Catalyst for Change Step 3 – Breakthrough (What it’s like to break through and 3 steps for how to do it)

This article is the third in a series of 6, describing the 5 stages of the Journey to the Top. What the “Top” consists of is contextually unique for every individual leader. The common theme is that these are the leaders of today who are seeking to achieve success and impact that matters and has meaning beyond the balance sheet. Stage 3 is the Breakthrough. This is experienced after the Catalyst initiated a period of Research & Development. How long does it take to get to the Breakthrough? How quickly do you make decisions? The R&D stage is very much the treasure hunt for the gold. So what does “gold” look like for you? This is a massive topic in itself, and core to leading with impact that matters.

I wonder if you know the story of the Psychologist seeking the truth about happiness. He set up 2 rooms with and put a 10 year old boy in each room. One room was filled with every conceivable modern toy and electronic doodad possible, enabling many hours of entertainment. The second room was empty but for a pile of animal manure and a shovel. The results were not at all what the researcher expected. The boy with the toys was bored very quickly and winged and whined about the space, the temperature and wanted to get out of there ASAP. In stark contrast to this, the boy with the shovel was yelping enthusiastically with glee, shovelling away emphatically, happy as can be. The researcher was perplexed. He asked this boy to share his thoughts: “With so much poo in here there must be a pony in here somewhere!” 

The take-away here is that this boy was expecting to find his treasure. He had a Vision he was passionate about and believed he would achieve it. And his behaviour followed suit. The other boy clearly had a different mindset. 

This example demonstrates the role of attitude and belief in happiness. The same principle applies to getting to the top of your game and leading with impact that matters. You must believe you can find that role, that business, that social cause or idea that aligns with your core purpose, passion and values. This is core to the mindset of leaders who move past R&D into Breakthrough. They know it’s up to them to decide on something. They also know it’s up to them to make things happen. They make a decision and commit to it. They close doors to other options. This may mean a new role, a new job or business or study or to simply resign and take time out. Feeling like you have the answer, that idea that is going to take you forward in ways that matter takes shape. When a decision is made with commitment, this sets off feelings of progress which give you courage, excitement and empowerment. People who don’t make decisions can stay in the Research & Development stage for years. These are “gonner do it one day” or they participate in endless training and development programs but don’t do anything different as a result. They can also stay in the same role for many years even though they feel dispassionate. To experience Breakthroughs we must take risks and take action. Often the most significant Breakthrough is cracking through our own internal glass ceiling. The stories we tell ourselves, the beliefs that bind us in old thinking patterns are often not obvious until they are uncovered through skilled coaching conversations. We must choose a growth mindset to move forward from the R& D stage. Change is inevitable. Progress is intentional.

This Breakthrough stage, that Eureka moment of joy and elation is often short lived because we are propelled into the Transformation stage. Tomorrow’s post will discuss the ups and downs of that.

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