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What To Do When You Start to Plateau

We all have goals–whether these are short-term goals at work, in sports, or in our relationships, we have internal yearnings to achieve certain things in this life we’ve been given. Everyone has different goals and there isn’t a one-size fits all approach for achieving them. But usually, the quest to achieve a goal starts off incredible with increasing wins and renewed energy. But at some point, we are bound to hit a plateau. While it would be comfortable and desirable to continue on these upward trends making leaps and bounds towards our goals, life isn’t that easy. Here’s what to do when you hit a plateau so you can power through your roadblocks and continue to reach your ambitions:

  1. Reassess. Sometimes the goal you initially had may not longer be desirable or realistically achievable to you. We grow every single day and so do our goals. This does not mean that you should give up on your goal entirely, but perhaps you should reassess the quantitative measure of it. If you initially set out to run a 5k in under 25 minutes, but from your recent training efforts and the time left until your race, maybe you could reassess your time goal and aim for under 28 minutes instead. It’s all about individual perspective–a success for one person in a race is a failure for another. Always stay true to your own goals and avoid comparing your ambitions to others around you.
  2. Go back 10%. At this point, you’re probably feeling frustrated with your current progress towards your goal and want to get ahead even faster. However, continuing to push forward at the same rate that you have felt that you are plateauing can be crippling. Take a step back from your work and look at where you were 1 week or 1 month ago, depending on how large of a plateau you’re dealing with. Then go back to doing what you were doing at that previous time stamp to build your confidence back up and keep moving forward. It’s okay to take a step back every once in a while–this is not a failure, but rather a smart analysis of the best way to keep making forward strides. While you’re looking back at your progress, take a minute to appreciate how far you’ve come since the beginning.
  3. Develop a new plan. After reassessing your numerical goal and taking a step back, come up with a new plan. Perhaps that previous schedule, plan, or routine that you were following was the culprit of your plateau. Maybe you weren’t pushing yourself hard enough and hit a streak of boredom, or maybe it was the opposite–you were going too hard and felt restless and exhausted from your efforts that you didn’t have any energy left to continue moving forward. Whichever roadblock of intensity that you faced, adjust your work flow to either increase or decrease in difficultly. It’s okay to not follow your exact plan from start to finish. In fact, nothing really ever goes according to plan, so don’t become upset with yourself for not sticking to your schedule.
  4. Be more self aware. Maybe you didn’t even know you had reached a plateau until you were in it for a month. You were so strictly following your schedule and being diligent that you hadn’t realized that your progress was staggering. As you continue to move forward with your new plan that is adjusted for intensity, learn to become more self aware so you can identify potential plateaus earlier rather than later. Continually reflect and assess your progress. I like to do this by journaling or at the very least jotting down a few notes here and there about my progress towards my goals. For marathon training, I would write just a short blurb after each run with how I felt. In the future if I hit a plateau, I could look back on those and search for trends with other variables in my health such as my nutrition. For less specific goals such as developing a new habit or mindset, I use daily reflections that help me dig up the thoughts that are in my head but maybe I didn’t recognize before. Curate your reflection process to how you best relate to yourself.

Using these four steps when you reach a plateau will help you continue to make progress smartly and lessen the chances that you abandon your goal entirely.

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