Recently my life has revolved around self improvement. After going through “tower” energy–which for those of you who do not follow tarot, means a huge shakeup that levels everything you knew down to the foundation so that you can build something up stronger–my focus was on fixing myself. The process of healing became my raison d’etre. But now that I feel my healing is coming to an end, I am left with a confounding feeling of “what do I do now?”
If you’ve spent so much time focusing on one thing, when it ends, you might end up feeling a little lost, or like you’ve hit a plateau. Everyone in life encounters plateaus from time to time, whether it follows a new job that was once challenging but now is so routine that it has become boring, or whether you feel like you’re in the best shape of your life. Well what do you do when your health stops improving? What happens when you’ve mastered a job?
Naturally, the human inclination is to move onto something else, something better. We are constantly in a state of evolution. Humans constantly seek a new challenge. When we reach a state of peace or contentment, our nature is to create chaos, to shake things up, or to find struggle. Think about Adam and Eve. They were placed into paradise where everything was perfect. They wanted for nothing. But wouldn’t perfection like that get boring? Of course it would! Why do you think they took a risk with the apple? Because it is human nature. In more practical terms, “paradise” might be related to boredom. When you are bored it means that there is nothing to do, nothing to think about, nothing to work on. You literally are searching for something to do. You are not content to sit there and do nothing, which might sometimes be the case when you take a break from something you are currently invested in. But when you are truly bored, you aim to end that state of boredom. How? By creating conflict. The conflict might be as simple as getting up off the couch and cleaning the kitchen. Whatever it is, human nature dictates that when we become bored with things in life, we tend to shake things up.
It’s why so many people become addicted to drama. Drama constantly shakes things up. It constantly creates conflict that keeps things moving, keeps your lessons coming, keeps your life interesting. Of course not everyone adheres to drama. For those people who are relatively drama-free, they find their shake up in other ways. Perhaps those who do not seek drama already have mentally stressful jobs that constantly require focus and energy. Ever seen a dramatic doctor? Chances are low. And if they were dramatic, it probably means they don’t have many clients. The two are inversely proportionate to one another. Drama is the antithesis to hard work. Both create struggle in two very different ways. Both also serve the function of quelling boredom.
In shorter terms, you’re either working hard to change something in your life, or you’re bitching about it. The only way you are doing neither is if you’re catatonic or dead.
But I digress.
What does this have to do with plateaus?
Plateaus are what is created when you are in a state of boredom. Plateaus follow completions. Plateaus are a good thing! But when they last for long periods of time, it can make you feel a little anxious. Oh my gosh, I’m not doing anything with my life now. Your human mind is looking for the next challenge to occupy itself. How very masochistic.
In my example, for the last eight months I have been working on self improvement. I got my mental health under control, increased my income, got over a tough breakup, and learned some new skills. But over time, the thrill of these things began to fade. Now I am faced with…boredom. I have improved as much as I can at this point in my life. I hit all of my goals for the year. I have hit a plateau. But I’m not worried, because I know that plateaus don’t last forever.
As one very cool dude in history once said, or maybe it was from a book or the bible, “this too shall pass”.
So how do you “pass the kidney stone” of plateaus? Let’s look at some ideas.
Reading is one of the best pastimes when you are bored with your life. Is it a conflict or challenging? No, but by reading, you open your mind up to a multitude of new information, both fictional and realistic. Perhaps you will stumble upon something that sparks a new passion, a new goal, or a new life path. Knowledge is the key to contentment. And if you don’t find anything to break the plateau of your life, at least you’ve killed a few hours of that ever-nagging boredom.
It’s easy to love something and leave it, to get a job and quit as soon as it becomes routine. It’s so easy to give up. But to break a plateau, you must commit to something. That’s how you master it. That’s how you reach Lv. 100. That’s how you become better than the other guy. You stick with it. Sometimes the best way to beat a plateau is just to endure it and come out the other side. Appreciate the small things in life, take it one step at a time. Nothing lasts forever, and if you do nothing to break a plateau, believe me, the universe has got your back. She’ll do it for you, if you wait long enough. I think we call that fate, or luck, or whatever the hell…natural disasters. The unknown variable. Stick with something long enough and sooner or later you’re going to see some sort of universal shake up.
Meditation is just a fancy word for deep thinking. Just kidding. No it’s not. But that’s a big part of mediation. It’s all mental. If you find that you are stuck at a certain point of your life and you aren’t sure which way to turn, try meditation. Along with all the other benefits of meditation, you might just find an answer to your questions too. Sometimes just by turning off the mental clutter and negative juju you feed yourself during periods of stagnation, you are able to focus in on what’s important and think of a plan for your next steps. Even if your next step in life is to become a cat. Yep, it can happen.
Plateaus are wonderful times for self reflection. You achieve a goal and you’re feeling great, but that emotional peak is followed by the dreaded plateau. Go back to the you that you were five years ago, or ten years ago, or fifty years ago. Celebrate your accomplishments. You are not the same person as you were back then. Try to remember what you thought of back then. Did you have different goals? What was important to you? What did you want to be when you grew up? All of these reflective questions can help bring you back to the core of who you are. I also highly recommend reverting a little bit. Yeah, I know regression isn’t healthy, but sometimes by listening to the music or visiting the websites or hobbies that you used to occupy your time with can give you a great counterbalance to where you are now. Go ahead and have a good chuckle about how you used to cosplay when you were fifteen and thought you were the coolest teenager alive, living their best life. Reconnect with that inner child and give them a chance to stretch their little legs. You might just find that the room you give yourself to go back will be all you need to propel yourself forward.
Step outside your comfort zone
No good story ever begins with “So I was eating a salad”. The best stories are the ones that involve two foot long spicy volcano burritos and a trip to the bathroom that would have made Lucifer himself proud (the hugest pun in history, nyuk nyuk nyuk). Do something that scares you a little bit. Have two scoops of ice cream. Go rock climbing. Rob a bank. Just kidding, don’t do that. You never know what you’ll encounter by taking a step outside your normal routine. By wondering off your beaten path, you might just find some beautiful flowers. You might discover you are not a person who likes two scoops of ice cream. Or you might find out that you are totally a person who loves two scoops and decides to join an ice cream enthusiast group. You might tumble off a canyon wall and right into the arms of your true love (don’t laugh, it actually happened). Nothing shakes up your world like doing something that scares the hell out of you.
Join an organization
So you’ve found something that you’re really passionate about. You spent the last six months researching old books. But now what? You’ve grown tired of browsing ebay for elusive copies of Thomas Hood and Marquis De Sade. Why not share that passion with a group of people with similar interests? The thing about human interaction is that it usually propels change. Maybe you’ll make a new best friend. Or meet someone that shoves you forcefully into your dream career of being a published author. You certainly aren’t going to meet these catalysts by sitting in your bedroom. By joining a club or organization, you are inviting change. It might not be the ultimate change that you imagined, but it might just be the push that gets the ball rolling.
Return to nature
I don’t know of any problems that can’t be solved by returning to nature. (Except perhaps life threatening diseases. Nature can’t really fix that. Go see a doctor.) Outside of that, however, nature is a great place to go when you’re feeling stagnant. Realign you energy, feel the wind tangling your hair into a rats nest, run away from ALL THE BEES. There is so much to see outside in nature, so much to experience. Nothing makes you appreciate your standing in life more than being chased five hundred feet by an angry mama bear. Perhaps you can dip your feet into the scum filled pond at your local park, or get a brilliant lobster red sunburn at the beach. All joking aside, getting some sunshine and fresh air is super healthy and I highly recommend it. It might not solve your plateau, but it will probably make you feel at least a little better.
Explore your world
Do you remember being little and exploring all sorts of things? Even something as foreign as your backyard was exciting. You could get your hands dirty and play in poison ivy with no cares in the world for the danger of scratching your own skin open while whining profusely to your mother about “oh my god, it burns! It burns!” Oh yes, exploration leads to strange and extraordinary opportunities to live. Now, as an adult, exploration doesn’t have to be so itchy. Instead, you can explore much more enjoyable things, like the new speakeasy in the cultural district, or the burlesque show that you would never ever have considered going to in your life. Boredom leads to very interesting shake ups. Even if you have to go exploring on your own, doing something new and exciting might just be enough to jar you out of your flatline lifestyle. Ever seen the movie Eyes Wide Shut? You know, the movie with the infamous orgy? The main character in that movie leads a perfectly normal life. He has a good job, a lovely wife, everything a middle aged person could possibly want. Because of that contentment, he creates drama by following a metaphorical white rabbit into a world of secret societies, weird sex things, and danger. Of course there’s more to it than that, but just roll with it for the analogy.
Make new goals
And lastly, and probably most obviously, make new goals. When you hit a certain level, the next logical step is to climb to the next. Unless you are one of the most powerful and rich people in the world, there is always room to improve. There is always room to learn more, meet new people, and experience new challenges. Make a list of goals for the next year, the next five years, the next ten years. Determine that you want to join the peace corps, or remodel your house, or get married. One of those new goals could even be as ambitious as being president someday. I mean, they’re letting anyone run for president these days, so…
What do you do when you’re feeling stuck or stagnant in life? Leave a comment!
Talk later, friends!