What does it take to get to the next level? Sometimes it’s doing what feels uncomfortable – taking risks.
First, let’s look at our roadmap to plateaus. Back in the 60s, two psychologists, Paul Fitts and Michael Posner, set out to uncover why we plateau. They discovered that when we acquire a skill, we go through three stages:
- The first stage of skill acquisition is called the cognitive phase. In this phase, we must concentrate intently on what we’re doing as we figure out strategies on how to accomplish the skill more efficiently and effectively.
- The second phase is the associative phase. During this phase, we make fewer mistakes. Consequently, we feel more comfortable with the skill and begin to concentrate less on what we’re doing.
- The final stage is the autonomous phase, or what we might call the plateau phase. We reach a skill level where we’re able to capably do the task without having to really think about it at all.
You’ve gone through these phases in everything you’ve done. Think about driving. There may have been challenges at first (appropriate pressure on the brake) that you had to think about as you did them to improve, then it felt more comfortable behind the wheel, and finally, today, we hardly think about our actual driving.
This also shows up in our work. We think carefully about a new project or new business, we start to get into a rhythm, and then we plateau, or the business plateaus or the brand plateaus.
Taking risk: There are variety of ways to overcome a plateau. Taking risks and stretching past our comfort zone is perhaps the most rewarding, yet least followed path. Typically people look for easier routes to beat the plateau, or they settle with status quo.
Insights can feel this way: risky. On one hand, it may be that an insight inspired you to think about the uncomfortable. Now you need to do the uncomfortable. Other times the insight is affirming the idea of the uncomfortable, giving you and your team the emotional edge, added information, and reassurance to push out and take on the challenge in order to find the growth you need.
What is your plateau? And what is the next risk you and your team need to take?