WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE?
Again, again, again….
You want to change these habits, the things you no longer consider acceptable to yourself; you’ve tried so hard to remember, been on the diets, joined the gym, installed a scheduling app on your smart phone or downloaded ‘Resilience for Dummies’ from Amazon, but again and again and again you find yourself falling of the proverbial wagon.
If any of those scenarios sound familiar to you or those around you, I come bearing some great news – it’s all in your head and unless you live in the days of the Wild West, there is no wagon to fall from.
Apart from messing with your confidence and self esteem, you’re actually giving yourself a hard time over what essentially is a series of stages one must progress through – not unlike a child learning to walk or reciting the alphabet, a young adult learning to drive, the choreography routine of a dancer or the drill of a sports team.
The learning theory we all must navigate through is known as the Four Stages of Competence; at Healthy Happy HQ we prefer the softer title
‘what it takes to learn a new skill’,
and it’ll put a stop to all wagon rides you’ve previously fallen from. I’ll use two analogies, the one explaining the 4 staged theory to me as learning to drive a car and my own personal ‘green smoothie’ moment.
Firstly though, what is competence apart from a harsh sounding word suggesting your just ok at something?. The dictionary.com is a little more complimentary stating the holder is sufficient or has suitable skill, knowledge or experience for some purpose.
In layman’s terms; you can do something!
The first stage of learning is recognised as unconscious incompetence; or more softly put unaware and unskilled. Unconscious incompetence isn’t suggesting you’re not smart or with the program, but rather unaware and happy with your plot in life.
Usually our younger healthy years afford us this luxury. Having daily deep fried foods or a cigarette habit aren’t yet showing the negative effects people report, and the benefits of ‘being healthy’ are not so pressing; nor the value a new skill can bring be appreciated. Basically, you’re not so concerned about your health and wellbeing or how you’re getting to sports training, with things just chugging along. The length of time you spend here is dependent on the strength of your driving force to learn.
The second stage conscious incompetence is implying you’re aware yet still unskilled; something happened and suddenly the messages of health and wellbeing are being noted and you wonder how they may apply to you, or the bus schedule is interfering with your social life. Maybe after a number of diets, exercise regimes or stress reduction techniques that didn’t last, you’re here today. Don’t discount these experiences though, they are all important steps in your growth; you now know what doesn’t work for you and the errors of your ways, and hopefully to fully STOP at the big red sign!.
Hovering between here and the third stage conscious competence is heavily reliant of the information available to you, the people you associate with and the clincher: the clarity and conviction you have in the change you want for yourself.
This third stage conscious competence, being aware and skilled, is the make or break stage of sustainability. Diets and hard to apply regimes are difficult to sustain as we juggle the many facets in our personal world. Routine and dedication to a new cause requires concentration with heavy conscious involvement. You may have heard yourself saying ‘It’s so hard’…. ‘I’m trying’…. ‘It’s all I think about’…. ‘It worked for a while’. The energy that goes into continually thinking about your new desired habit can almost be a deterrent in itself. It is hard and also recognised that it takes between 3 and 6 months for new habits to override the old – ‘oh, great..’ is what I can imagine you sarcastically thinking about now…but hang on, it does get better!
Four; Then one day/event/moment, something happens and you realise you’ve had so much practice doing the ‘thing’ that it has become second nature and can be performed easily. You’ve traversed to having unconscious competence; unaware but skilled. You’ve driven across town navigating the traffic, had a conversation that didn’t include ‘how am I doing, can I change lanes?, your knuckles are not white from hanging on too tightly, the clutch isn’t being crunched, you can easily change lanes all without conscious thought, you can drive!. Healthy food choices, movement at every opportunity, hydration or calmness in the face of a trigger. You’re grabbing a vegetable smoothie to feel better, menu planning or shopping online, exercising regularly because you want to and facing your roles and responsibilities with ease!
Personally, I knew I had reached this stage when I found myself standing at the fridge deciding between a green smoothie and a banana lassi after a heated conversation; not wine, chocolate or a giving myself a liberal dose of self rebuking.
When that moment arrives, well, it’s wonderfully powerful moment and increases your chances of continuing for the long term – one less bumpy wagon ride so to speak.
Having accountability to your desired change is where many struggle most and returning to the infant learning to walk, the sports drill or dancer learning something new, these times they weren’t alone; they had a parent, instructor, coach, teacher, or role model on hand offering their support, knowledge, anecdotes of personal fears and triumphs’ – contributing their competence to the mix.
Having an understanding of this learning model – the four stages of competence – and how your subconscious mind reverts so quickly to the comfort of the known, complements the peer coaching aspect of the healthy Happy Staff program to perfection and as you can now see, and unless you live in the wild west of old, no wagon to fall from.
We all have a role to play in community health, the only question is how do we play this role? Through intelligent, evidence-based inquiry we can understand how to health coach to support others in taking on positive behaviour change.