A plateau. A place where you feel stuck and it seems like nothing can change that. Gladly, there are strategies to change that! Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield and Tim Grover all wrote great perspectives on the processes of life and in this article I will go through the ones that help you to break through plateaus.
We all experience it: we start a new process and get really fired up and motivated. It gives us energy and joy to work on it. But, after a while the motivation will disappear. From there on, your results are determined by your discipline. That is where a lot of people get stuck.
It can also be something you have been working really disciplined and hard on for ages, but it seems that you are not progressing anymore lately and cannot find out why. That plateau has something to do with the patterns of your behavior (actions).
Seth Godin wrote a great book about experiencing the first scenario, which is called ‘The Dip’. It is a great book about perseverance and quitting. He cited a writing of Vince Lombardi in his book: “Quitters never win and winners never quit”.
Read that quote again. What do you think about it? Seth Godin thinks it is bad advice. According to him, winners quit all the time. They just quit at the right stuff at the right time.
Quitting the right stuff comes down to self-awareness. If you are working on something, ask yourself questions like:
-Am I naturally inclined to do this?
-Is this process aligned to my long-term vision?
If yes, great! Keep at it. Do not give up. If you experience a plateau, it is probably something that Seth Godin calls ‘The Dip’.
So, what is The Dip?
On the left we can see the typical curve for the Dip. Almost every situation in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip. When you start something off, it is fun and exciting. A new process, which can be everything. It can be writing your first book, starting a new sport, staring a new course. The people around you encourage it and you feel motivated.
The first few days, weeks, you grow rapidly. The process is new and you can learn and apply a lot of things. Your progression is solid. Whatever your new process is, it is easy to stay engaged in it.
However, that slows down. And then the Dip happens. The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. The Dip is the difference between the ‘easy’ beginner technique and the more useful ‘expert’ approach. The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s luck and real accomplishment.
It is easy being a CEO. What is hard, is getting there. There is a huge Dip along the way. Which is a good thing. Because the Dip creates scarcity. Scarcity is the secret to value. If there was no a dip, there would be no scarcity.
Successful people do not ride the Dip out with patience. No. They go all in. When they acknowledge the Dip, they go even harder. They fight against it and change the rules as they go. Just because you are in the Dip does not mean you have to stay in it and be content. That way the Dip lasts longer. Maybe even forever. The real winners go against the Dip.
Go against the Dip. Break through your plateaus.
When you feel stuck and it feels like you cannot break through a plateau, you experience something which Steven Pressfield calls ‘Resistance’.
To overcome Resistance, you have to define what Resistance is, combat it and going far beyond it. Steven Pressfield writes about those three elements in his book, The War of Art.
What is Resistance?
The first step before you can overcome Resistance is to understand what Resistance actually is. Most people think that they are the only ones struggling with Resistance. They are wrong. Everyone struggles with Resistance.
Resistance is the invisible force that holds you back. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. Resistance is a repelling force. It is negative. Resistance is the enemy to every (creative) process. It is hesitation. It is procrastination. It is fear.
Now that we have defined Resistance, it is time to overcome Resistance by turning pro.
You can only turn pro when you combat Resistance.
Do this by using this Principle of Priority, which states that (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what is important first.
You can already guess what is important: the work. That is the game you need to play and suit up for. Day in day out. You have to overcome the Resistance that holds you back from doing the work. How? By just doing the work.
The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear before he can do the work. The professional knows that fear can never be fully overcome. There will always be fear. That form of Resistance will always be there. You need to know that there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist. However, the best warriors and artists are those who execute, even when they feel fear.
Steven Pressfield defines the professional by the following qualities:
- We show up every day.
- We show up no matter what.
- We stay on the job all day.
- We are committed over the long haul.
- The stakes for us are high and real.
- We accept remuneration for our labor.
- We do not overidentify with our jobs.
- We master the technique of our jobs.
- We have a sense of humor about our jobs.
- We receive praise or blame in the real world.
Acknowledge the Resistance and combat it by just doing the work. Overcome Resistance. Turn pro.
Going beyond Resistance
Now that we have defined Resistance and talked about ways to overcome Resistance, it is time to talk about going beyond Resistance.
When we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something funny starts to happen. A process is set into motion. A process that sets unseen forces into action.
When we keep sitting down and putting in the work, we become like magnets. We attract more ideas, more insights and get in a state of flow more often. When you overcome Resistance like a pro, day in and day out, it will skyrocket your creative process. So, go beyond Resistance. Become a magnet.
Try to break through your plateau by consistently overcoming Resistance.
In the book Relentless, Tim Grover explains that there are three categories of people who achieve things and what their results are. The Cooler, Closer and Cleaner. The Cleaner is the most superior and high achieving of all of them.
I think by becoming (or being) a Cleaner you have the capabilities to break through every plateau. Try to become a Cleaner by working on the thirteen traits Cleaners have.
*As you can see, each trait is labeled as #1. Because if you give people a list they think #1 is the most important and #13 the least. This is not the case with the next traits. They are all important. Work on all of them and they will help you to break through your plateaus.
When you are a cleaner:
#1. You keep pushing yourself harder when everyone else had enough.
#1. You get into the Zone, shut out everything else, and control the uncontrollable.
#1. You know exactly who you are.
#1. You have a dark side that refuses to be taught to be good.
#1. You are not intimidated by pressure, you thrive on it.
#1. When everyone else is hitting the “In Case Of Emergency” button, they are all looking for you.
#1. You do not compete with anyone. You find your opponent’s weakness and attack.
#1. You make decisions, not suggestions; you know the answer while everyone else is still asking questions.
#1. You do not have to love your work, but you are addicted to the results.
#1. You would rather be feared than liked.
#1. You trust very few people, and those you trust better never let you down.
#1. You do not recognize failure; you know there is more than one way to get what you want.
#1. You do not celebrate your achievements because you always want more.
Break Through A Plateau
Plateaus are a part of the process that is inevitable. It is on you to identify the plateau and find ways to break through it. I highly advise you use the strategies of Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield and Tim Grover above. They are not quick-fixes to your ‘problem’. They are just a strategy to go on the offense, in stead of patiently waiting for this plateau to fade away (which it will not).