03 October 2007



Plateaued people often tell me, "I do my job and I just hope that something will turn up." Those who work in large organisations seem especially prone to being "good" - waiting for the good fairy to notice them and reach out with a magic wand.

If you wait for superiors or fate to create opportunies, however, you give others too much power over what happens to you. It's your responsibility to say what you want. You know your competencies better than anyone. You are in a unique position to make a case for yourself, to initiate the redesign of your work so that it's more challenging.

Think about the aspects of your work that give you intrinsic satisfaction and enlarge them. Then speak up and ask for a change. While you are unlikely to get everything you want, you are more likely to get SOMETHING than you are if you don't speak up.

A second career is a major throw of the dice. But for those prepared to take the risk, it may be best choice of all.

Russ has been in retail trade all his life and his wife, Alice was a secretary. Russ and Alice weren't aware of how repetitive their lives had become until all the children left home; but once they realised their lives had slid into comfortable boredom, they agreed to do something about it.

For several years, they thought up ideas and tried to develop plans to make them happen. Then one day, one of them mentioned having a bed-and-breakfast place. They looked at each other - bingo! For the first time, a possibility sounded good and felt good. It would be work they could share, they like people and they enjoyed entertaining. They'd really be starting all over. But that, in fact, was exactly what they were looking for.

Once they knew what they wanted, the rest was relatively easy. They learned a lot in the first six months and they're still learning. They're also working 15 hours a day and that's okay with them. Alice and Russ have moved off their plateau. While it's a little scary, mostly it's exciting. They are revitalized.


Continuous learning is what you need for continuous challenge. You can upgrade and extend our job skills, or follow shifting career interests to improve the likelihood of doing new work. You can also learn for learning's own sake.

Aside from the specifics learned in formal courses, you have a more basic reason to initiate your self-education. In work, the pace of change is continuously accelerating, and opportunities will be seized by people whose capacity to learn, whose ability to adapt and anticipate, keeps apace. earning, like any other skill, takes practice.


Plateaued people unable to change their jobs need to use their knowledge and skills in different ways that feel significant. One way to be productive is to be a mentor to younger pepole in the organisation.

Being a mentor involves the challenge of being the wise teacher. Middle age is more likely to be a period of personal renaissance if you facilitate the creativity and growth of younger people; you will have created a new way to earn self-respect and create challenge.

Another challenge is to become involved in your community and your government. The olunteer sector can be as gratifying as your professional work if you approach it with the same kind of

Participation in the community offers opportunities to wrestle with different issues, to have hands-on experience, to be creative, to exert leadership and to make a visible difference. It is another place where leadership and wisdom can be used.


Some people find that work leaves little time for anything else - spouse, children, friends, and least of all, oneself.

Time that you take for yourself is important. Being able mentally to leave the stress of work and relax is necessary for creativity. It's simple: we have to recharge our batteries. "I insist on taking vacations," says the chairman of a major corporation. "Around here it's not shameful to take one; no one feels guilty about taking time off. We want people who are balanced - we are not looking for workaholics."

The most important change in terms of priorities is creating a balance between your personal and professional lives. If there is a significant imbalance, the chances are that you won't do terribly well in either sector.

No one can or should tell you what to do with your life. Periodically, you yourself must evaluate it. And I am confident that when you evaluate alternatives, make choices and initiate changes, you will increase your sense of confidence and control. It is only when you take the initiative that you can control your life. That's what you're going for; it's the essence of being able to leave any plateau.

by: Judith M. Bardwick

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