A Positive Perspective on Breakdowns

| | Personal Leadership

breakingthroughWhen breakdowns happen consider it is NOT a sign that something is wrong, but rather that you have simply bumped up against the limits of your current ways of working or thinking.

Nothing is wrong. No one is at fault. It’s just that even though something was working, doesn’t mean it will work forever. This includes our habits and behavior as individuals, as well as the more complex processes and systems in an organization.

Whenever you try to grow, expand, or change you are likely to break something. {tweet that!}

In a growing system, both the system itself and the individuals in it will  naturally bump up against their own limits.  When there are breakdowns in a system, individuals will also have their own breakdowns to contend with if they are to respond by expanding themselves to be able to increase their capacity and expand their capabilities.  It is a constant dance.

Breakdowns are often an indication that you are on the verge of a significant breakthrough. Embrace them rather than lament them.

The first step of transforming the breakdown into a breakthrough is to acknowledge that something is not working.  Often companies fail and individuals stagnate because they don’t stop and reset for the next level.  Instead they try to work harder as things unravel.

Once you acknowledge the breakdown make sure to celebrate all that you have done that has worked until now. It is those things that have gotten you where you are – on the cusp of a new level of performance and accomplishment.

It’s simply that what you have in place right now is insufficient to reach the next level in a satisfying and sustainable way.

My role as a coach and consultant is often to facilitate the transition from breakdown to breakthrough. Ultimately, one of the ways I know I am succeeding with a client is when they learn to declare a breakdown when they see it coming rather than react when it happens.

Don’t sweat the breakdowns, because they are more likely to grow you than break you. {tweet that!}

What breakdown could you declare now to get ahead of the game?

Image credit: otnaydur / 123RF Stock Photo


Enter A Comment

carl   |   11 October 2013   |   Reply

Wonderful post Susan – I especially connected with “…you have simply bumped up against the limits of your current ways of working or thinking.” As I read, I was reminded of a quote from Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM – “Growth and comfort do not coexist”

Thank you for your thoughts and work,
Best regards,

Susan Mazza   |   14 October 2013   |   Reply

Thank you Carl. And I appreciate you sharing that great quote.

James Lawther   |   26 November 2013   |   Reply


I like the fact that you don’t imply that a breakdown is a personal issue, just simply the way the system is operating.

Taking the personalities out of an situation and focusing on the facts and issues always helps.


Susan Mazza   |   28 November 2013   |   Reply

That is an excellent point James. Self blame can be one of the biggest barriers to transcending the inevitable breakdowns because it keeps us from focusing on the facts and issues at hand so we can actually see what we can do now to turn things around.

Vatsala Shukla   |   04 December 2013   |   Reply

I’m delighted to read that breakdowns can be transformed into breakthroughs, Susan. I remember reading something similar many years ago in one of Osho’s books which changed my perspective. The key issue here is for a person experiencing the breakdown to actually acknowledge and accept the fact. Then and only then can there be a change of direction and opening up to possibility thinking.

Susan Mazza   |   04 December 2013   |   Reply

Excellent point Vatsala. Facing the reality of a breakdown can be a bit like “pulling off the band aid” – do it quickly and you get the pain over with quickly. The relief you feel once you face the breakdown head on creates the space to consider “now what?”