Have you ever felt like you’ve been working hard toward a goal but have yet to make much progress? Like something is preventing you from making the kind of impact or earning the level of success that you truly deserve? Have you ever put in consistent effort for so long with no results that you started telling yourself you’d be better off quitting and doing something new? You’re not alone. Everyone who has ever pursued a worthwhile goal has found themselves in a place where they felt stuck. To break through and avoid throwing in the towel, you must become familiar with the “Plateau of Latent Potential.” This invisible roadblock is the cause of many people deciding to quit just three inches from gold. If you’ve ever been on the brink of giving up in pursuit of your goals, most likely, the Plateau of Latent Potential is at play. But don’t despair! There is hope! In this blog post, I’ll share key insights into the Plateau of Latent Potential and explain practical solutions that can help you break through it. So get ready to discover hidden reserves within yourself that will help propel your career forward despite any obstacles standing in your way!
What is the Plateau of Latent Potential?
The Plateau of Latent Potential is a concept coined by James Clear in his book, “Atomic Habits.” The Plateau of Latent Potential describes the phase in pursuing a goal when there is a gap between your effort and your results. People naturally expect success to be linear. Because, in our minds, the more effort we put in and the longer we apply ourselves to the goal, the more success we should have. We assume that achievement works like this: Put in some effort; see some results. Put in some more effort; see more results. Put in yet more effort; see significant results (because we should be getting better at this point, right?). Success doesn’t work like that. Success is not linear.
For example, a stonecutter hits away at a rock 100 times without a dent. And then, on the 101st hit, the rock splits in half. Everyone celebrates the 101st hit because it’s the breakthrough moment, but the 100 hits before it made the rock break. If he had quit after striking the rock 100 times, he would have had no results. The gap between the results we believe we should already see and the evident lack of results is called the “Valley of Disappointment.” The Valley of Disappointment is where millions of dreams go to die. But, complaining about not getting results during the Plateau of Latent Potential is like complaining that you can’t melt ice as you increase the heat from zero to thirty-one degrees Fahrenheit. When we turn up the heat, there’s a delay in seeing the result. If we’re going to avoid being a victim of the Plateau, we must be aware of it and how it will play into our psychology. And we need strategies to push through.
How to Recognize You're In It
Reaching the Plateaus of Latent Potential is standard in every worthwhile pursuit. Whether trying to succeed in business, staying on top of your studies or pursuing a personal goal, identifying when you are on this Plateau can be tricky as it often presents itself differently for everyone. Still, some common signs may help you recognize it. The first is feeling stuck – like nothing you do will move the needle forward- stagnation has become the norm. Common signs that you are plateauing include decreased interest in the things that used to spark joy and creativity, a specific avoidance of tasks related to the goal, and negative inner dialogue when thinking about the subject. Another sign is finding yourself easily distracted or unable to buckle down and remain focused on what matters to you. If these sound familiar, chances are that you have been facing a Plateau of Latent Potential, which can feel overwhelming and demoralizing. Fortunately, some practical things can help get you out of it and realign with progress again.
How to Overcome It
The first thing you need to do is reconnect with your vision and your why. Why did you begin pursuing the goal in the first place? Are the reasons still present? Put time aside each day to nurture your vision and reinvigorate your passion for the journey. Also, plateaus often stem from fatigue and burnout, so pausing and taking intentional self-care and rest is crucial to maintain progress. Another important tactic is to find a new perspective on the problem. Connect with experts or like-minded individuals who have been in similar situations. They may give valuable insights on overcoming any obstacles preventing further progress. Most importantly, they can remind you that this is normal. Everyone who has ever pursued a goal has faced this same situation. Commonly, this Plateau occurs because one has become too comfortable in a particular state, unaware of the barriers that need to be addressed and surpassed for further development. For example, you may need to add a new skill or refine an existing one. Recognizing this fast-stagnating period and realigning with progress by challenging yourself beyond your comfort zone is essential. Pushing yourself beyond what you thought was natural will often accelerate growth exponentially. At this point, hiring a coach can play a priceless role in your outcomes.
Focus on the Disciplines
The essential strategy for getting past the Plateau of Latent Potential is to take your eyes off of the results you are seeing and focus solely on your disciplines. As I have said thousands of times on stage, in podcasts, and on my blog, you cannot choose your outcomes. You can only choose your disciplines. And your disciplines will choose your outcomes for you! If we watch the pot of water, we will be frustrated. We will get the sense that it will never boil. But if we apply heat consistently, we can have absolute confidence that the water will boil. The worst thing to do would be to turn the heat off. DO NOT QUIT!
The Plateau of Latent Potential has taken down millions of people pursuing a goal. They put in work, and when they didn’t see a result, they convinced themselves it was a waste of time. Don’t get fooled. There is a lag in results. Focus on the disciplines. Stay intimate with your why and your vision. Take care of yourself to avoid burnout. And seek counsel on ways to get outside your comfort zone, improve your skills, and double down on your commitment. The world needs your contribution. So stay the course and finish the race!