The Filament Blog

Bake in the Breakdown

Aug 30, 2023

The breakdown precedes the breakthrough.


I have repeated this to myself a lot this week, and that’s because this week I raised the bar on my performance* (See paragraph below). For years I have wanted to get better results from my exercise, have more time to write, and want to be working on certain projects. All of this has required me to alter the use of my time and resources.


*Major sidebar here: I want to give this “performance” stuff context. For a long time, I resisted anything that has resembled “the grind” because I have watched so many people be sucked into the myth that producing more is better than producing less. We extol the high performer, and regard those who are content with their lives as being lazy and, well, unproductive. Even the word “unproductive” has a negative connotation. I think this is all misplaced.


But recently, I have felt an internal nudging to actually do more, to produce results in certain new areas - not because it’s going to earn me more, or win me a productivity prize, and not because I feel lazy otherwise (I don’t believe lazy is a thing, btw). I feel an organic pull. These things excite me and light me up. I say all of this because I do not believe more is inherently better, and I do not want this to read like another “you can sleep when you’re dead” piece. The aim and the ultimate good of all of my work is that you are clear about your own self-expression and live accordingly. If that means doing less, do less. If it means doing more, do more. You define the good of your life. Okay, back to my story.


As I prepared for this new lifestyle choice, I started making plans to keep a schedule and putting my phone across the room so I couldn’t snooze in the morning. And then I paused and said these words to myself. “Breakdown precedes the breakthrough”.


I know from ample experience that whenever I move into new territory that I have more breakdowns and disempowerment. All of my old ways of being rear their ugly heads to make a case against my change. It’s such a reliable phenomenon that at this point in my work, I have created a habit of baking it into the equation. I know that I will experience frequent failures. I know that I am likely to experience a convincing sense that “I can’t do this,” “I shouldn’t have tried,” and “See, I was right, I can’t change.”


Baking in the breakdown to my transformation gives me clarity and the ups and downs context. Instead of believing that something is wrong, I take a breakdown as a symptom that I am on the right path, that I need to pause to identify what’s showing up or getting in the way. The breakdown is the first sign that the plan is working.


Call me a prophet because this week has been full of said breakdowns and disempowerment. I texted my right-hand human Melissa after a series of failures to perform, and said, “I take it all back. I don’t want to be a high performer.” I then had some potato chips by the fistful - and they were delicious. (I find that potato chips are most delicious during breakdowns) I proceeded to be off the horse and on the horse for the rest of the week(s).


When you start to do new confronting things, consider baking in the breakdown. Fold it right into the dough, baby. Start by acknowledging that there are things that may not work, that you are likely to feel internal resistance, and that this is  the process working its magic. If you stick with it and use the breakdown to gather important information, you’ll discover exactly what needs to be done to cause the breakthrough.


The breakdown ALWAYS precedes the breakthrough.