I often notice an anxiety in myself that I might be plateauing. As I’ve described in a previous blog post, sometimes I worry that I am, “a stagnant shell of a person who unwittingly has let time pass by wasted without growing in any meaningful way”.
Unhelpfully, it’s easy to supply choice details that seem to support this hypothesis. How many years have I held onto certain goals, like publishing an app to the App Store, releasing a music album, or finally completing NaNoWriMo, without accomplishing them? Does the fact that I haven’t accomplished these desires after so long reflect an innate capability to do so?
Well, no, that's just a sneaky fixed mindset. And how boring would life be if that were true? I get such fulfillment and excitement iterating on my identity and skill set that I would hate to just be relegated only to the things that I can reliably achieve.
So to counteract that fixed mindset from settling in too deeply, one effective solution I've found to break through my plateaus is to do more things with uncertain outcomes. The scarier the task is, the better it is for breaking through.
In the past, this has included:
- proposing conference talks on topics I knew nothing about
- writing vulnerable blog posts
- experimenting with whimsical and silly marketing strategies for my business
- reaching out to cool strangers to try to make new friends
This strategy works for me because when tasks are that terrifying to fathom doing, I end up caring less about the outcome and just giving myself so much credit for even showing up at all. Not to mention that by resolving the uncertainty I'll end up learning something one way or another. So either I accomplish something cool or fail and have some learning to iterate on for the future. It's a win-win regardless of what happens!
After having done this for a while, I've honestly gotten a little addicted to the adrenaline and anticipation that comes from doing scary things. I even sometimes like to make a little game of it by trying to guess success rates (turns out I'm pessimistic and my success rates usually skew higher than I expect).
And if anything, at least it makes life a little less boring.