How easy do you make it for change to happen in your life?

When I was 10 years old, I started learning the trombone. I don’t think I even knew what a trombone was before this. I remember, as I carried the huge case home, being so excited at the idea of playing it. I got home, took it out of the case, expecting to play fabulous music – the noise resembled nothing I had ever heard before…. How disappointed (and naive) was I? I sounded awful, but with practice, (a lot) I became really good.

I laugh when I think about this now, but how often in life do you get really discouraged because you try something new (change a behaviour or learn a skill) and you’re not instantly great at it?

Have you ever heard of the conscious competence matrix or ladder? Let me briefly explain it to you.

1.  You don’t know what you don’t know  – You’re blissfully ignorant. You have no knowledge or skills in the subject and are unaware of your lack of skill. Your confidence may well far exceed your abilities. (Unconscious Incompetence) 2.     You Know what You Don’t Know – You realise there are skills you need to learn. Your confidence may well drop as you go through an uncomfortable period learning new skills. (Conscious Incompetence)
3.     You Know what You Know –You’ve now acquired new skills and knowledge. You’re putting your learning into practice and gaining confidence, but you still having to concentrate on using these skills. (Conscious Competence) 4.   You Don’t Know what You Know – Your new skills become habits, and you perform the task automatically with ease. This is the peak of your confidence and ability. (Unconscious Competence)

Think of all the things that you can do unconsciously: walk, talk, breathe, read – or maybe drive, sing, write, lead, run a business, play football, ski etc.

To learn to do these things you had to go through the different stages of learning, from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence. It’s  just you may not have been aware of this at the time. 

Sometimes we get stuck and give up. When we get so focused on what we don’t (yet) know and what we can’t (yet) do, we can feel overwhelmed.  Judgement, self-criticism and expectations can paralyse us.

This is especially true if we’re not conscious of our self talk and thoughts. When we listen to the voice in our head that says, ‘you can’t, you’re no good, you’ve got no willpower, this won’t work, you should have done this by now’ etc it’s all too easy for us to undermine and sabotage our own efforts.

In her book, A Stroke of Insight, Dr Jill Bolte Taylor describes having to relearn all her cognitive skills after having had a stroke.  She talks about not focusing on the end goal, but just practicing mastering what was in front of her. For example, she had to learn how to sit up again. Initially, she practiced rocking her body backwards and forwards. Once that was accomplished, she focused on rocking more and more, until eventually she was able to sit up. However, this wasn’t learned in a day – it took weeks. She focused on what she could do and used that as leverage to keep her moving forwards. She says that had she focused on what she couldn’t do or didn’t achieve that she would just have given up.

Children too have a lot to teach us. A child that’s making the change from crawling to walking doesn’t give up the first time it tries and falls over. It doesn’t think ‘yeah, this walking business isn’t for me, I’ll just stick with the crawling thanks’.

What’s a difference between the children of the world and us adults?  Mind chatter. Small children don’t judge themselves, nor do they tell themselves that they can’t do it because they don’t have the willpower, talent etc etc. As well as that, generally speaking, they have doting adults who are encouraging and praising them in every attempt they make.

Why isn’t this the norm when we become adults?

Changing a way of being or living or thinking takes practice. Practice makes permanence.

  • Listen to the stories that you tell yourself. If you had to tell your story about this to someone would you be telling them you could, or what you couldn’t do?
  • How do your thoughts about it make you  feel? Do they make your heart sing or sink?
  • Do you focus on what you’ve achieved or what you’ve still got to do?

Write the story of how you want it to be. I challenge you to actually take 5 minutes to stop, imagine it and write it.

What does it say? What beliefs do you have that make the story possible? What kind of thoughts support you in creating the story? What are you focusing on? How do you hear yourself talking to others about it?

What is a small step you could take that could take your closer to making that story true for your life?

We have an amazing power and capacity to change our lives by changing ourselves. How much are you flexing and exercising that power in your life?

In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re usually right.’ Choose consciously.


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