My friend Jim Randel conducted numerous interviews with people of accomplishment – millionaires, Olympic athletes, corporate leaders, and others – in search of the formula for success.
Every one of his conversations pointed to the same answer in one form or other: perseverance is one of the cornerstones of success.
When we try something new, our first steps are frequently filled with fun and joy. We’re excited about the prospect of a new beginning. Doors are opening that hadn’t before. We’re stretching and growing and dreaming about possibility. We set out on a steep learning curve and seem to be absorbing so much very quickly. It’s exciting and fun.
After a while, though, it seems we’re not making as much progress as we had been. The excitement and novelty of our new venture starts to wear off, and we hit a plateau.
While it may feel like we’ve stalled, this is usually a temporary pause. We typically don’t remain on a steady, upward path; there will be ebbs and flows in our progress.
The plateau – especially the first one – is where many of us become frustrated and simply quit. With a mindset of frustration and impatience, it can be difficult to realize that another leap of progress is awaiting us up ahead. We deprive ourselves the excitement of making the next leap.
The challenge is to recognize when we hit a plateau and understand what it really means.
Plateaus are places where our minds are making sense of what we’re learning. We’re collecting information, consolidating our experiences, mastering our lessons before we can move on to the next level.
The trick is to understand that plateaus happen, and fairly often. It’s critical to keep going – without judgment, second-guessing, or quitting – and simply continue to work. (The assumption is that you’re working correctly. That’s for another post.)
Understanding plateaus has helped me stay on course once I decided what I wanted to do. When things got difficult or frustrating, I’ve had to remind myself that the normal pattern is ebb and flow, not constant obvious progress or endless excitement.
If I had to choose a single, empowering lesson that has helped me manage my fear and change my life, it has been understanding perseverance and learning to love the plateau.