The following is a guest post by Bob Sullivan, co-author of “Getting Unstuck: Breaking Free of the Plateau Effect”
Feeling stuck? It can be incredibly frustrating. As mothers and women, I’m sure you feel stuck in everyday relationships, in careers, in a creative rut — we all get stuck, and we all hate it.
Dr. Hugh Thompson and I have spent many years studying the problem of getting stuck. It’s more universal than you might think and the better news? We have figured out how to help you out of your Plateau!
Believe it or not, there is one thing we’ll bet you are doing wrong when you get stuck, and that’s following the advice almost everyone offers: Try harder. Work more. We want to share with you our exciting methods for freeing yourself from the plateau effect, explained in detail in our new paperback book “Getting Unstuck: Breaking Free of the Plateau Effect.”
First, let me quickly explain how you get into a Plateau. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight, take up a new hobby, or even walked into a foul-smelling bathroom, has encountered the plateau effect in action. It’s simple, really: our bodies are wired to notice dramatic changes, and our senses “wake up” when we are presented with new things. But what happens next? Within only a few minutes, we adjust to our new situation. This has a name: acclimation. It means you “get used” to things, and then you stop noticing them.
Everything you do in life — and we mean everything — will follow this pattern: Beginner’s luck followed by sophomore slump.
However, that’s only the beginning. Plateaus are not an ending. They are more like a rest stop on a highway. And the exciting part is Dr. Thompson and I have found some very reliable methods for getting back on the highway, and “getting someplace.” Here is a taste of common plateau causes, and their antidotes.
1) Going numb — a shock to the system
You’ve resolved to work out and lose weight. In the first two weeks you lost 5 lbs and felt motivated and excited with your progress, but a month later, you’ve still only lost 6 lbs. We all go numb to the familiar around us. How can you “shock” yourself back to feeling again? Try a new workout, don’t do the elliptical everyday-go hiking, or run or for a long walk. If your plateau is at work, ask for a day to shadow an employee in an entirely different division. Or better yet, take a night class in a skill that completely the opposite of your normal task. If you are an accountant, take a fiction writing class. If you are a lawyer, take an art class. Not only will this wake up your mind, studies show learning brand new skills (like a foreign language) later in life can actually stave off Alzheimer’s.
2) Perfectionism — Getting started
A leading cause of plateaus is sticking with the familiar because people are most comfortable where they are most competent. That makes sense. But many people are terrified to leave their comfort zone because they don’t want to make a mistake in front of others, or because they won’t start any project if they aren’t absolutely sure of the outcome. You can see how staying in your competent zone leads to getting stuck. It’s cure: think about the beginning, not the end. Don’t wait until you know the outcome – You don’t need to know everything or get it all right to begin something new.
3) Flow issues — Get creative
There are a number of mechanical reasons that businesses or relationships get stuck. One is called a “step function” or a roadblock. Here’s an example: you want to explore photography, but you don’t have $2,000 to spend on a great camera, and you are worried the fascination might not last, so you are stuck. The antidote: smooth out that step. Can you rent the camera for a few months to make sure this is a new love and not a passing phase? Can you borrow one? Look around, and you’ll see these same blocking issues everywhere. The key is to overcoming them and not letting them keep you stuck.
4) Distraction – Relearn focus
Because our bodies are wired to notice change, marketers invented advertisements that blink and blare and arrest our brains. We live in a world that is now conspiring against us with instant messages and beeping emails, making it impossible to complete tasks without interruption. Distraction is the death of many good ideas, and the problem is getting worse, not better. What can you do about that? Sometimes, nothing. When the kids are screaming, the kids are screaming. But have you done enough to carve out entire free hours, afternoons, even days to give your ideas time to flourish and grow? Could you focus on one thing at a time more efficiently?
Bob Sullivan and Hugh hompson are entrepreneurial analysts with forty years of experience between them researching, writing, and analyzing systems and human nature. Bob Sullivan is an investigative journalist and a New York Times bestselling author of Gotcha Capitalism and Stop Getting Ripped Off.