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December 15, 2023

What You Need To Know About A Plateau

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As individuals who are inspired by our personal growth, it can be frustrating to get stuck in a plateau. If you’re not familiar with the term, a plateau is when things start to level off after a steep incline. Our health plateaus when we stop losing weight even though we’re still working out. Sales plateau when the same tactics and strategies no longer produce the same growth. Our happiness plateaus when even though we go on new trips, meet new people, and try new things, we still feel the same level of fulfillment.

Ultimately a plateau is a sustained period where the things that used to be improving or increasing are no longer changing. It’s a horizontal flat line on a graph that comes after a steep growth curve up and to the right.

Our response to hitting a plateau is often devastating. Since we’re no longer being rewarded by the actions and effort put in to achieve a result we’re no longer getting, we often lose motivation. We stop doing the things that have been proven to be helpful because the current results suggest that what we were doing is no longer effective. But just because the external elements of things aren’t changing does not mean that the tactics and actions aren’t working.

Let me use science to explain this perspective, specifically, the concept of water boiling.

Water boils at 100°C or 212°F. But when the water hits that temperature, it doesn’t immediately turn into water vapor. When water is boiling in a pot on a stove, there’s a time when you add more heat and energy from the stove into the water and nothing changes - it doesn’t get warmer or turn into water vapor. So what’s happening?

Not to get too complex, but the reason water is resistant to heat at its boiling temperature is because the heat is being used to break bonds between water molecules. All this to say, from our perception it appears as though nothing is happening, but beyond our perception the process is continuing on just as it was before. That is until eventually, it overcomes these molecular bonds and begins vaporizing as we’d expect it to.

Is it possible that this is the same concept that is happening when we hit personal plateaus? That even though we’re not losing more weight or making more sales we’re still making invisible progress?

So this is what you need to know about a plateau. There are two reasons why you might hit a plateau. The first is that you’ve saturated your efforts and maximized the impact of your efforts. Second is that you’ve hit a temporary roadblock that you need to work through to get back to growth. It’s not an immediate signal to change course but rather a reminder to stay consistent.

It’s hard to know which is the reason for the plateaus you experience, but at the very least now you’re better prepared to handle them more effectively.

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