Back in the mid-80’s, Jon Hein coined the term “Jumping the Shark” when talking about the moment iconic television shows start to decline. The term grew in its popularity and use.
He explained Jumping the Shark as:
“A defining moment when you know from now on… it’s all downhill…it will never be the same.”
While a bit dramatic, if you use this for your life – it’s a compelling concept.
I believe your life, or any key element in it, doesn’t automatically or continually grow, evolve and improve. Instead, you experience a series of plateaus. These are points in time when you peak. You hit a limit or ceiling and settle in. Initially you find the plateau to feel satisfying, comfortable and content. It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes – the hard work is over and you enjoy the cozy fit!
Unfortunately, the good feelings don’t last. Without deliberate effort – “content” turns to “complacent” and “comfort” to “boredom“.
When the switch occurs, you leave the plateau and start to decline. In Jon Hein’s language – you jump the shark.
For most, jump the shark experiences happen in two key ways:
- A significant event knocks you off your path or throws you a major curve.
- Atrophy occurs and you slip slowly into decline.
Here are common significant events that represent potential “Jump the Shark” moments. Consider these scenarios: You…
- Quit a great job or turned down a big opportunity
- Dropped out of college or stopped a training effort
- Agreed to take on a business partner
- Fall out of love or end a significant relationship
- Diagnosed with a major disease
- Lost a loved one
- Failed to get a big promotion
These are huge. Not unsurmountable huge, but big enough to initiate a “jump the shark” moment.
For others, Jumping the Shark is a process not an event. It sneaks up on you. You remember feeling content and happy, but over time it fades. If you stop and take your pulse, you find feelings of complacency and compromise have moved in and taken over!
Don’t let me be Debbie Downer – I’m not predicting your life is going to suck at some point. What I’m trying to do is raise your awareness of plateaus. If you see them, you can manage them.
My goal is for you to see the plateau, address the issue and launch a new phase of growth, development and evolution. In doing so, you create a life of continuous improvement.
The life elements I want you to address in this article are listed below. I consider these to be the core elements. They have the biggest impact on your day-to-day experience and thus should be proactively managed. Consider:
- Career (your professional aspirations and skills)
- Marriage (your significant, intimate relationship)
- Hobby (what you do for fun and enjoyment)
- Future – (what you are building and working toward)
Do the Work:
Take time to reflect on each of the above categories. Prepare an honest assessment – have they Jumped (or started to Jump) the Shark?
To conduct your “Shark Test,” answer these questions for each of the four categories above:
- How has my _____ measurably improved/grown in the last 12 months?
- What do I have planned for my ____ that I’m really looking forward to?
- How did I move out of my comfort zone to fully experience my ____?
- List 2 improvements/advances you have planned for your _______?
After completing the questions for each of the categories, grade your responses using this scoring key:
- I can easily answer each question: (You are in a growth and development phase).
- I can answer 3 of the 4 questions: (You are doing well, but may be heading toward a plateau – keep monitoring).
- I can only answer 2 of the questions: (You have plateaued, but may or may not be in decline).
- I can answer only 1 (or none): (You have Jumped the Shark; time to get the category back on track and moving forward).
For any category with 2 or less of the questions answered, I recommend you give it the time and energy necessary to reverse the trend and get it back on track.
Jumping the Shark is not a life sentence – it is a warning call for action. Don’t ignore the data – take charge, be deliberate – create the life you desire.