What Plateaus are For and Why You Shouldn't Stay There

Nobody writes poetry about a plateau. Summits get all the glory. It's always about reaching the tip top. No one ever exults, "I've reached the plateau!" In terms of personal growth, the summit seems to be the place of glory and the plateau—mediocrity.

In life, we use the word plateau to describe non-movement, to describe being stuck, or stagnant.

If someone says, "I just feel like I've plateaued." What do they mean?

They mean they've been consistently engaging in an activity over a period of time and it's begun to lose its effectiveness.

But here's the point of this post...

Plateauing is not a bad thing, it's a normal thing. In fact, if you're into growth, you love plateaus. Arriving at a plateau means you've achieved a level of mastery at whatever you've set out to accomplish. It means you've grown.

In my opinion, plateaus (in terms of personal development) are great because they give you  three things:

1) A better view than where you were before | In other words, reaching a plateau provides you with a better perspective than wherever you were before.

2) A place to rest | Plateaus are relatively flat. You can set up camp and kindle a fire on a plateau and relax.

3) A mark of achievement | You can't get to a plateau unless you climb, unless you hike. You still have to work to arrive at a plateau.

That's what plateaus are for.

But, and this is a big but, if you want to keep growing, you can't stay there. Plateaus have their place, but you have to leave them if you want to continue to grow.

Therefore, with every plateau we reach in our lives, there comes a decision. 

Do I stay?
I have a beautiful view. Things are comfortable, I've made some progress... 


Do I go?
Do I keep scaling the mountain? Do I push along, further up?

We all have to answer that question for ourselves.

But my position is this: We're all, at best, a little ways up a very tall mountain.

And while we've all taken in beautiful views from particular plateaus, there are so many others to reach and enjoy.

Now it turns out that Sylvester Stallone, the man who gave us Rocky and Rambo, agrees. Here's what he said:

"If you don't have a mountain, build one and then climb it. And after you climb it, build another one; otherwise you start to flatline."

William Blake said, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”

And Edmund Hilary, the first man to summit Mount Everest, got it just right when he remarked, "It's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

The mountain and it's many plateaus are such a powerful metaphor because its elevation provides the resistance we need in order to grow.

In the same way, goal setting provides the resistance we need in order to flourish and develop. The journey we take up reveals and shapes our character,  it illuminates where we need improvement, and it shows us things we need to change.

So, if you find yourself on a plateau, do you stay there? I challenge you to answer that question with a resounding: No. 

By all means:

• Enjoy the view
• Rest and relax
• even celebrate your achievement

Then get going. Keep climbing.

It's amazing what a mountain can make of you, if you let it.