The First Step to Change
When it comes to making a change in our behavior, thoughts, mindsets, beliefs, attitudes, and habits, you have to be aware of what you’re doing or thinking before you can change it.
I call this the ABCs of change: Awareness Before Change.
That may sound obvious, but when it comes to habits, this is the challenge.
Habits are things we do (or, in the case of thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, think) unconsciously – without thinking about them.
This lack of awareness is one of the things that makes breaking habits so difficult. You cannot change something if you are unaware of it.
One of the purposes of meditation practice is to expand our awareness, so we can see our actions and thoughts from a distance, even when we’re in the middle of them.
Once you start to see the thoughts or behaviors, you have the power to change them.
The Downside of Expanded Awareness
The ability to change it in the moment is a muscle that you must strengthen. You must develop the competence to change what you’re doing.
The downside of expanded awareness is that until you develop that competence, there exists a huge gap between awareness of a reflexive action and the ability to change your behavior.
This is the gap of conscious incompetence.
Conscious incompetence is one of the four stages of learning and mastery. In the learning context, it looks like this:
You approach a subject area knowing nothing. Then you start getting some information. Suddenly you realize how much there is to learn. You become aware of all that you don’t know.
In the context of change (either thoughts or behavior), it looks like this:
You’re in the pattern, you’re fully aware that you’re in the pattern, and you don’t know how to get out of the pattern.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The space of conscious incompetence sucks.
- There’s no way around this.
- It doesn’t last forever.