Unlocking Performance Leaps: The Power of Trying Differently, Not Harder

You grind away at your craft day after day, pouring your heart and soul into improving.

Unlocking Performance Leaps: The Power of Trying Differently, Not Harder
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You grind away at your craft day after day, pouring your heart and soul into improving.

Yet despite relentless effort, progress seems agonisingly incremental at best. The blood, sweat, and tears aren’t yielding the major leaps you expected. Sound familiar?

The truth is that once we hit a ceiling in our performance, sheer effort alone cannot surmount it. Major gains come instead from trying differently, not just increasing intensity or volume within our existing frameworks.

In this article, we’ll explore how to break through plateaus by shaking up your approach. You’ll learn when to recognise that hard work has stopped working and that new methodologies are required. We’ll discuss examples of trying things differently, from tweaking your environment to learning from other disciplines.

While change brings uncertainty, it also contains the seeds of our next breakthrough.

By actively identifying areas to alter your strategy, you can unlock performance leaps and newfound career progress. The passion is still there, but it’s time to channel it through a new conduit. Read on to start reimagining how to work smarter by working differently.

When Hard Work Stops Working

We've all been there as freelancers—putting in the hours and hustling day after day, only to realise our hard work has stopped paying off.

Maybe you've hit a creative wall, designing sites and logos on autopilot without inspiration. Or you've honed your craft for years, but your income seems stuck at the same plateau. Perhaps you've grown your social media followers but are seeing diminishing engagement and client leads.

Pushing harder in these ruts rarely helps; it often breeds burnout instead. The inner spark that fuelled initial progress fizzles out. Doubling down on work without boundaries kills creativity over time.

These signs indicate our current business model and strategies have hit a ceiling. Our go-to tools, skills, and routines no longer produce the wins they once did. To thrive again requires reinventing how we work, not just repeating ineffective approaches with more gusto.

Recognising that yesterday's effort threshold might not suffice for today's growth can be disheartening. Yet, within this realisation lies a thrilling opportunity—the chance to reshape how you operate and unlock your untapped potential, propelling you to your next level of achievement.

The Game Changer: Trying Differently

When our usual work ethic ceases to generate meaningful progress, the game changer is shifting from just working harder to working differently.

Rather than repeating ineffective tactics with more intensity, take time to transform your overall approach. Experiment with new methodologies, tools, work environments, collaborators, and even mindsets. Exposing ourselves to different paradigms unlocks growth by stimulating creativity.

For example, a graphic designer may find themselves uninspired until they try learning 3D modelling skills to add new visual dimensions to their work. A fiction writer may feel stuck in their genre until they study novelists who excel in completely different spaces like sci-fi or poetry. Or a social media manager pivots their strategy after training in digital analytics, equipping themselves with data to guide content rather than just posting more volume.

Trying things differently opens doors in our thinking that were previously invisible to us. Our assumptions and habits subtly close off potential avenues for progress without us realising it. By challenging preconceived notions of how we operate, we reveal new pathways forward.

Gains made by working differently also far surpass those achieved by working harder. Learning an entirely novel skill or approach typically eclipses the results of doubling down on an existing tactic or ability. The difference is exponential versus linear progress when we shake things up.

When you feel stagnated and demotivated, remember the immense power of trying something counterintuitive and outside your comfort zone. Channel energy into exploring unfamiliar territory, whether in your skills, professional network, or thinking. The breakthrough or inspiration you need awaits you there. Trust in the process.

The words "Think About Things Differently" are illuminated in neon.
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Key Ways to Try Differently

When you feel your current approach has gone stale, how can you shake things up to spur a breakthrough?

Here are several high-impact ways to work differently:

  • Switch Up Your Physical Workspace: One straightforward change is altering your regular workspace or environment. If you always work from home, try switching to a coffee shop, library, or co-working space. The ambient noise and fresh energy can be refreshing. If you're used to being on-site with a team, consider remote work for more focus.

    Even small tweaks, like using a new desk or room at home, can provide just enough novelty to stimulate creativity. Bottom line: A new physical landscape opens up new mental possibilities.
  • Learn Concepts and Skills From Those in Other Fields: Creative breakthroughs often happen by cross-pollinating knowledge across disciplines. Intentionally study those excelling in other spaces. A photographer learning from the framing approaches of cinematography. A writer borrows brainstorming techniques used by architects. The new perspectives gleaned from other domains provide a unique stimulus for growth.
  • Reframe Limiting Beliefs and Assumptions: Sometimes our ceilings are self-imposed by internal limiting beliefs. Common ones are "I'm not a creative person" or "My skills are fixed". Actively identify negative self-talk and consciously reframe it into empowering mantras. Eliminate self-imposed barriers around what's possible.
  • Leverage Partnerships and Collaborations: Team up with colleagues and partners in complementary roles to your own. Brainstorming together breeds innovative solutions compared to solo efforts. Their strengths and outlook naturally counterbalance your blind spots. Feel stuck on a project? A fresh set of eyes can help.

Of course, trying different things is highly personal to each situation. Reflect on what unique changes would re-energise and excite you most right now. Then take small steps to introduce novelty and reward yourself for boldness.

Embracing the Unknown

Leaving your comfort zone brings with it feelings of uncertainty. But venturing into the unknown is where growth and creativity flourish.

Trying unfamiliar new skills, workspaces, or mental frameworks means a temporary novice phase, even after achieving mastery in your current approach. This beginner status can again feel humbling and frustrating. But it's an essential part of breaking through plateaus. Mastery emerges on the other side if you persist through the discomfort.

Trust that embracing unfamiliar terrain ultimately sets the stage for innovations to come. Breakthroughs and "aha" moments rarely arrive immediately; the creative process needs time and space. Avoid judging initial progress too harshly. Allow yourself patience as you lay the foundation.

You may hit an energy dip initially as you push boundaries and navigate uncharted waters. This is normal. Recognise when you need to recharge. Then renew your commitment to personal growth and exploration.

By displaying the courage to be a rookie again in the short term, you enable extraordinary long-term capacity. The discomfort you feel today is the growing pain that will propel your future performance. Keep showing up; consistency compounds.

When you get hit with self-doubt, recall previous times you tried something new and thought, "I can’t do this," only to stick with it and realise in time, "I can absolutely do this." This moment is no different. Embrace it fully.

The process won’t feel linear. But with a growth mindset, patience, and trust in yourself, you will look back one day and be astonished at how far you’ve come. Keep venturing boldly ahead.

A person is sitting on a ski chair lift in the fog, with very little visibility in front of him.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Our natural bias is to resist change and cling to the familiar.

Venturing into the unknown feels uncertain and risky. But significant growth requires moving past this resistance, even when change strikes fear.

Remember that feeling some fear and discomfort is normal and expected when trying something new. The key is acknowledging these emotions without letting them paralyse you.

Reframe them as excitement, seeing change as revitalising rather than threatening. Take small, incremental steps forward rather than expecting overnight, drastic overhauls. Celebrate when you courageously push past previous limits or comfort zones; these small wins build confidence.

It’s also helpful to view change not as a loss but as an expansion of your identity and skills. You don't shed old abilities or interests; you just add new ones to your repertoire. Adopt a growth mindset that believes skills can always be improved and grown with effort. You are simply evolving into a new version of yourself.

When resistance feels strongest and those limiting inner voices shout loudest, get specific about the very next small win to focus on. Maybe it's simply sharing your new creative niche online or booking the first client call to offer your expanded services. Splitting progress into micro-milestones makes it feel more tangible and achievable. Each step builds momentum.

Remember that ups and downs are natural when gaining new skills. Some days you’ll feel like a novice; others will showcase flashing potential. With consistent effort, the changes you make will compound over time into extraordinary gains as you refine new ways of working. Keep going.

The other side of uncertainty and imposter syndrome is creativity, revitalisation, and tremendous upside. Trust in your ability to break through barriers and steer your career where you want it to go next.

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When our usual work ethic ceases to generate meaningful results, next-level gains come from trying differently, not just working harder.

We've explored how introducing novelty—whether new skills, environments, collaborators, or thought patterns—opens fresh possibilities when we feel stuck in a rut. While venturing into the unknown brings uncertainty, embracing this expands our capacity exponentially in the long run.

I encourage you to reflect deeply on your own situation for a moment. Consider where your current approach has plateaued and why. How specifically could you healthily shake things up to rekindle momentum and inspiration? Even a small tweak to your routine can catalyse huge changes by exposing you to new stimuli.

Don’t overthink it; take that first courageous step outside your familiar path today. Build the muscle of trying differently. With consistent practice, your comfort zone will expand. See each attempt as planting seeds for future growth, not an instant transformation.

Trust in your amazing innate capacity for reinvention, imagination, and creative problem-solving when you need it most. By relentlessly cultivating your skills while staying flexible in your methods, you can unlock performance leaps you previously didn’t think possible. The sky is the limit.

But avoid complacency, as human nature loves familiarity and certainty. Make trying things differently a habit. Be in a constant state of healthy growth and evolution, no matter how solid the ground feels beneath you today. Aim not just to thrive but to transform.

Now venture boldly forward with an invigorated spirit of experimentation. You’ve got this!