rebelling against low expectations

Pushing Past The O.K. Plateau


The O.K. Plateau

I was reading an article on “mental athletes” by The New York Times. It was a fascinating subject, however, there was one section in particular that caught my attention and seemed worth passing along.

In the Secrets of a Mind-Gamer (an article with a very off-putting and tawdry introduction which only makes sense if you read the entire thing) Joshua Foer explores his journey from journalistic curiosity to competing for the United States Memory Championship. As he relates the steps he took, he tells of when he seemingly hit the plateau of his memorizing potential, and how he got past it:

Cooke kept me on a strict training regimen. Each morning, after drinking coffee but before reading the newspaper or showering or getting dressed, I sat at my desk for 10 to 15 minutes to work through a poem or memorize the names in an old yearbook. Rather than take a magazine or book along with me on the subway, I would whip out a page of random numbers or a deck of playing cards and try to commit it to memory. Strolls around the neighborhood became an excuse to memorize license plates. I began to pay a creepy amount of attention to name tags. I memorized my shopping lists. Whenever someone gave me a phone number, I installed it in a special memory palace.

Over the next several months, while I built a veritable metropolis of memory palaces and stocked them with strange and colorful images, Ericsson kept tabs on my development. When I got stuck, I would call him for advice, and he would inevitably send me scurrying for some journal article that he promised would help me understand my shortcomings. At one point, not long after I started training, my memory stopped improving. No matter how much I practiced, I couldn’t memorize playing cards any faster than 1 every 10 seconds. I was stuck in a rut, and I couldn’t figure out why. “My card times have hit a plateau,” I lamented.

“At one point, not long after I started training, my memory stopped improving. No matter how much I practiced, I couldn’t memorize playing cards any faster than 1 every 10 seconds. I was
stuck in a rut, and I couldn’t figure out why.

“I would recommend you check out the literature on speed typing,” he replied.

When people first learn to use a keyboard, they improve very quickly from sloppy single-finger pecking to careful two-handed typing, until eventually the fingers move effortlessly and the whole process becomes unconscious. At this point, most people’s typing skills stop progressing. They reach a plateau. If you think about it, it’s strange. We’ve always been told that practice makes perfect, and yet many people sit behind a keyboard for hours a day. So why don’t they just keeping getting better and better?

In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner tried to answer this question by describing the three stages of acquiring a new skill. During the first phase, known as the cognitive phase, we intellectualize the task and discover new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently. During the second, the associative phase, we concentrate less, making fewer major errors, and become more efficient. Finally we reach what Fitts and Posner called the autonomous phase, when we’re as good as we need to be at the task and we basically run on autopilot. Most of the time that’s a good thing. The less we have to focus on the repetitive tasks of everyday life, the more we can concentrate on the stuff that really matters. You can actually see this phase shift take place in f.M.R.I.’s of subjects as they learn new tasks: the parts of the brain involved in conscious reasoning become less active, and other parts of the brain take over. You could call it the O.K. plateau.

Psychologists used to think that O.K. plateaus marked the upper bounds of innate ability. In his 1869 book “Hereditary Genius,” Sir Francis Galton argued that a person could improve at mental and physical activities until he hit a wall, which “he cannot by any education or exertion overpass.” In other words, the best we can do is simply the best we can do. But Ericsson and his colleagues have found over and over again that with the right kind of effort, that’s rarely the case. They believe that Galton’s wall often has much less to do with our innate limits than with what we consider an acceptable level of performance. They’ve found that top achievers typically follow the same general pattern. They develop strategies for keeping out of the autonomous stage by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented and getting immediate feedback on their performance.

“Psychologists used to think that O.K. plateaus marked the upper bounds of innate ability. In other words, the best we can do is simply the best we can do. But Ericsson and his colleagues have found over and over again that with the right kind of effort, that’s rarely the case.”

Amateur musicians, for example, tend to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces. Similarly, the best ice skaters spend more of their practice time trying jumps that they land less often, while lesser skaters work more on jumps they’ve already mastered. In other words, regular practice simply isn’t enough. For all of our griping over our failing memories — the misplaced keys, the forgotten name, the factoid stuck on the tip of the tongue — our biggest failing may be that we forget how rarely we forget. To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail. That’s what I needed to do if I was going to improve my memory.

“To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to
how and why we fail. That’s what I needed to do
if I was going to improve my memory.”

With typing, it’s relatively easy to get past the O.K. plateau. Psychologists have discovered that the most efficient method is to force yourself to type 10 to 20 percent faster than your comfort pace and to allow yourself to make mistakes. Only by watching yourself mistype at that faster speed can you figure out the obstacles that are slowing you down and overcome them. Ericsson suggested that I try the same thing with cards. He told me to find a metronome and to try to memorize a card every time it clicked. Once I figured out my limits, he instructed me to set the metronome 10 to 20 percent faster and keep trying at the quicker pace until I stopped making mistakes. Whenever I came across a card that was particularly troublesome, I was supposed to make a note of it and see if I could figure out why it was giving me cognitive hiccups. The technique worked, and within a couple days I was off the O.K. plateau, and my card times began falling again at a steady clip. Before long, I was committing entire decks to memory in just a few minutes.

I think this is fascinating and challenging. To be honest, it is something I have wondered about in passing but never took the time to actually investigate.

In some ways, I have to confess I regret learning about it because I’ve lost an excuse I like to use. Sometimes when I do things and reach my plateau I simply stop, because I’m a perfectionist, and if I don’t compare with those who are really good then I don’t want to do it at all. There are other things I’m better at, I reason, and so I excuse myself by rationalizing that it’s a waste of time to dwell on something I can’t get any better at. Now I’ve lost my excuse.

But on the other hand, this thought thrills me. The best you think you can do, is not the best you can do. With the correct approach, with feedback, and diligence in repeatedly practicing the hard parts and the areas in which we are the most likely to fail, we can go far beyond what initially appears the limits of our potential.

Join in by answering any or all of the following questions:

  • Have you experienced the “O.K. Plateau” in your own life?
  • If so, did you respond by coasting or by pushing through?
  • What are some areas in your life where you could apply these principles?

+ Join the Conversation +

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Wow!! I thought that was really cool!! But I can see how in my life my flute playing definitely could be pushed past OK. See, everyone says i’m good for a 7th grader, yet I geuss i’ve been sucked in to believe them. I should practice and not say, oh, it’s for someone better than me, but say, I will do this till I get it even if it’s hard!!! thanks so much for this blog!!! It helps a lot for a new Rebelutionary like me!!!! I will totally include my fellow rebelutionaries in my prayers!! God bless!!!!

  • “What are some areas in your life where you could apply these principles?”:

    I definitely could apply this in pushing myself to run/exercise! Also in my music… if I think I have a song down and perfect, I could go back and perfect it even more, even though I know there would still be mistakes but with that mind set, it would just encourage me to try harder!!

    Thanks for the article!! Very helpful!


  • » Have you experienced the “O.K. Plateau” in your own life? In my piano playing. I have been playing the piano since 6 or 7. I have gotten discouraged a lot of times.

    » If so, did you respond by coasting or by pushing through? Like I said I got discouraged a lot. But then I thought about what kind of music I wanted to be able to play and all the things I could do with my music. So, I pushed on. I am now on the very last book of the curriculum!!! So it does pay off a lot. 🙂

    » What are some areas in your life where you could apply these principles? Well, I have been struggling with not fighting with siblings and parents. I get really discouraged sometimes. This post has really helped me to see that its ok to make mistakes, but keep trying until you make no mistakes. Now, by no means am I saying that I will never be perfect! After all, nobody can be perfect on something like that except Jesus. But I want to be really good at it.

    Thanks for posting this Sarah!

  • As a piano major, I have definitely hit the OK plateau many times. I’ll be satisfied with playing a piece better than others may be able to, but I won’t push myself to perfection. It’s easy to just do the things I know I’m good at; I avoid the pieces that are difficult for me because I don’t like the initial stages of practice where I sound bad. So I go back to what I can do easily, with little effort. In music, it’s called “polishing shiny objects.” We avoid the things we know we need to improve on basically because we like being good at something & avoid the things that remind us of our shortcomings. The only way I’ve gotten past it is realizing that continually working through my weaknesses is the best way to grow & excel in my craft. It’s hard to keep yourself from going into autopilot, but it is the only way to achieve excellence.

  • “Similarly, the best ice skaters spend more of their practice time trying jumps that they land less often, while lesser skaters work more on jumps they’ve already mastered.” I just started figure skating a little over a year ago (I’m 15) and I get discouraged very easily since the 8 and 9 year olds can land way more jumps than I can! I love that a skater was used as an example, definately an encouragement! Thanks for posting!

    To Emma: Keep at it girl! I was in the exact same situation (with flute playing) when I was in seventh grade… PUSH PAST THE O.K!!

  • » Have you experienced the “O.K. Plateau” in your own life?
    Yes, many times.
    » If so, did you respond by coasting or by pushing through?
    I am still trying to push through.
    » What are some areas in your life where you could apply these principles?
    It seemed I used to ace everything I tried to accomplish the first or second time I tried it. Now for sometime, everything I do fails no matter how long or hard I try. Now I am dealing with inferiority complex. I still need to try!

  • I have definitely experienced the OK Plateau and sometimes I just decide it’s too
    much work to push past it. In my subconscious and sometimes my conscious thought
    I realize this, and when I’m in the right mood I can push myself harder. I go through
    these bouts of negative thinking, though, where all I can say is ‘what’s the point?’ and
    ‘what will that do?’ So, I respond in different ways. It’s something I’m really seeking God
    about right now, actually. Am I doing the right things for the right reasons? What is the
    purpose of my pushing through? This applies to all areas of my life. The key is narrowing
    it down to what God wants me to be working on right now.

  • I can think of so many areas this would be highly applicable.
    Music, writing, even reading skills, would take a turn for the excellent if I learned to overcome plateaus. I had honestly never considered that there could be a “better than best!” Thank you for this insight… it’s wonderful and very inspiring.

  • I think we all have “O.K. Plateaus” in our lives, and we can always get better. In my own life I had an O.K. plateau in math in about the 6th grade it was hard and it has been ever since, but I just have to keep pushing. I have an upcoming challenge where I need to memorize the book of 1st Peter, and I think I’ve reached my O.K. Plateau are around verse 2 🙂 , but I need to continue to push myself and memorize it. Thanks for the great post!

  • We settle for O.K. so much in life. Why? I don’t see how we can be on an O.K. Plateau for so long! I certainly won’t! This post was really fantastic…a lot more people need to recognize all their capabilities…I’ll keep pushing myself to spread all this:]

  • Several times, Joshua Foer uses the term “memory palace,” which probably was used first by Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), a Jesuit priest who set himself the project of evangelizing China. Check out “The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci” by Jonathan Spence (Penguin Books: 1984) for a discussion of his mental exercises.
    While “getting past the wall” is a good thing, and the techniques mentioned seem worthwhile, the larger question is, “How critical is the goal?” For the seventh-grade flautist, the ninth-grade pianist, the eleventh-grade runner, there is merit in striving to do better than your present best. But the supreme goal surely is living a Spirit-filled life in Jesus Christ: a goal requiring a wholly different kind of exertion than becoming proficient in memory, music or physical prowess.

  • i have had several OK plateaus in my life. one is my accomplishment as a swimmer. i look at the younger kids and think oh i’m way better than them and then the faster ones and think well i only have four months left then i have to leave for college so whats the point in knocking myself out for a short time? i’m not a bad swimmer but i could be better…another one is my walk with Christ. there have been many times where i think i’m doing O.K. but then i look at my youth pastor or even some of my friends and see how they interact with Christ and think i need to push myself so that i dont become complacent…….so thank you alex and brett for posting this!! just what i needed to hear!!!!

  • I have experienced the O.K plateau numerous times! Specifically in relationships. My youth group just started a study on the movie “How to Save a Life” and I’ve begun to realize and regret things that I should have done, but sadly…didn’t. I felt that I had gone as far as possible (or as far as comfortable) in reaching out to people, my “O.K plateau.” but looking back now makes me wish I had “pushed myself beyond where I thought my limits were.”

  • Now that I know what it is, I realize that I experienced and am experiencing, the OK plateau in my life. And most times I just coast through it. Thanks so much, Sarah, for the eye-opener! This will make a definite difference in how I live life.

  • Thanks Julianna(and anyone elses who I didn’t read but mentioned this)for relating the OK Plateau to our walk with Christ, that’s a different angle I wouldn’t have seen before!!!

  • Great post!!!! 😀 Yes, I agree. It kind of doesn’t allow me to have an excuse anymore. When I was in junior high, I was involved in KY Baptist Bible Drill. You would have to look the verses up in 10 seconds. My dad was my coach and he made me look up the verses in 8 seconds and eventually 6 seconds. So, when I got there it was really easy for me to look them up in 10 seconds. Yeah he kind of pushed me. 😉 But I was really thankful that I learned that even when I don’t think I can do any better, God gives me strength to try even harder. God bless!!!

  • Wow! I need this right now with my violin playing and at work. It is just amazing how much we get stuck at one place with out realizing our full potential! I guess that goes with the study that we use less of the 10% of our brain.

    So I guess I’ll keep learning till there be no more to learn!

    Thanks for the post!

  • Sadly, I am experiencing the “O.K. plateau” right now in my studies. I’m a senior in high school, and since I have already been accepted by the college I want to go to, I’ve found myself slacking in my studies, and use the excuse that “I’ve done my best”, but truly I haven’t. This message is a wake up call! I will for sure try my hardest to go beyond the good, and seek excellence. Thank you so much for posting it! God bless 🙂

  • I have been playing my guitar less and less lately and losing passion for it because I have’nt been facing new challenges or working on the things that I ‘dont’ usually work on I have been wondering what to do now. Then I finished you guy’s book and I have come up with alot of new stuff to work on and Im becoming a better musician everyday, thanks for everything. God bless

  • After reading this I realized that I have hit a plateau in my dance. I’m fairly good, but I haven’t been really pushing myself to get better. Part of that is complacency because I’m one of the top dancers at my studio, so I don’t feel the need to get better. This psot has challenged me to work on that. I’m sure there are other areas where I’m the OK plateau, but this is the one I can think of right now.

  • So, I thought this was a GREAT post, and I decided to email it to my mom. She loved it, and she said, I’ve got something for you. She handed me a book called “A Brilliant Mind: Proven Ways To Increase Your Brainpower” by Frank Minirth, M.D. I have only read 1 1/2 chapters, but I totally recommend it already. I flipped through the pages and towards the end, he has you memorizing Scripture! I figure that if I read it now, it will help me with the Bible Bee this Summer. If you want to push past the O.K. Plateau, then this is a great read!

  • I think we always tend to go for ok insted of the best we can do. Does anyone else agree because i know i used to do this all to often and i am convicted.

  • I’m surprised how many responses have been from musicians! I have played the harp for 8 yrs and have hit a plateau. Please read and respond! Here are my struggles:
    Since I don’t want to major in music in college, I don’t feel the need to continue pushing myself- also, I am part of a big, busy family and have limited time to devote to practice. So, because I know other harpists who practice hours on end and are progressing faster than I am, I get really bogged down with an “It doesn’t matter because I’ll never be as good as them” attitude.
    Another thing- I’m happy to play an easy song well than play a harder song and make lots of mistakes, and since my favorite part of the music is encouraging others through it and getting to see their faces after I’ve finished a song, I think that’s okay.
    Also, since the harp is such a rare instrument, playing the simplest song will illicit praises and compliments. So my mindset often is, “If people enjoy the easiest thing, why burn energy on really complicated stuff? Who would actually notice and appreciate it?” I’ve heard the whole “Do your best for Jesus no matter what” advice, but sometimes it’s hard to trust He’s listening and cares about one girl’s music.
    Anyone else have similar issues? What would you suggest I do? (critiques welcome too!)

  • ‘The best you think you can do, is not the best you can do. ‘

    oh wow. this is really a big push for me, I can honestly say that i am not a perfectionist. I’m more of a mediocre which, a lot of times, does not help me grow. I want to try and see if i can get past my own OK plateau. I just hope I don’t give up so easily :'( that’s one thing I really struggle with. Giving up when I tire of doing something.

  • I definitely have a couple OK plateaus in my life. I love playing the piano and I’m also an amateur photographer; but I have often found myself giving up on practicing and pursuing materials (books, advice of experts) that could help me get better, since I know I’ll probably never reach the level of some more talented individuals. I definitely want to grow in diligence as I seek to overcome my OK plateaus.
    My only problem with this article is that it doesn’t point to God’s available help in aiding us to work unto him. I think it’s EXTREMELY important to remember that God should be my focus in this–I wouldn’t want to push past my “o.k. plateau” just to prove myself.
    Simply “pushing through” seems to lean towards legalism and self-sufficiency. It’s so important to remember that our endeavors should be done for God’s glory… not just to accomplish something.
    I know you all are not meaning to encourage legalistic thoughts, but I thought God’s role in our growth was missing in this particular entry.

  • My Plateau was in Pre-Algebra. It took a lot of effort ( including re-taking the class with a different teacher, and working through the summer) but I finally got past it. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. Now I need to tackle my piano Plateau. And my writing Plateau. And my cooking Plateau. Man, when I stop for a moment and asses my life I can see so many things that I need to change! Thank you for the push!

  • @Amy:

    Thanks for the encouragement!!!! I’m definitely keeping up with flute!!!! I don’t know if God has any plans for me with the flute, ya never know!! With your skating, don’t feel bad, I’m much worse than you, I’m sure!! My dad makes the ice skating rink for our town yet I never even go on it cause I can’t skate. Anyway, good luck and thanks for the encouragement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Yes, I definitely have experienced the O.K Plateau. I never even really thought about it till now!! So yeah, I coasted right on through…or didn’t even go completely through, just sorta stayed in the middle. Right now, guitar is my problem. I just started learning and I really like it…but at the same time I dislike practice because it requires a lot of patience along with determination and effort. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • » Have you experienced the “O.K. Plateau” in your own life?
    I hit an “OK” point in my studies during my last two years in high school. During my grade ten year I had done poorly in math class, reaching a point where I just could not figure out the questions or seem to retain all of the formulas. I “Passed” but then, I started Math ten again. Once again I earned a passing grade and dealt with the frustration of not being able perform to the same standard as my siblings. (My oldest brother is really good at math and earned A’s without even trying and my sister who is two years younger than me was doing the same math course.) So, I tried again and earned a B and then pushed through Math 11 and earned a B there as well. Perhaps a B is not excelling but it is much better than just “Passing.”

    » What are some areas in your life where you could apply these principles?
    I have perhaps not applied the same principle to my job in the last couple of months. I am a lifeguard at the local rec center and “good enough” is the attitude of most of my co-workers. (Actually, even for most of the people in our town; Population under 5,000). Many of my co-workers swim ‘well enough,’ have their skills up to date ‘enough,’ and guard just carefully enough, to pass the lifeguard exam that we have to take every two years. I have to admit this has started to become my attitude as well. No More! Sure I know that I can pick up a 20 lb weight from off of the bottom of a dive tank and carry it 10 meters to the side, but I am also aware that after a few lengths of head up front crawl across the pool I am just about spent. I guess that is not showing a Godly attitude towards my work. A verse just popped into my head as I was typing this out. It is 1 Corinthians 9:24 which says “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” We do not have to be the best in the world, but why stop learning?

    A very important concept that I learned while I was horseback riding a couple of summers ago was that the horses that stop the fastest are the ones that have learned to back up quickly on cue after the stop. If the rider is satisfied with just stopping, the horse will never be trained to its full potential. The horse is better at what he does because he has been pushed by the trainer to go farther than his OK. Whether we are learning to memorize or play an instrument our “good” will only become better when we stretch our limit. Isn’t this concept what the Rebelution is all about? Going beyond the expectations of others and pressing forward to be the best that God would have us be? Run, not just to finish the race; run for the prize.

  • What an excellent forum! There was no such resource when I was a young adult and a new believer; how blessed our young people are.

    A verse came to mind as I read my daughter’s comment. It is II Cor 10:12 “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

    Pushing past OK to BEST is important, but the whether or not we’ve made progress should be compared to our own achievement in the past – NOT the benchmarks of others. Comparing ourselves to others cultivates pride or covetousness; neither are Godly attributes. It may be all right to look to other’s accompllishments for inspiration, but it is best to look to Jesus. Ultimately, self worth needs to rest in the fact that each one of us is made as an image bearer of the Lord, and that our value is in Him alone.

    Exellence is scripturally founded; so is balance. One must protect themselves from becoming so focussed on achievement that one’s life is driven by that. Beethovan was driven, but ended his life literally shaking his fist at God. There is only so much that anyone can get done in this lifetime. It is okay to be a bit gentle with ourselves; even Jesus rested.

  • I read this article too in the New York Times, and thought it was pretty interesting.
    I like the idea that we can learn more and get better than we think. I think that this has a lot to do with college studies and music. For example, I have the goal of becoming involved in the media industry somehow and use my place there to glorify God (I like to act, sing and write), but sometimes I feel frustrated that I won’t ever be able to get to the skill level in the Arts that I hope to. Then I will encounter a new mentor, learn a new skill, or be introduced to a way that I can improve my level of knowledge and application of knowledge even better. God takes care of the opportunities if I’m willing to put in the effort and pray about it.
    Whether in church dramas, choir, public performances or music classes, I am continually learning just how much there is to learn, and that life truly is a process of non-stop learning! 🙂 It’s great to know that I can keep getting better, even when I feel that I can’t and have reached that “ok place”.
    This has happened with one of my siblings as well, who often reaches what seem musical plateaus in his learning to play the piano, but he pushes himself, practices, and with proper encouragement, overcomes the plateaus. God has continually provided for his pursuit, and soon he’ll be getting a full-size piano instead of just a full-sized keyboard, and has even been able to get free music lessons. It’s amazing how God takes care of the details when we trust Him.


    I am totally where you are at, girl! I dance, and I definitely feel myself at an OK plateau. I am currently in a Dance Troupe, and it’s a Junior Dance Troupe. Since I am 15, I am one of the oldest in the troupe–if not THE oldest– so I am one of the top dancers there. I recently have slacked off, doing only what is required and not really pushing myself, because the moves are easy to me. But I realized that I need to give my all–100%, even when I think I have “arrived”. Thanks for this article…I will take it to heart.

  • mind over matter. . . if you think you can do better, then you’ll do great effort to be with it. if you think you are at your best then eventually you stop and stay where you are, setting for mediocrity.

    as I ponder. . . I think it is just our feeling that we reach our plateau. when we think we have done our best, then it follows that we think we reach our plateau. as a result we stop working, we rest and stop thinking we can do more.

  • got to share something. . .
    i just realize. . .

    In my situation right now, I am thinking I already reach the plateau in one of civic organization I am involved with. I am currently the treasurer of the organization, but desiring to learn more, I am working, exploring every position. for a year, I learned a lot, and experience a lot. I did it I think. For me it is already enough. I experience everything, like to be a VP-internal, VP-external, secretary, of course treasurer(for that is my position), P.I.O, been with the B.O.D and dealing decisions making.( for every time each of them need help, assistance I always make myself available). FOR ME IT IS REALLY ENOUGH. I AM SATISFIED WITH WHAT I HAVE LEARNED. I EXPLORE EVERYTHING IN THE ORGANIZATION ALREADY. AND WITH THAT I THINK I REACHED THE PLATEAU.

  • continuation. . . (of I AM so sorry)

    But what I actually realized after reading this article, is that do not stop learning. Do not think you already learn everything. Somehow be HUMBLE. Think as if you are a child and you need to learn more. Do not settle for mediocrity. soar high where you are so that people can see the blessing God has given you.

  • continuation again. . .( a problem occur)

    As I join the conversation here. I was encourage to accept another challenge. Some of my colleagues want me to be in the position of a president in the next term. As I always reason to them why I don’t want to be in that position is because I already explore everything, every position, I’ve been their and it is enough for me.
    I think it is not yet enough, if I will be the president I think I will learn more, maybe not only in the nature of our organization but in another aspect of my life. In leading a group, in dealing with members, in my attitude.

    as I always said, It is mind over matter.
    I want to learn I will do an effort.

  • I’ve hit the plateu quite a few times over quite a few different matters, but what stands out to me most is my spiritual plateu. I have always been a Christian, but until something drastically clicked in my mind, i casn’t a PASSIONATE Christian! I realized that my passion and love for God was growing dimmer day by day. If i read my Bible, it was because it was the best thing to do and if i prayed it was usually because i wanted something or i was going to bed or eating dinner or something. than i realized: HEY GIRL! WAKE UP!!! BE MORE EXCITED ABOUT GOD!!!!! ARENT YOU EXCITED TO HAVE THE AWESOMELY AWESOME PRIVILAGE OF BEING HIS KID??? And i woke up, He opened my eyes, and my life has been more miraculous since. =)

  • Im in 8th grade and I just got Your book yesterday. And all i have to say is, that it is the beast thing that has happened to me all year. So, thank you for taking the time and effort to write and publish it. finally i really get your message because my mom said that the teachers in school dont exactly think that i can accomplish much because i not allways the best behaved all the time. So while and after i read this book and your other one i have a plan to change that.

    Thank you so much 🙂

  • ‘ have you experienced the ok plateau in your own life?’
    yes i have. i have been doing karate for about four months now. my instructer said im doing everything he wants me to do. but when i read this article, i thought to myself, ” why do just what is barely expected of me?” so now, next time i go to karate class, i try to do more than is expected of me. thanks for posting this article, it has been encouraging for me.

  • My church is doing a series called ‘Go big or Go Home’. i definately feel like this whole thing with OK platues fits in with that. i have been having a hard time trying to motivate myself to step outside my comfort zone and get out there both for God and with my grades. I wish that i knew some definate way to motivate me to Go Big, because if there isn’t, i think i might end up going home.

  • Mediocrity is quickly becoming one of the downfalls of the USA! I was raised by an elderly mother who was not accustomed to giving in. Her generation were very determined people, but they were very practical too.

    I don’t completely agree with mind over matter. We should always be aware of a balance.

    Again, great post! and I can’t wait to get the book for my young’ins.

    Three Bible verses that were drilled into me… to keep me from giving in to mediocrity are: Col. 3:23, 1Cor 10:31 and Eph 6:7.

    Thank you Mama and Thank you YAHWEH.

  • wow. for four years now i’ve been wondering why my drawing skill’s improvement came to a halt or at least to a very slow pace. now at least i know why. thank you for posting this!! it was really helpful. 🙂

  • Hello,
    My name is Luiza Barbosa, I am Brazilian and I am reading your book which was released here in Brazil, I’m really enjoying it, very interested on the proposed change our generation, so I’m trying to create a blog, here to advertise for young people of Brazil, more than you really wanted me down a help, because I think the idea that you had come from the heart of God, and I’m willing to radicalize.
    thank you, hope you answer me.
    Luiza grateful
    e-mail: [email protected]

  • Hi,
    My name is Kristin McGuire and I live in the US. I’ve read Do Hard Things and I’m currently working through their second book. Honestly I believe that everyone comes to the O.K. Plateau in their life. For instance I came to it in my faith. I thought that I knew what I was doing, how to council others, who God was and even who I was. It was amazing when God opened my eyes just a few months ago and I realized that even though I thought I knew everything I needed to know and knew who I was going to become, God had a different plan for me and my life where I needed to push forward and jump off the plateau. I am now switching my major in college and pushing forward to become a missionary. It’s a tad scary but I really believe that it’s what I need to do to get out of the rut I’m in.

  • I have definitely experienced this O.K. Plateau many, many times so far–and no doubt will many times in the future. Sadly, in most cases I coasted. I have trouble committing to things, so when I say “Yes, I’m finally going to do this.” I DO mean it at the time but as soon as I hit that wall, I just end up throwing up my hands and saying forget it. It’s one of the most frustrating things about myself. One of the major areas I could apply this to is my relationship with God and others. I find that I get comfortable in my relationship with God, and while that IS a good thing, I usually will just sit there, cuddling up to God and not wanting to let anyone else in. Like, sort of a “He’s MY God” thing, where I don’t want to share Him. I see the hypocrisy in that, since God is a god of all people and He calls us to be disciples, and I want more than anything to change it. (Any readers out there, pray for strength for me please.) This article was very, very inspiring. It tells me that I CAN push through the wall, and it comforts me that others experience the same thing I do.

  • I feel that I have reached an O.K. Plateau with my music I guess. I’ve felt god has been calling me to do something with music in my future, but lately, I’ve felt that instead of my music skills increasing, they’ve simply been at a standstill. I’ve also experienced this in other areas of my life and I definitely experienced that with my relationship with God many times. I’m glad to say I’ve felt like my relationship with God has been improving, but I pray that I could push myself to my full potential in music so that I can bring glory to his name through my music.

  • I was just introduced to the “DO HARD THINGS” book and it is totally changing my perspective. I never really though about the low expectations they set for us. Lately I’ve felt like my best just wasn’t good enough. But that I couldn’t do any better. But when I got on here it totally gave me a boost of confidence. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! for all you guys do! you have encouraged me greatly in my walk with Christ! I’ve always been the younger of the group but now I know it doesn’t matter how young you are you can still do big things!!!

  • Hey guys, I just started to read “Do Hard Things”, and I love it!!!!! I’m just glad that other teenagers know what its like to be live in this generation, and how to express ourselves. In my life, I haven’t really taken up that concept, but you guys are really changing my view of the capabilities of a Christian teenager. Thanks a lot.
    God Bless

  • Wow! That’s how i felt.

    “Sometimes when I do things and reach my plateau I simply stop, because I’m a perfectionist, and if I don’t compare with those who are really good then I don’t want to do it at all. There are other things I’m better at, I reason, and so I excuse myself by rationalizing that it’s a waste of time to dwell on something I can’t get any better at.”

    Thank you so much for this 🙂

  • The ‘O.K. Plateau’ is something I’ve been repeatedly hitting in the past few months. This article described exactly what I’m going through right now. I am a very determined, driven person, so I can usually push through things like this, but I am also a perfectionist. The paragraph that Bradley referred to describes me. Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time on things because I’m not getting any better and I feel like if I can’t push past this ‘plateau’, I should just stop. I need to have the strength to push past the ‘plateau’ and soar to greater heights. I know I can do it if I work hard enough at it, but it is hard to begin. I can apply this principle in all areas of my life, especially music, academic speech and debate, and my spiritual life. I am playing my piano like the ‘amateur musician’, not going the extra mile and working on those seemingly unending excersises and difficult parts of pieces. Also, I compete in a Christian homeschool speech and debate league (NCFCA) and I know I need to put more time into my speeches and debate cases. I also have been slacking off in my spiritual life. I have hit the ‘plateau’ in my relationship with God. Reading this article was just what I needed to make me motivated. The great thing is, when we are at our weakest point, we experience God’s strength and grace in ways we could have never imagined! We can do the seemingly ‘impossible’ with God. Because with God, all things are possible!

  • Yeah that is so true with me im 14 and i am top in my teen class and i can preach and called to preach and everyone says im this super christian but really im having a hard time following the right path. Its not that im a hipocrite its just that i have trouble following God at home than at chruch PLEASE HELP ME

  • My Goodness!! I just got the book “Do hard things” and finished it in a day and am already beginning the process of re-reading it. The book and this website are major wake-up calls to what i could be doing with my life. This past year i have been doing enough to get by, checking off my list of “to do’s” without ever thinking of going beyond. Now i’m praying for God to open a door where i can make a huge difference for him. This post, sadly, is so true of my life, i constantly find myself in the ‘OK plateau’ not pushing forward to my full potential. Wow. Thank you guys for doing what you do. To God be the glory.

  • ha ha! the ok plateau i just started seeing it in my life and wow its amazing to look back at it, im only 12 but my nack for science is for a college student; at the end of my school i usualy look at my science lectures (extracaricular) and say im smart enough why do i need to watch those plus i thought thats all i had the capacity for remembering. then all day i would play ADICTING videogames, and as timothy said we need to step up to the plate and make more room for more knowledge and wisdom. and as for now im done playing runescape, black ops, and call of duty; and im going to start watching those lectures and reading my bible. 🙂

  • I can definitely see how this can apply in my life. All through junior and senior high school I was heavily involved in drama and choir and sometimes although I was really dedicated I thought that if I worked really hard, I could get a lead in the musical or one acts. Yet, I never did and I was content to accept my role in the chorus or background. I see now that I was settling for second best rather than pushing myself to the full extent of my abilities. I may have pushed myself in other areas such as playwrighting (my first play is published), but I still regret not pushing myself past the barriers of mediocrity. I may have been a great chorus actress but I know I would have been great as a lead too. Now that I am in college the same thing goes for passing classes I don’t push myself as hard as I should and I pay for it.

  • I’ve certainly experienced the ‘OK Plateau’ in my own life, especially in skills and talents that people compliment me on. I’ve lived in China since I was six years old and so of course I get a lot of compliments for speaking Mandarin well. But I know that I’m not as good as I could be, and its quite a challenge to push myself to learn more characters and expand my ability in spite of the low expectations of others around me! It’s the same with singing and my studies. Like you, Jillian, I know that I can be so much better at both if I worked at it!

    I coasted along with both my Chinese and my singing, and now I regret it, because I feel that so much time has been wasted. After reading this article and some responses from other young adults, I’m determined to not do what’s expected of me, but to go above and beyond what’s expected. To expect more of myself, even if no one else does.

    I can apply this to my Chinese, to studying, to my singing, and to living for God. Thank you, Sally, for sharing this article and your thoughts with it!

  • I certainly had the OK plateau in my life. In cello there was this certain piece called ‘1 Suite Prelude’ by J.S. Bach. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get better from what I was playing. I always siad, ‘this must be because I hit the top’ but now I know it’s not true. Thank you Sarah for posting this!!!

    P.S. I play ‘Prelude’ A LOT better than before!

    P.S.S. Valerie your not the only asian leaving posts.

  • I definately relate to Jayme. Im the same age and my schooling ability is the average rate of a freshman in college. Ppl tell me im smart and I agre so I dont push yself at all. I really could try a lttle bit harder with my academic part of life. I tend to read books and text rather than read my Bible as often as I should. So, yes I have hit the ok plateau. :] If it would be possible, could anybody pray for me? I need to break my old habits in my comfort zone and go outside of it :]

  • well last week was the best week ever (spiritualy) after i got off the games i had the real first conversation with God thoughts were just going through my head that answered the questions i was asking God i knew for the first time i was having a real conversation with God. i was so excited, before i spent all my time on games and had no time for God evidentaly so im trying to go fasting from very addicting games for 3 months so wish me luck! another problem im facing is i have fallen in love with pirates of the carribean… im not sure that God wants me to watch it though i dont see why he wouldnt its not that immoral i dont think it does kind of glorify pirates but these pirates arent so bad in my standard but what about Gods standard i have prayed about it but God hasnt answered back so i was looking for what other people thought. anyways this easter was very encouraging and i hope everybody had a good easter.

  • i was also looking by what standards a movie had to have to be too bad to watch or ok to watch and what people thought about other movies as well.

  • This is an awesome article, and it challenged me to try harder and to push myself beyond the limits that I thought were my best. I’ve definitely had the O.K. plateau in my life – in school, by not studying harder or giving up because I had told myself I had done my best and that it wasn’t good enough, and in sports. I’m going to try to end the O.K. plateaus in my life. Thank you, Sarah, for posting this!

  • I’ve been reading Do Hard Things and it is such a encouragement to keep up my persistant asking for hard work ment for older people. i hate it when people say I can’t do something because I’m a teenager.

  • I’m hitting an OK palteu now. (please pardon my spelling) between writing my books and being concerned about boys… i guess i’ve just forgotten to challenge myself. It’s hard to do when all this ‘High School Drama’ is going on, but this article reminded me how important it is to challenge myself.

  • I am a well rounded individual and I love how Ms. Harris states that the best you can do is not the best you can do and that they only way to improve we have to “constantly push oursevles beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail.” I am musician and in high school I was on the swim team. The only thing I did not like was with the card memorization that he should keep memorizing cards at a certain speed even if he messes up until he memorizes it. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect performance. The only way to exceed exellence and not excuses is to practice something perfectly over and over again until you could not possible make a mistake.
    When I was in third grade I wanted to play football. Well, in miniature football you had to weigh in like you do in wrestling. I was on the 80 pounder team and I was extremely over weight at a wopping 103 pounds in third grade. So my mother and father were thinking on moving me up a weight class but I was persistent. I started to loose 5 pounds in a week and a half. After that, it started to become harder and harder. I reached the O.K. Plateau at 90 pounds and I couldn’t break. It took me 4 weeks and that final friday, I lost 7 pounds. Now down to 83 pounds, I became motivated. And it by the last game of the season I reached 77 pounds. I was able to play my first game and we won the championship game against emmaus elementary school.
    In third grade I had lost over 20 pounds, an accomplishment that not many would have even attempted. The OK plateau is not impossible to overcome, but it is extremely difficult. I leave my testimony for those who hit this plateau, to never give up (especially you, charlotte)! Never give up, but make the reason you are writing about god. I would highly reccomend you read the book “I kissed dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris. An amazing book that will change your view about dating in itself forever! I will be praying for you. God bless

  • LindsayKS: If you really enjoy the harp, then I encourage you to continue it. If people enjoy the simple songs, think how much more they will enjoy the harder songs! However, take a careful self-examination to see if you really love it or not. I have been playing the piano for 11 years and swimming for 12. Both take incredible dedication, but the only reason I have continued for so long is that I love them both! I feel that if I try my best today-even if it’s not as good as someone else or even as good as yesterday-then God is glorified. I have recently struggled with not being the best, but I realize that God only cares about me and how I serve Him-I should not be distracted by others. He has called each of us to do a specific task. I encourage you to seek out what He wants you to do, even if that plan does not include continuing harp. If you haven’t tried it already, pick up some hymns or praise songs, those always lift me up when I don’t feel like practicing. Keep going girl! Keep seeking God’s guidance! God bless!

  • I just started the book today, i got it @ my Church for a gift for Childrens Sunday. So far, even though im not tht far into the book, it is really speaking to me… Maybe i want to do something to help.

  • I just got the book a few days ago and it is making me think I can do things that are way over my head! I love it!

  • I have never been able to complete anything!
    I have tried 3 differnt instruments but never really LEARNED them… so this year i wanted to play Guitar so I did…… within a year I have ,as my teacher says, ‘Play like a great”…Now I play for Gods Glory!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    “With God all things are posable”

  • i read your book and it has encouraged me to do harder things in life like, Golf. I have been told I am pretty good at it and I am looking to get real good at it and do something with it in my life!! You guys have made me think that if i work hard now and do hard things now, i could have a fantastic life in the future which i want so badly. Thank you for everything! P.S i loved the Book. ‘Do Hard Things’

  • It’s easy to forget how often and long I have been on the OK plateau. For someone who’s been on one for so long it has been hard to get off. I’m one of those people everyone calls a “nerd”. It has been so easy to sit back and just relax when I really need to be focusing on school. I’ve been so smart for so long, kids at school and even teachers don’t expect much from the smart kids because they have all the answers. Sometimes I wish teachers would expect more than mediocre.

    Just finished reading ‘Do Hard Things’ and am reading ‘Start Here’. I would recommend these books to anyone who has reached the OK plateau.

  • Hey….
    I think what you guys are doing around here is really amazing but how come you will never come to somewhere near me?! I REALLY want to meet you!

  • Heyyyy i live in South Korea and i rlly like the book Do Hard Things U guys r awsome thanks to u peeps i feel happy reading about ppl who take responsibility!:)

  • I reached mine in the area of relationships (of every sort, leader-student, parent-child, and friend-friend and of course in the sort of boy-girl!)
    it seemed that as much as I would strive to have healthy relationships with the people I cared about and who cared about me as well, I would find myself not trying to grow in a Godly fashion once I felt I was in a place that I wasn’t going to get in trouble, or once I was having fun. But when I got there, no one was growing any more, iron stopped sharpening iron, and we just sat around thinking we were the sharpest tool in the shed. But the moment I decided that I wanted to stop talking about what life would look like once I became a woman of God, and started to just be one, it seemed like everything began to flourish. I started to seek God about what would be healthy and beneficial with the people in my life. I currently feel that every day, as I strive to be a better woman of God to those around me, I stopped settling for what was permissible but not beneficial.

  • I agree everybody! This book has and is still changing me. Its truly amazing to see some people really do care about stepping up to the plate and taking responsibilites. I know some people that didn’t expect much of me but I gave them 110% and they were like “You did better than I thought you would!” I was so happy.

  • I totally agree. I love this book. It changed my life. My friend got it for me for my birthday and i can’t stop reading it.

  • I love this book! It has changed my life, and I’m not even through reading it. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down.

  • Wow! God is seriously on the move! He’s been shooting this theme at me for the past couple weeks: Go Hard for the Right purpose, Do hard things, Resist temptation, Ditching pride, Using EVERY minute wisley- ’cause we’re going to be held accountable, Seek purity, Hot or Cold, All in or all out, Make War against sin, Bear Down, and lastly- SEEK WISDOM! I’ve been incredibly tempted, like everyone else, to conform! But I’m learning that I can’t reach out if Im part of it- if that makes any sence. This been coming at me from all dirrections: in prayer, in music, in magazines, in my friends, at church, on the computer, in my devos(being full of the Spirit)- just about everywhere I turn!! It’s definatley being made clear what is going on and how I can act! I’m praying that God will bless this Minustry and that He’ll have His hand on it to grow and thrive!!

  • Wat I think is that teens all over should read do hard things cuz a lot
    Of teens are lazy.see even I say I’m lazy sometimes but iam
    usually playing around or I’m tired.

  • I agree with BillthePainter Roger Waters “THE WALL”. Saw it last year in Columbus, will probably go again next year to either Indy or Louisville (I’m in Cincy). His “DARK SIDE OF THE MOON” show in Noblesville (2006) was just as good. Also saw Paul McCartney in Cincy earlier this year, and a few years ago in Columbus. He puts on one of the best live shows you will ever see for your money, nearly 3 hours at GABP for $20 (cheapest tickets I have ever seen for a stadium concert).

  • Oh my goodness! an amazing post dude. Appreciate it Even so I is going to be experiencing concern with ur rss . Do not know why Can not enroll in it. Could there be any person acquiring identical rss concern? Anybody who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  • I realize this can be actually monotonous so you tend to be omitting to another thoughts, nevertheless I simply wished to throw that you huge thanks – a person solved many things for me personally!

  • Your way of explaining everything in this article is genuinely pleasant, all be capable of effortlessly understand it, Thanks a lot.

  • Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say excellent blog!

  • I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours The Rebelution: Pushing Past The O.K. Plateau. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

  • […] En cualquier disciplina que emprendes, el inicio de la curva de aprendizaje es bastante rápido. A poquito que practicas, aunque sea sin ningún orden ni concierto, pasas de “la nada” al “algo”, y el retorno de cada minuto de práctica es muy elevado. Sin embargo, a medida que avanzas, las cosas se complican. Cada nuevo paso cuesta más, mientras que el resultado no es tan aparente. Hasta que llega un punto en el que te estancas: por ti mismo no eres capaz de avanzar más, y eso aunque le dediques tiempo (que normalmente se centra en volver una y otra vez sobre lo ya conocido). No es extraño que aparezca la frustración (si tienes voluntad de seguir avanzando) o el acomodamiento (si piensas “bueno, con este nivel ya me vale”). De hecho, se suele denominar este punto el “OK Plateau” […]

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →