Let me paint a picture for you:
You ate another biscuit so you then followed through with the entire packet, again. Again, you slept through the alarm after getting to bed late. You snapped angrily, again
You bummed another ciggie.
Drank more than you wanted to.
Forgot your sports clothes.
Stayed back in the office and forgot to call home.
Committed to touch typing, but didn’t
You forgot to remind yourself to smile.
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, installing a scheduling app on your smartphone or downloaded ‘Resilience for Dummies’ from Amazon, but again and again and again you find yourself falling off the proverbial wagon.
If any of those scenarios sound familiar to you or those around you, I come bearing some great news; 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 having an understanding of the stages and how they apply to you will put a stop to any future self-imposed disappointment.
I’ll use two analogies; the one used to explain the 4 staged theory to me as learning to drive a car and my personal ‘green smoothie’ moment.
Firstly, though, what is competence apart from a harsh sounding word suggesting you’re just ok at doing something? www.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 known 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. Consuming deep-fried foods daily or a cigarette habit aren’t yet showing the negative effects people report, and the benefits of ‘being healthy’ are not so pressing, nor can the value of a new skill be appreciated. 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; for those responsible for wellbeing in the workplace, health promotion activities in the workplace can encourage a quicker progression through this stage.
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 many diets, exercise regimes or stress reduction techniques that didn’t last, you’re here today. Don’t discount these experiences; they are all necessary 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 when learning to drive a car!
Hovering between here and the third stage conscious competence is heavily reliant on 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 of our personal world. Routine and dedication to a new cause require 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 six 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!
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 meeting 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 a wonderfully powerful moment and increases your chances of continuing for the long term.
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.
So I ask you – who is your coach, your mentor, your teacher or instructor? – Who has your back when learning a new skill? 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, support from another will make all the difference.
If you would like to encourage your staff to engage in their health & wellbeing, we have a guide that can help