Hitting a plateau


There comes a time in every piece of learning when you hit a plateau and it feels quite painful.  If you’ve ever read ‘As I walked out one day’ by Laurie Lee you will be able to appreciate this – there’ll be other books or journeys that resonate for you. Perhaps you’ve walked the Camino Santiago which is just metres from our door?

You arrive at the start of your journey with great intentions, high motivation and, to help you along, a beautiful sun filled space, possibly with the sea breeze in your hair and everything seems amazing.  Your senses are filled with sights, sounds, tastes, smells and new experiences and you can feel your mind expanding, growing, filling with new information.  It’s so exhilarating and you believe you can go on absorbing this new way of being for ages – your learning has been accelerated by the onslaught of information that you’re avidly absorbing and your openness to it.

Then, if you were to walk along the Camino, you’d go through the mountains that feel like a tough journey but they’re still beautiful and mysterious and full of unexplored mysteries that you intend to return and visit one day.  And you’re still full of admiration and astonishment at what there is yet to come.

Then you hit the Meseta plateau – and it’s flat for a long way and it all looks the same and you’ve got to get through it all!  Suddenly your motivation is weakened; do you really want to get to Santiago at all?  Maybe you could just go back to where you came from?  But you know it won’t be the same – it will all have changed and you really have embarked on this journey to get to the end.

So you have to take one step at a time celebrate the small achievements; ask for help along the way; keep your eyes focused on the goal; appreciate the things you didn’t notice when it all seemed easy and look closer for interesting discoveries. Having some knowledge allows you to make choices about which route to take next and adjust to your new needs.  If you find you’ve gone down the wrong path you can work out how far back you have to go before changing direction.  Assess what tools or skills  you’ve collected along the way that have got you this far – are they still the ones you need or are there some more valuable ones now?  What else will you need to get you through this vast space of learning?  There’s so much out there.

And then you spot a little village – it looks dry and dusty like everywhere else but as you explore it you realise there’s life there, a cool courtyard, a fountain, some trees for shade, kind people who look at you warily for a moment but as you smile and try out your new skills they smile back and recognise a learner amongst them.   Refreshed, you look at the next little village a bit differently knowing it probably offers something new of its own and also much that is familiar.  And another, and another, and patterns begin to form until you realise you’re across the plateau with your goal nearer and there are new treasures to discover.

This is a journey of learning.