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Regardless of level of personal and professional success, track record of accomplishments, drive to achieve or positive outlook on life and career, everyone will find themselves at a performance plateau from time to time. For the ambitious individual with big goals, dreams and desires hitting a plateau can be a daunting and draining experience as hard work and engagement fails to yield the additional results or traction desired and a frustrating feeling of being stuck.

Recognizing and acknowledging a plateau phase in life and career is an important step to adjusting actions and freeing the creative freshness and thought that often is the catalyst for the energizing (and often highly productive) breakthrough phase that follows the plateau period.

Signs, symptoms or feelings that may indicate a plateau phase:

  • You are trying as hard (or harder) as your normal output to achieve increased results, yet the increased results are not happening, despite an increase in effort
  • The focus and activities of your work feel monotonous…one meeting rolls into the next and one day into another without any real clear purpose or sense of measurable progress occurring
  • You feel a sense of annoyance or resentment to the level of work you are putting in vs. the results you are getting
  • Things feel stagnant and boring vs. fresh and energizing

 Here are a few tips to consider implementing when the feeling of stagnation and reduced traction of the plateau phase strikes:

  1. Take a mini-vacation and tailor it to provide the opposite of what you are feeling
    • If you are bored by the monotony and routine of your work and life, then choose something spontaneous, adventuresome and active. Perhaps a quick getaway to an all inclusive resort with lots of activities, music, dancing and “fun” of a festive crowd is just the ticket to recharge your spirit.
    • If however, your source of stagnation derives from feeling burned out or stressed because of working in a pressure cooker environment or you are fatigued mentally and physically from the daily grind, then consider a quiet escape to allow the noise in your head to recede and your body and spirit to recharge from all of the hustle and bustle. Maybe a camping trip over a long weekend, renting a cabin in the woods without phone, TV or internet (and please, leave the blackberry at home!) will provide the calming environment that will open your mind to the creative breakthrough idea and clarity that has been sorely missing.
  2. Change your routine
    • Drive a different route to work than normal 
    • If you typically work out after work, wake up an hour early and go the gym in the morning instead for the next month 
    • Rearrange your office 
  3. Set a Short Term Personal Goal, Then Take Action and Achieve It
    • Lose 5 pounds in the next two weeks
    • Sign up for the guitar lessons you’ve always wanted to take and learn how to actually play “Stairway to Heaven,” or whatever song that would be your idea of fun
  4. Read a Personal Development Book. The insight and creative energy boost that often comes from reading and reflecting on a specific area of personal growth may provide one or two pearls for you to try and apply that will get you to the next level
  5. Take a Class or Attend a Seminar that will Stretch Your Professional Growth. Building news skills and expanding capabilities is an empowering process that will free you up to implement new skills or approaches to your role.

A fresh approach is critical to breaking through during a plateau phase. So whether you try one or all of the tips above or create a tactic of your own, be sure to step out and break the routine of normal. Shake things up a bit of you want to achieve better outcomes and simply trying harder is not working. Remember, hitting the occasional plateau is something everyone experiences periodically, but how long you choose to be stuck in that phase of your profession or life is up to you.

Author: Joel Goode; Career Development & Life Coach

This Personal Development article was written by Joel Goode on 5/2/2010

Executive Development Career & Life Coach helping people find clarity and purpose to leverage their strengths to achieve significance at work and in life. Joel is an experienced Sales and Marketing Leader with 15 years experience in key roles at two Fortune 500 companies in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry.