How to Get Unstuck and Grow Your Business

William felt tired as he drove home. His business was successful. His family was comfortable. He had the respect of others. But he could never quite get to the next level. To be honest, he wasn’t sure what the “next level” looked like. But it seemed that, with all the effort and time and resources put into his company, things should be easier. For example, why was it so hard for him to get away and take a long vacation? Why was he still mediating arguments between employees? Why was he dealing with customer complaints?

William always felt inspired by leaders who seemed relaxed and happy. Ones who seemed to spend their time building new projects or investing in their employees or contributing to the community. Why did it feel like if he took his hand off the wheel, even for a few days, everything would start to drift apart?

A moment of clarity. William realized that’s what the issue was…he was always so involved in holding things together. He didn’t feel like he had the time or energy to move them forward. He felt stuck. Plateaued. Putting in the effort but not seeing progress.

Why We Plateau

I’ve always been involved in athletics. For twelve years, I was also a strength and conditioning instructor. As every athlete knows — plateaus are frustrating. Good athletes know how to break them. Plateaus come from the body’s natural drive towards homeostasis. Our bodies and our brains are wired to work as efficiently as possible. Whatever condition your body gets in — generally after a month or two in that condition — your body and brain tend to make that the “norm”. The norm becomes what is comfortable. It’s easy to maintain that level of effort and work…and results. We feel uncomfortable if we regress. But it’s also uncomfortable to progress. So, we maintain. We plateau.

Plateaus and Thermostats

Psychologically, we each have a “success thermostat.” This thermostat is primarily set through messages received from our families growing up. It is reinforced by experiences we have in life. Following that, it is set by the messages we pay the most attention to.

Let’s say you own a business. Year after year, you find your discretionary earnings staying right around $100,000. Sometimes a little higher. Sometimes a little lower. When you reflect on this, you might realize that a six-figure income was always referred to as financial “success” growing up. You believe that successful people earn $100,000 a year. That is locked into your head. Less than $100,000 feels like failing. If you dip below, you heat things up and get your numbers back.

But more than $100,000 feels like “too much.” If you go over, you cool off. You dial back your efforts. Many people find that there is a pattern to this. There is about 15% wiggle room either way — if you go too far below or above, the thermostat kicks in and brings you back. It’s hard to change.

The financial metric is easy to describe. But this applies to other areas as well: Who we see as peers. The size of the contracts we pursue. The number of staff or programs we oversee. The goals we set. The problems we believe we can solve.

We find comfort at one level. And don’t do the different kinds of things required to get to the next level.

The Four Changes You Need to Make to Get the Change You Want

This next statement is forehead-slappingly obvious: If you want different results — do something different. Nevertheless, many people insist on doing the same thing but hope for different results. If you make the following four changes — you will break through your plateau. They aren’t a mystery. They just take doing:

  1. Change your goals: If your previous way of goal setting hasn’t created the results you want — change the kinds of goals you set.

Most likely your goals are too small or just more of “the same”. Your goals should be big or different enough that it takes a completely different kind of approach and thinking to accomplish them.

2. Change your actions: Your normal routines have produced the success you have. But not the success you want. What needs to change? For many leaders, it’s these three shifts:

  • Clarity: Getting crystal clear on your priorities and the specific steps to accomplishing them.
  • Prioritize your time: Block your most productive time to focus on the action that will move your organization forward. Don’t let anything steal this time.
  • Stop needing to be needed: Call a halt to solving problems. Create solutions so problems don’t reoccur. Build systems and a team that allow your organization to solve problems for you.

3. Change your influences: Change who you spend time with, what you read and listen to. Immerse yourself in “next level” thinking. Spend time with people who are where you want to be. Read and listen to thinkers who describe what you want to get to. Allow this mental and relational marination to change your vision and self-image.

4. Change or create accountability: Get someone in your life that you are accountable to. Someone you respect. Someone you don’t want to disappoint. Tell them your goals and your plans. Give them permission to call you out. It could be a peer, a mentor or a coach. You need someone.

What Changes Will You Make?

These four changes drive different, better results. Do you want different results? If so, what specific changes will you make?

Take good care,


Originally published at on April 27, 2021.

I help successful leaders and teams dramatically improve their performance. Guaranteed.