In this post, I would like to explore what it takes to make a breakthrough – a quantum leap – something that moves you in a different direction or takes your performance to a new level.
We all face this problem of course, unless you are one of those people who are happy with where you are right now, which may be the case. Sometimes, even in my workshops, I meet such people. They ask me what is wrong with having a well-paid job that enables them to live in a nice house, drive a nice car and have two holidays per year. My answer is always the same: there is nothing wrong with it at all.
If you are happy with your lot, then personal development does not have much to offer you because you are already what Abraham Maslow referred to as ‘self-actualised‘. There are people who work in quite humble occupations who are very happy indeed with where they are and how they are spending their time. But for other people, there is something that I can only describe as an inner emptiness, a longing and desire for a richer, more fulfilling life. Those are the people at whom my workshops and my writing are primarily directed.
If you are engaged in improving your life, then you will hopefully have embraced the idea of continuous improvement; the idea that you always can analyse your own experience and identify ways you could have performed better. Then you can use those same insights to improve your performance in the future. It is an excellent approach and it works, but that’s not what this post is about. I wanted to discuss the business of making a breakthrough; not a small improvement, but a big one.
Over the past couple of months, this is exactly what I have been trying to do with my blog; something we discussed with the idea of playing in the bigger pond. The biggest part of solving the problem of significant improvement is identifying the new, or changed, actions that need to be performed. Once you know what activity has the capacity to produce the results you want, then getting those results simply becomes a matter of effort.
You may remember something that Donald Rumsfeld once said:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Well, I would like to add in that there must also be Unknown Knowns i.e. there are things that we actually know, but we don’t know that we know them. It is a logical extension of what he said and it is intuitively true. That gives us the following two by two matrix:
Known Knowns ———— Known Unknowns
Unknown Knowns ——— Unknown Unknowns
When making a quantum jump, I believe we are trying to identify both ‘Unknown Knowns’ and ‘Unknown Unknowns’. So there are two things that we need to find a way to access: stuff that we do know (it is inside us somewhere) but we have difficulty identifying and articulating; and stuff that we not only genuinely don’t know, but we are unable to even begin searching for or asking about because it is completely out of our area of personal experience.
The first of these categories – Unknown Knowns – can provide us with a real way of moving forward and I believe that we can gain access to such information by the process of introspection, meditation and reflection. Access to the second of these categories I believe can be achieved through the process of modelling. The great thing about modelling is that you don’t need to know why something works. You get to make use of other people’s experience by simply copying what successful people are already doing.
Both of the above methods are very powerful especially if coupled with the continuous improvement approach that you should already be using i.e. keep noticing what works and what doesn’t; and then simply do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. This will allow you to hone your methods based on the ideas you get through both introspection and modelling.
If you commit to changing your approach based on the ideas in this post, I guarantee you will be able to make a quantum leap. You will identify the actions that need to be performed. After that, it is simply a matter of commitment to taking the relevant action which, if you are determined enough, will be relatively straightforward; I am not saying easy, but straightforward i.e. easy to understand. Once you get to this stage – having identified what needs to be done – you are well on your way to achieving outstanding success.