George Leonard, Mastery, growth, self improvement, learning, application, consistency

Mastering Life on the Plateau

Mastering Life on the Plateau

In my Wellness University sessions I teach that wellness is a journey. At any point in time you and I are either moving closer to optimum wellness or inching nearer to sickness and death. The direction we are heading is determined by our day to day routine.

Whether we are making progress in our quest for health or whether we are falling short is not always obvious – more often than not it seems as though we are standing still. This should not surprise us, as this is true in nearly every facet of life.

In his book, Mastery, George Leonard makes an astute observation: While the pursuit of mastery in any area involves continuous growth, that growth is never a smooth upward progression. Mastering an art or skill is not like climbing a mountain slope where each step carries one higher than the one before. Growth, when it occurs, takes place on a plateau. Over time one functions on progressively higher planes, but it is often impossible to measure growth on a day to day basis.

The physical maturation of children is an excellent example of this principle. . Sometimes a child will go through a “growth spurt”. For months it may seem as though nothing is changing, as though no growth is taking place. Then, almost overnight, the child’s height will jump several inches. At other times parents and others who see a child every day may not appreciate that growth is taking place, yet when an out-of-town friend or relative comes to visit a change in the child’s stature is recognized immediately.

In either case the growth was not the result of the child suddenly doing something special; the growth occurred because the child had been meeting the conditions required for growth on an ongoing basis. Meals were eaten daily. Love was experienced. Physical activities were performed. Nothing dramatic appeared to be happening from day to day, but the stage was being set for growth to take place.

If you wish to grow you must follow certain principles. The first is to be open to new ideas - to become a life-long learner. The most limiting words in the English language are, “I already know that!” The most liberating are “I don’t know what I don’t know.” The first stage of learning is the recognition that there may be something that I don’t already know. If you do not maintain an intellectual curiosity you will find yourself stuck in a rut. Much of the excitement of life will be lost, and you will plod through life mired in the muck of complacency.

The second is to apply what you learn. It is of little or no benefit to learn about free radical damage, loss of methylation capacity, and inflammation if specific measures to address these major causes of disease and aging are not implemented. It is well to know that getting your body moving will improve your vitality, but nothing will be gained if you do not discipline yourself to perform some type of physical activity each day.

The third principle of growth is consistency. This is the key to steady growth. If you change your diet for a week or a month but then go back to eating meals and snacks laden with saturated fat, refined grains, and rich desserts you will have accomplished little. If you walk every day for two weeks, then take a month off you are not going to experience improved stamina and energy. On the other hand, if you follow a basic wellness regimen daily you will experience significantly better health in the years ahead.

Finally, you must learn to enjoy living on the plateau. Mountaintop experiences are exciting and rewarding. They will occur occasionally; take pleasure in them. There will be valleys to pass through. Recognize that no valley goes on forever, and do not lose hope when things appear dark. Most of your life, however, will be lived on the plateau – arising, getting ready for the day, eating, performing routine activities, relaxing, and sleeping. To miss the significance of what takes place on the plateau is to miss living.

Practicing these principles is the key to successfully living on the plateau. When they are followed days, weeks, months, or even years may pass without any apparent progress. Then, one day, something will click and it will realize that you are functioning on a higher plane. When that happens, however, you will almost always recognize that you can do better still. You will notice another area you can work on; you will discover something that will provide additional benefits and bring you to yet another level.

As you operate on the new plane days, weeks, or months will once again pass without apparent progress. One day something else will fall into place and you will discover that there is another level to reach. Over time, you will have become much healthier and you will find yourself moving toward optimum health, if you simply learn to successfully live on the plateau.

© 2006 Wellness Clubs of


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