Two years ago, four of us participated in Swampfoot 4 Mile. Recently, after a year off from the race, we ran it again. Swampfoot is a four mile foot race with military style obstacles throughout. It's a muddy, fun and challenging fundraiser.
The organizers of Swampfoot clearly don't believe in status quo. The difference in the race from the first year we ran it to this recent time was certainly noticeable. They had added obstacles, changed the route, and blew our expectations out of the water (or mud in this case). Two days after we ran the 2012 race, I was on their Facebook page and noticed they were already planning new obstacles for 2013.
What is status quo and why do we settle for it so often? Status quo, as defined on dictionary.com, is the, "existing state of affairs." What dictionary.com leaves out about status quo is that it is often easier than the alternative. What's the alternative? Making a change. Or, as I like to think of it, kicking it up a notch!
Have you ever started a workout plan that started out great, with identifiable results but then, after a period of time, you found yourself in a place where you were no longer seeing results? That's the plateau. It is hard to get off the plateau, but what it requires is for you to kick it up a notch. Run faster, lift heavier weights, or increase the treadmill incline. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend more time working out, just better use of your time with more intensity.
The same applies to our community as well as other areas of our lives. Are there any areas of your community that could use less status quo and more kicking it up a notch? Are there areas we would benefit from if we kicked things up a bit? I think so. There are several areas we could use an increase in intensity to get off our plateau. But let's not wait until we are forced to kick it up a notch - when it becomes a matter of survival (although I've been involved in some conversations where the argument was that we are already in survival mode). Let's be proactive about kicking it up a notch. Let's do it right now.
So what types of "things" am I talking about? Everything! Businesses, events, our personal health and wellness, our happiness, customer service, our involvement in hobbies, our dental care, our lawn maintenance - absolutely everything. Everything can be brought up a level, bringing with it a renewed energy and greater outcome. If we allow ourselves to be satisfied with status quo, then that's exactly what we'll continue to get. We need to decide if we are OK with status quo. I don't know about you, but I'm not OK with settling for the "existing state of affairs." I am OK with making tweaks or sweeping changes to my life and community in order to get different results.
There are lots of reasons that lead us to become stuck in status quo. It might be fear (of the unknown, change, failure or something else), maybe we think we don't have the time or energy to kick it up a notch, or maybe we are in a comfortable place that's simply getting us by. Whatever the excuse (remember, excuses are not allowed), it's manageable. Plus, it feels great to overcome complacency.
I've seen too many examples of people spending their energy defending status quo instead of using that energy to embrace and support kicking things up a notch. There are some great examples of people who have taken things to a different level - with their business, their health, their career. However, until we have created culture comfortable with regularly challenging status quo and then embracing the change that follows, I don't think we should be satisfied.
The year Swamptfoot 4 Mile settles for status quo is the year we will stop participating. If our community commits to kicking things up a notch, and kicking status quo out the door, we will find ourselves in a better place. Whatever parts of the community you are involved in, kick it up a notch! Similar to how we feel about Swampfoot, people want to be where its fun, exciting, different and evolving. Let's be that place, and let's get there by kicking things up a notch!
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column appears bi-weekly on Tuesday.