Remember the day you learned to drive? I do. I was over the moon.
Oh man, I could taste it. It was my ticket out of Dodge. No more having to depend on having my parents drive me everywhere… especially for parties!
I slid behind the wheel that very first time, envisioning myself bombing down the road with tunes blaring.
And then, cold hard reality hit. OMG! There was so much to remember all at once, where my hands were, what my feet were doing, keeping my eyes –and the car — on the road as my mother freaked out in my seat beside me.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Who knew this could be so hard? It looked so easy for everyone else.
I felt like crying tears of frustration.
The only reason I didn’t quit was because I could still taste that freedom.
And I would be so embarrassed if I were the only one of my friends who didn’t pass the test.
Agonizingly slowly, I learned how to coordinate my hands, my feet, and my eyes if I focused really hard and ignored my mom’s panic attacks.
Creeping down the road at first, then a little faster until I was able to actually go the speed limit.
It’s hard to believe just how hard it was as I effortlessly manage it all now. Now, I don’t even think about it.
It’s part of my identity. I AM a driver.
This scenario plays out every time you start something new. Learning to walk. Learning to talk. Starting to drive. Beginning a new job or relationship. Joining the gym. Losing weight.
In the beginning, you are over the top with enthusiasm, assuming how easy it will be and imagining how it’s going to feel when you’ve achieved it.
In his highly acclaimed book, “Are You Up for the Challenge? 6 Steps to Lasting Change Starting Now, Not Someday” Rod Hairston calls this first stage Inception.
Your attitude and effort are high as you’re brimming with excitement.
Your competence? Not so much. You don’t know what you don’t know.
You are unconsciously incompetent.
Sooner or later, reality hits and it’s NOT going the way you imagined. It’s harder than you thought. Or you start to see the faults of your new lover, and you’re wondering if this new relationship is worth the trouble.
You are now in what Hairston calls the second stage, full-blown Deception– when your unconscious mind will do whatever it can to deceive you into derailing from your goal.
Deception can show up in so many ways, and it WILL show up. Guaranteed.
Deception is your unconscious mind’s well-intended way of keeping you safe.
Your unconscious mind takes care of everything while your conscious mind is occupied elsewhere or you’re sleeping.
Its whole job is to maintain the status quo, like keeping you breathing, your heart beating regularly, your body temperature maintained, and more.
It views every change you want to make as potentially dangerous.
Your unconscious mind really runs the show 99% of the time.
So you want to lose weight and start working out? That’s a conscious decision.
And for a little while, your enthusiasm and vision for your outcome will sustain you through Inception.
And sooner or later, your natural enthusiasm is going to wane, and your unconscious is going to jump at the chance to derail you and take you back to the safety of your old comfort zone… your old identity.
Disappointment. Frustration. Feeling like a failure. Your lack of competence has smacked you in the face.
Your attitude and effort are at an all-time low. Most of the time, you just give up and go back to the comfort of your old life.
And yet, you did learn to walk, talk, and drive.
If you are able to make it through the self-deception, you move into the third stage, Transformation.
Here, your attitude and effort begin to rebound as you settle into your new role.
There is still the danger of backsliding if you’re not careful, and you’re definitely not comfortable because you need to focus consciously on making it all happen — just as a new driver must focus on keeping their car on the road safely.
This is conscious competence. The good news is that this phase is only temporary.
Once you move through transformation, you arrive at your new identity. Congratulations! You are now unconsciously competent, and your new skill, job, or relationship is part of who you are.
So how do you maximize your chances of completing the cycle? You A.C.E. it!
A.C.E. stands for attitude-competence-effort.
It is necessary to plow through self-deception every time you start anything new.
Frankly, life would be really boring if everything came easily to you. Like playing a video game or watching a great movie, the challenge is what makes it appealing.
Knowing about the Cycle of Growth and the role of Deception is key.
In a previous article, “Can’t Lose Weight? Change Your Mindset: A Guide to Saving You From You“, we stated that the formula for successful change is 80% awareness and only 20% effort.
Sounds too simple to be true?
Once you understand how your unconscious mind WILL try to derail your best efforts, you can assume that every bump in the road is self-deception.
Knowing that there will be hurdles and how those might show up is key so that you can plan ahead rather than simply reacting.
The next crucial step is to keep your attitude and effort as high as possible, no matter what you’re doing and whether you’re enjoying yourself. Easier said than done, we know, so here are some hacks to make it easier.
Just as a child learns and achieves by playing, fun gets more done.
This comes naturally when you are connected with your WHY –your purpose– and you recognize that life is about the journey… about happily achieving versus achieving to be happy.
It’s also about having an attitude of gratitude.
This isn’t just new-age nonsense. It’s well-established in science.
Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.
-Dr. Hans Selye
Dr. Hans Selye, father of the modern Stress Theory, believed that the major difference between a so-called stressful event having a positive or negative effect on the body was the person’s attitude.
What is the difference between a person working 60 hours per week at two jobs versus a business owner working the same hours per week?
It is likely that the business owner is far more enthused about their vision of the company and its potential versus the employee who is working and struggling to make ends meet.
So what if you are that struggling employee? How can you make changes?
Rod Hairston states that you must consciously mold your attitude to proactively create the results you want.
It starts with knowing your vision and purpose. Without that vision, you tend to think in terms of scarcity, that life is a win-lose game.
Once you have your vision in place, an attitude of gratitude goes a long way to moving you toward the results you want.
Even if you are not in the job of your dreams, take time to actively appreciate everything you like about working there because you do have a choice.
Understanding that you are working there because you appreciate the pay, the benefits, the teamwork and more can go a long way toward shifting your attitude to the positive.
A significant way to take you from struggling to happily achieving is to compete with yourself to constantly level up.
Even if you’re working for someone else in a dead-end job, strive for the highest competency possible.
You’d also be surprised how the skills you learn in that dead-end job may just help you achieve your dream job.
Can you honestly say you’re giving your absolute best effort right now?
Or have you fallen into the mindset trap that you’re only going to give the effort you’re being compensated for?
This is bartering and can be seen in work, relationships, and other areas of life. Bartering is the expectation that you will receive something directly in return for your efforts. For instance, you may feel you shouldn’t have to work late if you’re not paid for overtime hours.
However common and even accepted it might be, bartering is a recipe for dissatisfaction and misunderstandings, not to mention a waste of thought and feeling energy.
Many marriages get rocky, for instance, because one or both spouses feel underappreciated and perceive they are putting more effort in than their counterpart.
Like competency, the highest effort in your current situation will translate into greater opportunities in all areas of life.
Compete with yourself for your highest fulfillment, setting the bar high on your Attitude, Competency, and Effort.
Hold yourself accountable to your vision and purpose to create the leverage to push through the Deception when it hits.
If your unconscious mind gets the best of you, forgive yourself and hop back on track.
It is a game, after all.