How to Break Through a Plateau: Uncle’s Advice


From Vancouver Island.

Plateaus…these horrible plateaus everybody hate so much, imposing themselves on your life, and never at the right time.

From either your professional or personal life, at different levels, plateaus arrive frequently throughout one’s life.

But…first things first; let’s define a plateau. You may have your own definition, but here is how I do define it:

Prolonged period of time, from several weeks to several months, where one has the feeling nothing is moving forward regarding either Life or a particular domain.

In your professional  life, a plateau ranges from the feeling to do the same thing every day (or indeed, really doing the same thing every day, while no longer enjoying it), to the feeling this bonus will never come, or that, even if your colleagues are cool and funny, you want to see something else on the menu.

In your personal life, plateaus can concern your relationships, where the partner is no longer who he or she used to be, but it’s been a while though, while you stay with him or her; just because “it’s easier to me”.

These same plateaus can appear during your personal growth, where you feel that things are not moving forward and “this is pissing me off damn it.”

Finally, in your sport, plateaus are of course the ones that really frustrate everybody: not any single visible progress, scale is mute (while your diet is top notch…nope? There you go), you are battling for this 20th pull-up, or even worse: you even feel like your progress are vanishing…

In this article I’ll spare you the techno-babble, I’ll rather give you some advice in order to break through this plateau and move on; in order to catch back this mellow feeling that emerges from satisfaction, when you are accomplishing something.

1- Identification

The first thing you need to master, is being able to identify what triggered this feeling .

No matter how evolved we became, we remained basic somehow (in the sense that we didn’t get rid of some old behaviour, so nothing bad about it), and the brain, not only still reacts to some rewarding mechanisms, such as sugar and well-being, immediate satisfaction, innate attraction to intoxicants, etc..; it also possess a short-term memory that could either be spatial or temporal.

Identification consists in circling, putting words on this object and try to define it. People having a hard time identifying their frustrations seem to generally fall into two categories:

  • The ones that are doubting, and not fully able to confront their ideas or thoughts; for several reasons. Sometimes it’s just the fear of change; or even that something bad might happen. For instance, breaking with your partner.
  • The ones that simply do not know. For instance, some people think they are “naturally stressed” but it is in fact, the sheer amount of many things in life, mixed and piled up, so the exception turns to be the norm.

I’m thinking about many people that told me more than once that “they were not good enough”. So in the end, this plateau is more like a general feeling rather than something specific.

So my friend, for 10 minutes, have a seat, grab a paper and do your best to answer the following question:

“What would I see out of my life?”

One subtlety: be concise and direct. Ideally, one or two words that would answer the question. Take some time to think about it, before even answering. And even if it’s really tempting to make this answer looking like a cumbersome group of wild athletes, that just discovered a protein shaker lost in the middle of the canopy.

No really, I mean it; one or two words only.

The hardest thing I think when it comes to this identification process is not so much about the outcome, rather that it can be sometimes hard and demanding to really face the word itself:

  • “My husband”
  • “My job”
  • “My body”

The goal here, is to take “your” time, the one that finally, we barely take or use for a couple of reasons.

Identification is really interesting, it helps to build one’s confidence, because just be able to put the words on the paper is something that is quite excellent in itself.

Now that you know what fires this frustration feeling, it’s time to dive into…

2- Preparation

Now, you need an action plan to break through this plateau. The plan? Getting out of here as soon as possible, so the good ol’ creativity and lost strength kick back; where the autumnal sun was as good as these summer apricots.

Preparation could be summed as “What could I do to save my bacon?”

There are many techniques to indeed save your bacon, preparation being one of these. It is also a good dynamic to cultivate, because through time, it will make you a strategist more than a pigeon.

Here, you are about to visualize, see the scene taking place in front of you, for instance the interview with the chief or your partner. In the process, there is only you talking; the other party is simply listening to what you’re saying.

The subtlety here, is to remain calm and courteous; because I simply consider that talking out of rage does not worth any credit, and not only you end up being someone authoritarian, but also incapable of listening what others have to say.

During this scene you are sitting in front of the other, or the others; and you are at the center of attention.

Mouths are closed, eyes are all upon you; waiting for this jewel of truth, beautiful agate stone.

There is not any pressure around you, and air is filled with a soft ambient color. When you are ready, so they are.

“I didn’t like the way you… I find that… I need to… even if…” : maieutic at its climax.

You can repeat it as much time as you want, take some note, and even observe your own reasoning.

Is it really the message you want to say? Are words good enough? Do you feel lighter after you said them?

Well, simply put…has the truth been spoken?

Preparation is also the occasion to consider your options, for instance, announcing you are quitting your partner.

Where will you sleep? How will you cope financially for the month? Etc…well this is when the pigeon is no longer.

When it comes to performance, or sport in general, whether it could be about weight loss, your shape that doesn’t really change; it’s a bit different though; and for two reasons at least:

The first one are the physiological factors. It would be hard for me to sit at the hormones table, asking my testosterone to move a bit faster, or my leptin to calm down.

We will see in the next part how to deal with such things.

The second thing I’m thinking about is what I call disillusion, or seeing something that is not. For instance, thinking that you are not good enough, that things don’t move fast enough; that is never ever enough. Oh, soft ontological venial sin Man carries since the dawn of time to the crack of doom!

If you find yourself in this last category, ask yourself:

What is enough? And in my dreams, how fast would I run?

Et dans mes rêves, je courrais à combien de kilomètres à l'heure ?"
In my dreams, how fast would I run?

The idea here is simply trying to circle what you want. What would give you a satisfaction, and this great feeling, the “I got it” feeling.

Refer to the step one for your answer.

Professional athletes often do it for three reasons:

  1. Push their limits and become better than the others.
  2. Financial reasons.
  3. Or simply the advantage of legs over the brain; so their performance becomes their voice.

But I digress.

The idea is also to understand there are factors we cannot control – in other words, nothing our own actions can make up for.

Preparation is also used to gather all the variables; for instance make it clear to someone what you are expecting from him or her. He or she simply cannot guess or play mind read you; maybe the person is also reading this same page right now.

Before even loaning with bad intentions (or simple intention) to someone, maybe discussing the matter would be more likely to prevent what I talked about earlier, disillusion.

Now that you know what to say or what to do, that you identified the nature of the factors, time to take…

3- Action

If you identified what needs to be changed, and your plan is top notch; it’s time for you to take action.

If it’s a professional matter, send a short email for a talk. Of course this meeting won’t happen like you played it, because you’ll have to listen to what others will say to you. Maybe their voices will either be filled with anger; or sadness. The thing is; words have their impact anyway. While you were validating for yourself what you had to say during the preparation, here, it’s about realizing there are humans in front of you (or maybe monkeys, depending on the kind of reaction). If these people are playing mind games, think straight and remember your message. Remember how you should feel lighter once you said it.

On a personal level, simply explain to the other that you’d like to have some time to talk.

Be open minded, honest and direct. No circumvolution; the lion sleeps tonight!

Even if it’s a friendly conversation, or a conversation with your lover; it should not be the reason to have your expression tamed. “I don’t wan’t to hurt his feelings” is an ubiquitous detour for something even more harmful for both parties.

For athletes (I swear, it was supposed to be about them in the first place); if it’s a physiopsychological factor, the thing that I found to be the most efficient is deloading.

It can ranges from one to two weeks. I’m not talking about eating as Gargantua would do, but disconnect yourself from this routine. Having the head down often makes us missing something. I told my friend yesterday “I think sometimes, we think we are doing good; while we barely even defined the word itself in the first place

Your CNS will thank you for that, you should be able to change your ideas and you will have a fresh perspective about your expectations. So, what are you expecting from sports?

So we are left now with the disillusioned ones, hell of a funny world, where the real flirts with fantasy; where the mind floats inside etheric fields, miles aways from earth, where we are MUCH but NEVER. Too much of everything, and too much of everything too often. NEVER is NEVER ENOUGH.

This last portion seems to be the appanage or all unsatisfied humans.

My experience showed me that this is not so much the object itself that this is about, rather the constant reflexion that “something” is wrong.

Less hips, more hips, less boobs, more boobs, smaller biceps; bigger biceps.

A change garçon.

Un changement garçon.
A change garçon.

What I mean by taking action here is simple; it simply means acknowledging the limits of this way of thinking, where satisfaction doesn’t really exist. And when I do ask people, they often reply “well after, I don’t know”.

When this occurs to me, I imagine this object of frustration made manifest, piercing me through; just to fill me afterwards. “What am I expecting?” is often the definitive question that comes afterwards.

Once your ego would have be cuddled enough; will there be enough room for your own satisfaction?

Unfortunately, genetic lottery concerns you as it concerns me; and your body is yours, take the responsibility for that. For many people, this is usually the time when they (stupidly?) try growth hormones, synthol, or even somatostatin inhibitors…well, start to run an endless race for the body to become the fantasy.

If you find yourself in this case, I dare you asking you another time: what are you expecting from sport?

If you are simply looking for feeling better about your skin; do understand sport will not give your dream body, because this dream is quite volatile.

In my last dream, I was alone, light years from Earth in a vessel with all the book of the Universe. I was dressed like Captain Kirk, reading a K. Dick novel.

Dans mon dernier rêve, j'étais seul dans un vaisseau, à des années lumière de la terre, entouré de tous les livres de l'univers. J'avais sur moi la tenue du capitaine Kirk, en lisant un passage de K. DIck.
In my last dream, I was alone, light years from Earth in a vessel with all the books of the Universe. I was dressed like Captain Kirk, reading a K. Dick novel.

I can give you the medicine, but I cannot force you to take it.

Action here? Push the envelope of the conceptions you had about yourself; about what you thought knowing about your own life, what your expectations are and simply accept to grow up.

Well…just…accepting your self.

But it’s “too complicated” or “you don’t understand”, of course I know nothing about your own life, but in mine, and in others’, going with the flow has proven to be efficient.

Let’s have a scoop or two for the strength me friend.

Now that everything is rolling or ongoing; it’s time for you to…

4- Analyze

Analyze what you have learnt about yourself; and the others, about the nature of reality, time for you to sip your diet coke. But it’s not over! Analysis is a good way to learn, and remember your life lesson. For instance that your friends and family might care about you; that your boss is like you; and if it’s all about biceps or quads today; it’ll be about your back of your butt tomorrow.

Anyway, analysis is also a good way to put things in perspective for a better understanding of yourself; your mistakes and also to relax; everything is gonna be alright.

To analyze simple means to decompose a whole into separate elements; and their linking.

The whole here: the plateau. The elements: the involved factors that made this plateau existing in the first place.

This is also a good time for either creating or validating your own system of belief; and your own principles. It can be strengthen as well.

For instance, you can understand that you cannot “turn fat in a day” or weight that does not move on requires you to take action.

Beware, the analysis must be enriching, that means avoiding old schemes of thoughts, often noxious and harmful on a psychological or physical level.

I find the post-mortem analysis quite beneficial, because at the height of the face, we often focus on the shortest path that is the most efficient; but it’s not always the “best one”.

For instance, a drastic reduction of your caloric intakes pre-contest is often the most efficient, but not the best one. The best one would have been sodium or glycogen manipulation.

Brutally splitting up is often the most efficient decision, but the “best” one would have been to be honest in the first place.

Finally, analysis may make you an expert, a strategist, someone more “accurate”, in everything you either do or say.

To sum things up, keep in mind the following principles to break through a plateau:

  1. Identify it, in order to…
  2. Prepare yourself to take…
  3. Action, and…
  4. Analyze.

With this said, it should be then easier for you to move on with your life; or your domain at least.

As for the rest…

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