That Flat Place...
I don’t know about you, but when I hit a plateau, I feel stuck! It’s that flat place you’ve reached after gaining ground, yet now there’s little change or progress. It feels like there’s nowhere to move and if you do move too far, you’ll fall off a cliff! Confusion, self-doubt and discouragement creep in like a slow-moving stream of muddy water. You with me here? You’ve been there too, right? In fact, you’ve probably been there multiple times just like I have.
Our personal lives are very connected to our professional lives. Your mindset during those times you hit a plateau has the potential to destroy your momentum and drive, at least momentarily. We are emotional creatures and not quite like my little dog, Amelia. No matter the circumstance, she bounces right back to jump in my lap. She looks at me with sad eyes when I leave, rolling on her back for me to rub her tummy, but all is forgotten as soon as I walk in the door and I’m smothered with dog-kisses.
Look at the Hard Facts
O.K., enough about my dog! Where do we start? First, we need to realistically take stock of where we are. How bad is it, really? I have found that when I remove the emotional feelings of being lost out of the picture, I’m able to look at the hard facts and even learn from the situation. This is where the principle: Hindsight is 20/20 comes in. How often have you looked back at a situation and been super-grateful that something didn’t happen, especially because your life could look a lot different today? I sure have, especially with relationships! (But I won’t go there!)
As you take a realistic look at where you are, take the time to evaluate what is working, then what isn’t working. I’d encourage you to actually write this out. (Yes, I’m old-school and very visual!) You want to be able to honestly look at the facts and realize they may not be as bad as you imagine. However, don’t be scared if they are! There’s hope! Here is where you now need to take some time for you.
So many of us as solopreneurs do, do and do some more. I’m talking to the choir here because I definitely follow suit many times in the artist-space. However, I’ve learned that not only my mindset, but my ability to lead and to run a business is elevated when spending time away from it even for a short time, looking at it from a different perspective. There are positive steps I take here. I start listening and reading as my first go-to. I started listening to audiobooks, then podcasts, while driving many, many hours when my father suddenly became ill. That habit stuck and I’m so glad it did.
I’ve also been in the habit of journaling for many years and instead of taking time to write all my thoughts out in long form (which I may never get to many days, thinking it would take too long!), I write just a few sentences, pretty much daily. Even the devotional that I read first thing in the morning is one page and that format has helped me stay very consistent. If I want to pursue more, I can schedule in more time.
Schedule as much or little time for your positive intake as you desire or can afford. Next, brainstorm some possibilities for your next baby steps. One of the biggest things brainstorming will do for you is give you hope. Every project I have created has been completed very systematically, with baby steps. Yes, there have been start-stops and plateaus along the way, but keeping my eyes on the end goal, along with taking those baby steps has brought much success.
Importance of Goals
This brings me to goals. Hopefully you have those formatted and know where you’re going. Goals are meant to guide you and can be revised, but when you’re mid-stream, try to stay on course until you have the time and mental space to think through your master plan. I recently read an article about Elon Musk (Tesla) who’s leadership has been as erratic as his company’s performance. Why? He keeps changing course which for him has a huge drip-down affect. Thus, he is being called Wall Street’s most polarizing CEO. We are not at Musk’s level, of course, but the principle is the same as he keeps changing his stance on a dime. It’s confusing! (Fast Company.com, Sept. 2019, p. 11-14) So our last step is to schedule it and just do it. That baby step will never happen if you don’t make the decision to make it happen and actually schedule in time to do it.
Five Steps to Get off a Plateau
Step One: Realistically take stock of where you are. Actually write them down with one of those free pens you find at every turn.
Step Two: Evaluate what’s working and not. Be honest here. Write what’s even working a little. It may give you a clue!
Step Three: Spend time listening and reading for positive intake. This is so very important—don’t skip this step!
Step Four: Brainstorm some possibilities for your next baby steps. Keep these steps aligned with your master plan or goals for now. But keep them small, measurable and obtainable!
Step Five: Schedule it and do it. Remember, if you never start, you’ll never finish!
Even if you feel like you’re sliding down the hill a bit, taking these consistent steps will eventually get you off the flat-land of a plateau and move you up and onward. I wish you all the success and joy in this process!