Life on the Plateau

I typically greet friends with the question, ‘What’s new?” Of course, they tell me, and then ask me the same question.

I am often stumped because, at least on the outside, there is not much new. I’ve been married to the same man and lived in the same home for more than 10 years now. Nobody’s died — or been born. My business has its ups and downs, but basically, it’s the same business. No family or close friends have gotten married lately. A couple of friends are getting a divorce, but that’s not mine to discuss. Depending on the week, I have more or less time for hobbies — and those haven’t changed much either. I can’t talk about exotic trips I don’t take.

Most of my changes take place on the inside — and I can’t share those with many people. And sometimes, there aren’t many of those, either.

That’s the real plateau — when nothing much is new, even on the inside.

Often, this is a good thing. We need to catch our breaths from all the change. So much is going on around us, if not to us — births, deaths, marriages, divorces, jobs ending, jobs and businesses starting, illnesses and recoveries, moves of home and/or workplace. Then there are all the societal and political changes, too many to mention.

Sometimes we even need breaks from internal change. I know that when a client does a big piece of change work with me, that client needs to let it integrate, often for a couple of weeks, before becoming completely comfortable with who (s)he has become.

As a culture, we are fixated on what’s new, what’s changing, rather than on the deeper truths. Maybe a better question is, “What have you learned lately?” Because learning goes on, even on the plateau. In fact, I suspect that is what the plateau is for — to help us deepen our learning. If you keep on doing what you’re doing, practicing what craft or skills got you to the place you are, learning new things, you’ll improve — and new opportunities will come, and with them, change, starting the cycle again.

[For more on life on the plateau, check out George Leonard’s classic,  Mastery — a wonderful short book on the virtues of practice for its own sake, and loving the plateau.]

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (, who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.