing forward.
How to overcome plateaus
So how do you keep pushing in order to eventually overcome the plateau? Well, it helps if you see a plateau as a test. You will be on the plateau exactly as long as you need to be until you are ready to take your skills to the next level. So the real growth, not only of your skills but of you as a person, happens during the plateau. This is the time when your dedication to your craft is tested. You will have to demonstrate by your actions that you are in it not for the quick wins, but for the intrinsic joy of the activity itself. The ones that are merely goal-oriented will quit when they hit a plateau and therefore will be weeded out. It is only the process-oriented who are in love with the activity of practise itself that will persist and therefore will reach the next level.
So if you are stuck in a plateau, don’t look ahead. Just look at the practise itself and remind yourself why you fell in love with it in the first place. It is this love that will carry you to the next level.