"Why does history keep repeating itself? Because we weren't listening the first time." - Anonymous
Or perhaps you haven't had enough practice changing your behaviour? Like any new skill, it takes practice to get it right and to make a change in your personal history.
Do you remember learning how to print the alphabet? Each week, you would open your printing workbook and get instruction on how to hold your pencil to correctly form the letters. Finally, you were able to make your A,B, C's with ease. Next up, was making the switch to cursive writing. All these years have passed and I can still recall how thrilling it was to be able to finally write out my name. Sadly, it was not like the teacher's perfect script.
It was a systematic progression not only through the alphabet, but also from printing to writing. It can be compared to learning other skills, such as the proverbial bicycle-riding, or learning how to driving, or how to type - properly - not just doing The Hunt and Peck.
In the 1970s, Noel Burch created the Four Stages of Learning, which are summarized as:
- Unconscious Incompetence - you may not understand, or know how to do something; you may not recognize that you have a deficiency in this area; you may dismiss the relevance of the subject matter.
- Conscious Incompetence - you may not yet know how to do something, but you do recognize the relevancy of this particular skill; you realize that you can improve this skill by actively working on it; practice is key.
- Unconscious Competence - you know how to do something, however, it require a concentrated effort; you are able to demonstrate the skill to someone else, but you do so in a systematic way that requires concentration.
- Conscious Competence - you easily perform the skill; you do it without having to really think about it; often, you can do it while doing something else - ie. driving a car, playing an instrument and singing or, as my mom did, knitting and watching television; the skill appears to be "second nature"; effortless.
Using the Four Stages of Learning to change how you respond to stress
When I'm speaking to people about stress, I often hear, "It's just stress, it's normal." This typifies this first stage of learning. You may not realize that stress is not just and that normal is very different from natural. It's evident that there is a knowledge gap - about what stress is, its effects, and what can be done about it.
After reading my blog or newsletter or hearing me speak, you come to understand that a short coaching program will help to fill in your knowledge gaps and move you towards a better place. You did not realize that those daily irritations, those numerous aches and pains, the lapses of attention and those bouts of self-recrimination are just some of the many faces of stress.
You realize that by learning to change your perceptions, you have an effect on the chain reaction that occurs in your body. You know that when you soak in negative thoughts and emotions, your body produces very different chemicals than when you swim in the positive ones. Your five, one-hour weekly sessions keep you on track - your experiential homework ensures that you are implementing the techniques and using the tools, making you accountable for your next session.
By now, you've had lots of practice. You know what it feels like when you are coherent: "clarity of thought, emotional balance and the quality of being orderly, consistent, and intelligible;" when your respiratory, cardiac, hormonal and endocrine systems are operating in sync, much like a well-tuned car, burning less fuel and running more efficiently.
You are able to do the techniques, almost without thinking, to not only transform your stress, but to enhance your performance. Like me, you realize that the pay-off is there - better emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health.
Remember that each small change you make now, affects your history. Consider that your history is your past, which includes not only a second ago, but also a minute, hour, day, week or a year ago. If it's not now and not in the future, it is your past.
Prepare to be dazzled. Rewrite your own personal history by addressing and undressing your stress. What will time tell you about you?