Thursday, March 1, 2007

Maintaining Your Motivation

A new Pilates client reminded me yesterday of a valuable tool I utlize to keep myself moving in the directions of my goals. The client began her Pilates program with the intention of changing her body, in search of the holy grail of all fitness quests - weight loss. With a few sessions behind her, she has begun to make statements such as "This is really hard" and "There are so many rules." I recognized she was at a pivotal point in her Pilates practice when she shared that she had almost given up. I introduced her to the stages all new learners must pass through. This process is known as the Consious Competence Learning Matrix.

When we apply ourselves to a new pursuit, we will encounter the need to develop new skills. We don't become fit, we are attaining new knowledge and abilities where the outcome is our being more fit. The same is true for any area in which you wish to make improvements. To progress in your job or career, you must seek more education and training. To experience more financial security, you must adopt attitudes and behaviors that financially secure people exhibit. To achieve spiritual awareness, there will be prayer or meditation methods you have to practice. The difference between those who reach their goals and those who don't is predicated on this: the competence they develop and the commitment they maintain.

By identifying a goal, we are acknowledging that we have an unmet need we want fulfilled or a weakness we want to strengthen. This acknowledgement is what motivates us to make a change and prompt us to take action. This is when we are confronted with the 4 stages within the Learning Matrix. We can easily determine at what stage of learning we are in. We simply need to measure our level of commitment and competence.

Unconscious Incompetence - High Commitment, Low Competence
When my client made her Pilates appointments, she was very enthusiastic. She was dedicating precious time and resources towards her goal and was making a tangible, positive step in the right direction. She really wasn't able to distinguish the difference in quality of her work as a beginner to that of an experienced practicioner. At this stage, we really don't have full grasp on what we've signed up for. We are basking in the enjoyment of our new adventure.

Conscious Incompetence - Low Commitment, Low Competence
If stage one represents an ingnorant bliss, stage two represents our moment of truth, our turning point. My client is now realizing that the work she has signed up for requires specific skills and she doesn't have them. This is the stage where we may be unwilling to proceed. This is when we quit. If we fool ourselves, we reason that we are time-deprived, have too many responsibilities, we're aadd or we fill in the blank with anything that will let us back out and save face. On the other hand, we may be in awe of those who practice the skill with such mastery as to make it look effortless. If something like this happens, we will experience a shift in our thoughts and feelings and find the enegry to continue towards what we hope to accomplish.

Conscious Competence - Variable Commitment, Higher Competence
Stage three is the stage of the realistic. We can make self evaluations with regards to performance. We know what we do well, what we don't and are continuing to takes steps towards improvement. We are more self reliant, not so dependent on role models and teachers. We can still have moments of doubt and insecurity or feel our tenacity dissipate. Looking back, we can see how far we've come. Looking forward, we can see how far we have to go. It is likely we will be experiencing benefits from our hard work. In the case of a Pilates student, we would feel stronger and see physical changes in the our body. If we were learning tennis, perhaps our wins are growing.

Unconscious Competence - High Commitment, High Competence
Finally, the stage of achievement. It is here that we find our joy again. We are meeting or exceeding our goal with what seems like less attention and effort. We can perform with a great deal of precision. If appropriate, we may be able enjoy the activity while doing other tasks. This is a time when we may feel lead to teach others.

Reflective Competence -
Our skill is now second nature. We can now perform to a superior standard from instinct.

Understanding the Conscious Competence Learning Matrix has been immeasurably helpful to me, as a teacher and a student. The matrix informs me that in any new learning environment, I can expect to experience much difficulty, particularly in the initial stage. I can expect my emotions to fluctuate, and with them my motivation. I can better prepare myself as I embark on my new goals. I don't take my thoughts of discomfort or failure so seriously that they distract me from my pursuits. I know I have to manage my commitment as I work on my competence until I reach stage three, when I am less likely to find an excuse to discontinue. I have become more careful about making commitments and setting goals now that I am aware of what will really be involved.

I invite you to conduct an evaluation of the different areas where you are a student or adopting a new skill. Determine what stage you may be in each area. In the earlier stages, you will want more direction. In the later stages, you will want more support. As you demonstrate to yourself improvement in your competencies, you will find your source of motivation expand.

1 comment:

Doug said...

Dear Carolyn,

Thanks for so eloquently articulating this system of understanding our learning process in life as humans.

It has been many years since we learned this sage context for our learning. Notably, this understanding has supported me while learning to be a business owner/operator; a partner, husband & better friend; a grand prix motorcycle racer, an investor & a pilot.

In each undertaking I have watched myself go through each of these steps; knowing which stage I am in helps me address my inherent frustration at being a beginner ... again; and to more effectively engage my learning.

Of course, I am biased, but this is so very well & clearly presented for us. Nicely done.

Many thanks,
Love you,