Life is full of precious moments in which we can, and in fact, must bring in change – in order to keep momentum up. The classic life cycle often patterns out to look like this:
- the stumbling start: full of teething and accidental dip-falls, often due to incapacity or ignorance. This stage is full of learning and so ought to be steeped in reflection.
- the rise and success: which often seems as though it may never end. Here, your morale, motivation and resources, energy and performance are at its highest. The results are showing, and are easy to shout about.
- the plateau: stability and comfort often reign here, and it’s this stage that we are going to focus our attention on today
- the eventual decay and collapse of that which was proving a success: the causes of this stage can be many, but some examples of the biggest influences on decay include distraction, external disasters, depletion of resources, depletion of ideas, loss of morale and change in values. When we examine closer, it’s often not these things themselves that collapse a good thing, but the human response to those things.
Let us apply this concept to the scenario of a new job. Even though it is possible to hit the ground running when landing a new job, there will still always be a few teething problems and mistakes might also be made. But focus on the responsibilities of the role, and provided the company culture, influential factors outside your control, your skillset and your commitment are all firmly in a good place, you’ll find yourself rising to the success of your role.
When you are at the plateau of success, you will have many opportunities to reframe your thinking about where you’re at, and to transform any stagnancy into preparation for the next level. This might be anything from a promotion to a more senior level, to upskilling as a trainer, to embracing an entirely organic change that stemmed from a spark of interest you’ve garnered whilst mastering your trade but takes you down a completely different career path altogether. Whatever decision you make about your future success, know that the plateau would have been the key position that influenced the direction you take, and therefore, here are 5 important things to be aware of…
The plateau is not a time to become stagnant or comfortable
So you’ve gone through the stumbling start and you’ve risen to the top of your game. All is looking a success to you and those who need to see it recognise and reward. What is often not realised here, is that you’re now well into a habit or way of being/doing that is really working out for you – but this is unlikely to last forever. Yes, the past is gone, but at some point, another ‘new’ is about to start. Consider the plateau as a journey of re-patterning and preparation for that next upward climb (or rise and success). It is a fantastic time to grow, largely due to the fact that from a place of ‘comfort’ your resources, energy and high morale gives you breathing room for experimenting, innovating and testing – to see where you would be most happy at the next big stage. More about this in a bit.
The plateau is an opportunity to give a meaning to this opportunity you find yourself in
Keep moving, despite the success. Fine, do enjoy the moments and reap some of the benefits of having put in so much hard work that lead to the success – but turn this into a permanent convenience for yourself, and you may find yourself losing drive and meaning. This is the opportunity to look around (by this, comparing oneself to others is not part of that picture), look at new things, look at things differently, and legitimise opportunities that you find just by simply looking for them. Not only will the meaning of this phase become more meaningful for yourself, but it will become more meaningful for those impacted by your success. Get down your ‘WHY’, and know it and own it too!
The plateau allows you to adapt to your ‘future self’
There’s lots of room for trial and error without it costing you too much (provided you have thought about your experimentation strategically, in a way that suits your time, energy and resources), and it’s here you begin to skill up in adaptability, essentially preparing yourself for changes to come. Try some new routines; learn better ways of managing yourself – your emotions, your time, the expectations others have of you; figure out how to turn into solutions what has become adaptable to you. One of my all-time favourite words is ‘allostasis’. This, my friend, is allostasis, and it’s what I believe is the secret of resilience. A separate blog is written on allostasis [link]. Innovation and experimentation can do a lot for you here, because it serves your adaptability.
The plateau can be a lonely time
Intentional Connection with others is really important at this stage because revelling in one’s own success can be a very lonely event, despite the crowds surrounding you drinking champagne to you and your success. This is often a really good time to volunteer and to ‘give back’ in a way that allows you to share or teach others about how they can help themselves. Not only does it keep you grounded with two feet on the ground, but it also keeps you ‘real’ and connected. Many successful people fool themselves into thinking that they are ‘giving back’ by doing things and charging major bucks for it, but really, there is a profit in it for themselves. This is the opposite of ‘giving without expectation’ – and it keeps one humble. This is often real, human connection and is given in freedom and with authentic charity.
To overlook courage in the plateau phase is to become overly influenced by fear
There is a popular quote by Bridges: “Beginnings follow the timing of the mind and heart”. From this we can deduce three simple principles:
- A beginning may not be a beginning at all if fear has control over us.
- A beginning may not begin when it should, because fear has control over us.
- There may be no initial thought of a beginning, if fear has control over us.
Living in a spirit of courage helps us to recognise the potential of new beginnings, when the time is right for us. We can come up with a lot of excuses when we want to. Which ones are genuine reasons the timing isn’t right, and which ones aren’t genuine reasons? It takes courage to decide which ones are genuine, because often, when we realise we’re only making excuses for ourselves, we must then act with courage, or surrender ourselves to cowardice and fear.
In summary then, the ‘new beginning’ isn’t really the start of the cycle. The start relies on the preparation we had done before we ended up transitioning into the ‘new beginning’. We can really learn this lesson from horticulture. Many trees and plants blossom or flower before leaves and fruits appear. The grand strategy is that these plants put their food reserves into reproduction before all the other plants begin to grow, then spend the rest of the growing season focusing on growth and storing food for the winter. A mass of flowers that bloom together are likely to attract pollinating insects, and if at the same time there are no leaves then this facilitates wind pollination. After having been dormant or dead in the winter, the plant or tree is driven to survive and enforces its reproductive strategy as it wakes up. This happens before we can even consider what its success in fruitfulness would even look like.
May your new beginnings be a journey that leads you from success to success!