Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Becoming Unconsciously Competent

Becoming Unconsciously Competent

“I did then, what I knew how to do.   Now that I know better, I do better.”  One of the famous Maya Angelou quotes that resonates loudly with many especially me.  To grow and develop as we engage in new experiences and adventures, it’s a natural part of life.  Learn, think, act, do….simple enough.   However, how often do we actively learn and how often do we actively think, to truly be effective and make an impact in the way we act and do?  This type of behaviour requires an awareness that with a little effort, can become a habit to help us consciously grow every day.  

A model that speaks to how we grow is called ‘The 4 stages of Competence’.  Created by Noel Burch of the Gordon Training Institute, The 4 stages of Competence, also known as the 4 stages of Learning Any New Skill, is a powerful tool in how to actively learn.    Dr. Thomas Gordon, a three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and the founder of the Gordon Training Institute, was an American Clinical Psychologist who taught conflict resolution and communication skills to parents, teachers, leaders and youth around the world.  Dr. Gordon’s training and life work has been directed towards helping facilitate active learning within many organizations and for many individuals.  

A close to home example of The 4 stages of Competence, would be in the developmental peer-to-peer organization, Toastmasters.   Allow me to demonstrate.

As a speaker, we come up to the stage to do our first speech, we have practiced and we have truly done our best.  You have the audience laughing and you know they enjoyed your speech. The feedback comes in and within all those ‘glow’ points*, you see a ‘grow’** suggestion that tells you something small about your behaviour which you had never even thought about in your entire life.  Prior to this, you were ‘Unconsciously Incompetent’.  You don’t know what you don’t know…and that’s okay.  The feedback: you tend to fidget with your fingers when speaking which may distract your audience from the speech.  At this stage of Unconscious Incompetence, you were not aware of the finger fidgeting and you simply did your best with what you knew.  By getting the feedback that you were fidgeting, you became aware and entered into the next stage. 

You go home, digest this and start to rehearse in front of the mirror on how you can keep your finger fidgeting to a minimum. 

The time comes for your second speech and you are that much more prepared and excited.  As you are 2 minutes into your speech, you feel the sensation of your fingers touching each other and you slightly panic, but you immediately put your hands to your side.  During the rest of this speech, they want to come together but you consciously keep them apart.  You are congratulated during the evaluations on keeping your finger fidgeting to a minimum.  You caught yourself making this mistake, you were ‘Consciously Incompetent’.

In your third speech, you know your content so well and you have conditioned your body especially those fidgety fingers to keep still.  With full awareness and mental strength, you were able to keep those fingers down.  You were ‘Consciously Competent’.

That fourth speech, you didn’t think once about those fingers fidgeting at all, they were well behaved throughout that presentation and you were ready for the next piece of feedback.  You, my friend, have become ‘Unconsciously Competent’.

This is how the 4 stages of Competence flows. 

This model can be applied to the way we address others, the way we treat ourselves, the way we tackle our goals.  The 4 stages of Competence has allowed me to realise that the opportunities to improve are ubiquitous in nature, they are ongoing and can span over many areas of life, -family, career, finance, health and personal .  It also makes realise that it is important to be patient with ourselves (and others) and prioritise where we can actively grow.  

To accelerate this growth of self in any of these areas, a tool that can been used and which I can strongly testify to, is a journal. 

Journaling is the act of writing down one's thoughts and feelings to gain clarity, problem solve and work through the issues at hand.  Among the many self-help and wellness advocates out there for journaling, psychology experts like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung have all used writing as a means to develop their own theories and gain personal insights.

Leveraging a journal helps nurture mental strength and allows one to process feedback actively thus moving them from the stage of ‘Conscious Incompetence’ to ‘Conscious Competence’.

And with the intention of growth for greater impact in our lives, being conscious of the 4 stages of Competence may just help us fail forward, accept that change is inevitable, and embrace humility as we see ourselves and others progressing through the journey towards becoming Unconsciously Competent.  If we know better….we can do better.

Thank you.

*Glow Point—Positive feedback point used in Toastmasters
**Grow Point –Constructive feedback point used in Toastmasters

My second speech given at First Class Toastmasters, April 24th-2018

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Two Things I Like About a Bad Day

Two Things I Like about a BAD DAY!

Being a dad with two daughters who are fairly young, I get the opportunity to “grow” every day (no sarcasm intended).  With children, I have learned that what worked yesterday, may not work today and will definitely change tomorrow.  Flexibility and patience are two skills that we will all continue to develop however, these skills seem to be accelerated for those in parenthood….especially during bathtimes and getting out of the house in the morning.
For fellow parents, I realize I’m stating the obvious but my ‘growth moment’ of today that I shared with (surprise surprise) my daughter, I realized the two things I actually like about bad days.  Bad days SUCK, no question….but these are two things to remember.

          1)     Bad days provide you with opportunities to learn what not to do.  You can practice being flexible, patient and diplomatic (see previous blog).  A big one for me is to practice ‘not taking it personal’ as Miguel Ruiz wrote in his awesome book, ‘The 4 Agreements’.  Bad days also provide you with the opportunity to be aware of your surroundings and your actions and to know what not to do for next time.

    2)      Bad days end.  The second thing I like about Bad days is that they eventually come to an end.  Everything does….yet it’s difficult to remember this when we are having a bad day.  Sleep on it, start a new chapter, tackle your troubles the next day with a fresh mind.  This is obviously not a prescription for any type of depression which is very serious and there are great resources to help with this.  We may have friends and family (perhaps ourselves) who suffer from mental illness.  This point and post is simply me sharing what I have used to talk myself through challenging moments.  

Nobody is immune to a ‘bad day’ and others deal with it differently.  There are constructive ways like journaling and physical activity to ‘let go’ and it’s important to find the best approach that works for us.  In this journey of balancing the family, career, physical, spiritual and mental arenas of our life, we will see setbacks, unexpected changes, failures, and disappointments.  Yet, we will also see progress, pleasant surprises, success and achievements.

“Take a deep breath.  It’s just a bad day, not a bad life!” (Author unknown)

-Gautam Khanna

Thursday, October 27, 2016

“You Cannot Be Friends with Everyone” and Other Lessons from 2016

“You Cannot Be Friends with Everyone” and Other Lessons from 2016
A work setting can teach you much about yourself and your life. In my current role at a company I am very fond of, I have had the opportunity to experience many growth opportunities which has ultimately allowed me to learn more about business and also about myself.  Here are a few lessons gained which, oddly enough, aren’t new and yet still seem to resurface time and time again especially after a period of transition.

1)    You cannot be friends with everyone.  This was a tough lesson especially for the ‘people pleasing nature’ that I have carried throughout my life.  Shared goals and individual goals can conflict, causing behaviours to change in potentially negative ways.  Sometimes friends can become destructive critics….and that’s…..okay!  Your real friends wouldn’t change and would challenge you to grow…know who these folks are and invest your time with them.

2)      Diplomacy has a limit!  Being altruistic is noble…..but challenging.  Yes, most times, especially in a work setting, conflict should be used as fuel to seek a better solution.  Yet, there will also be individuals where a diplomatic approach will prove to be useless and perhaps a more direct approach may be necessary.  **note, still trying to figure this one out**
3)      Taking care of yourself is a way of taking care of the work that you do.  As busy a year as it has been, I have made a conscious effort to invest in my health and be active as much as possible.  I have also made a bigger effort to create positive memories for my family and feed my heart this way (morning tantrums being the exception).  By investing in health and family, we are essentially investing in our quality of work.  The other way I have also been investing in myself is by journaling to capture the lessons and blessings of each day. 
4)      Bad Days come and go.  Find a group of friends who you can safely vent with, breathe, go for a walk, workout, whatever you do…..try to get rid of that negative load.  Realize that we all have down days..

The Stranger: “How have things been going?
Dude: “Oh, you know, strikes and gutters, ups and downs.
(Big Lebowski)

Hope you have found this helpful and please understand, though my journey is very different than yours, we all do experience similar opportunities for growth.  Make a conscious effort to seek the lessons from the day (ahem….like this post) and create a better day tomorrow!


Saturday, May 30, 2015

5 Ways to Create a Habit of Positive Thinking

The casual positive thinker sways between emotions depending on the situation.  The habitual positive thinker applies a mental strength to any situation to discover a solution.  A casual positive thinker avoids conflict which ultimately leads to limiting their personal growth.  A habitual positive thinker embraces critical thought to strengthen the solutions at hand and grow.

In my own journey, I had spent much of my life as the reactor, an individual that ‘stuff’ happened to.  It took a few catalysts to get me to reach the stage of a casual positive thinker and realize that good things do happen and that life gives you more when you let go a little.  Currently, (I believe) I am consistently making steps towards the phase of becoming a habitual positive thinker.  There have been many teachings from motivational gurus and mentors that have helped me in my journey and I thought I would paraphrase a few of the lessons.

1)      Self-talk is crucial in getting yourself through the tough times.  – Be your own cheerleader and boost your energy by telling yourself (even in front of the mirror) how awesome you are.

2)      Everyone has a story that we can learn from – being open to learn from others regardless of their life status will create empathy and will allow you to be a more effective leader.

3)      Your environment greatly influences the way you think….positive or negative – surrounding yourself with good people, books, quotes, living space etc. all make a great difference in how you think

4)      Tomorrow is a new day  - there are always opportunities to do better and be better.  Tough days don’t last forever!

5)      Figure out a way to bounce back and then use it again – for me, my journal is a great outlet for stress or for self-reflection to understand how I can be better.  Whatever your outlet is, use it as that crutch to lift you when you need it.

There are many more lessons and this list will change as I continue to be exposed to new situations.  What are some lessons that have transformed your mind and led to your own personal growth?

-Gautam Khanna 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Bucket of Motivations

Not to be confused with a bucket list, a ‘bucket of motivations’ is a list of reasons why you want to accomplish a particular goal.  In past posts, I have written about goals not being end points but successful habits that help you continue on the journey of health, wealth and happiness.

The concept of a ‘bucket of motivations’ came to mind as I was at the gym, running on a treadmill.  The gym initially was a reason for me to get in shape, but has evolved to becoming so much more to me.  My bucket of motivations for going to the gym not only include looking and feeling good, but to also relieve stress and surround myself with people who are on a similar journey.  If I have had a stressful day at work, the gym will help me release some tension.  If I feel I need to get in shape, going to the gym will help me validate that I’m actually working on it instead of doing nothing.

I’m currently taking some courses towards my MBA through a distance education curriculum that requires some serious self-discipline.  My bucket of motivations for taking my MBA and studying hard includes learning more about business and furthering my career but also for being a positive role model to my kids and showing them that education is something we need to value.  I have a vision of being at my convocation ceremony with my daughters and wife in the audience cheering me on. 

Think of a bucket of motivations as a few key reasons why you should do anything positive and that you would need to pull from to motivate you to stay on track from your goals.  These motivations do not have to be related to one another aside from the fact that they are motivating you to achieve a particular goal/habit.    And as always, I would recommend the use of a journal to help uncover these motivations and to help keep them in mind while you work towards a healthier, wealthier and happier self!

Happy New Year, everyone!!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Peace for Ourselves......

After 15 years, I recently met up with the game of basketball, and we have been inseparable ever since.  I joined a co-ed league within my city of London, Ontario and have been playing with other 20-30ish year old players who are in a similar stage of life and are like-minded individuals who also have great sportsmanship.  My intent in joining this league was two fold: one to get a good workout and second, to network.  I didn’t realize there was a third and crucial benefit of joining this league and that was to feel like a 15 year old again.  I am also drawing similarities between the workplace and the game itself like how…
  •        it takes a team to succeed
  •        having a strategy can help you focus on how you want to play,
  •       groupthink can get a team to lower their guard by dismissing the other team’s strengths,
  •        being a cheerleader and positive thinker is much more contagious than being a downer. 

Basketball in helping me return to this feeling of being a youth and opening my mind to observe my world, is my way of giving to ‘me’ and letting the small things go.

In this crazy, busy, awesome life, I realize the one thing that we should ultimately be striving for is balance.  Balance between giving it our best in our careers and with our family, to giving ourselves the gift of rest, laughter and joy.  By finding a way to reconnect with your youth and your passions while balancing  your family and career, is one way….we can get a peace for ourselves!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Taking on 2014....

I am blessed beyond measure!  My life is one of abundance and happiness.  This is not to say that I don’t feel sad or deflated at times, but I know I have it good!  My career, my family, my health, my friends (beyond just Facebook) …..I am constantly reminding myself to take stock of these great assets in my ‘balance sheet’!  Yet despite my joy, I am human and yes, I naturally feel down….however as of recently, I have learned to draw inspiration from those dark moments where I simply don’t feel like my usual happy self.  I have learned that those dark moments are necessary to find the motivation within ourselves to keep the sun shining. 

As this year comes to an end and we wait for the beautiful year ahead, I have taken a bit of time to plan on preparing for those ‘what if’’ scenarios that were spawned in those times of deflation and fear.  I realize happiness is not a destination.  And goals are meant to help us grow regardless of whether we attain them or not.  This is part of my fear – what if everything I hold dear and value today, is gone tomorrow. 

For 2014, my goals are set to nurture the vision of peace, growth and happiness.  I have broken my goals into seven areas of life that work together – 1) Family 2) Social 3) Personal Development 4) Career 5) Wealth 6) Physical and 7) Spiritual.  (For a detailed breakdown of these areas, check out this link http://masteryourlifepower.com/therapies-offered/demartini-method-2/7-areas-of-life/  ) Within these areas, my goals sometimes overlap.  For example – my goal to join Toastmasters is driven from wanting to be a better communicator (personal development) as well as increase my network (social).  My goals are…..well, my goals!  They give me strength and focus and help me want to be better than I have been.

In embarking on your own goal setting. I encourage you to start from a mindset of gratitude (see Gratitude post).  With this frame of mind, you will know what to improve and rationally understand the aspects of your life you despise and want to change.  Be honest with yourself, be creative and know your goals are first and foremost, meant to help you grow! 
For some additional inspiration, check out this awesome kid (who I hope to be like when I grow up) and his thoughts on happiness  http://findlifesecrets.com/what-if-we-made-education-about-how-to-be-healthy-and-happy/
Happy holidays and happy journaling, my friends!