Aldous Huxley once wrote: There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self
Over the last few years I’ve noticed a mental shift, whereby I’ve begun questioning many facets of my life and asking: “Is this the way I truly want to be?” This curiosity has led me to conclude that there are many areas for improvement!
Recent changes I’ve started tackling can be divided into
Tangible / concrete changes:
-I’d like to eat healthier food
-I’d like to wake up earlier
-I’d like to consistently keep my inbox under 10 emails
And intangible / more subjective changes:
-I’d like to increase my ability to listen to others
-I’d like to get better at handling uncertainty
-I’d like to judge people less by their physical appearance
Regardless of the specific objective, there is a helpful framework to think about change, and its a 2×2 of consciousness and competence.
Let’s take a simple and common example. You are working for a company that one day decides to change your job title from “analyst” to “consultant”, to be in more in line with other companies. You are used to calling yourself an ‘analyst’ without giving it much thought and thus at first you keep doing so. You say “All the analysts are starting training tomorr-” and someone cuts you off and says “you mean consultant”. At this point you are unconsciously incompetent (top left). After saying analyst and being cut off a few times your mind starts to get the picture as soon as you say ‘analyst’, you catch yourself and auto-correct ‘err I mean ‘consultant’. Now you’re consciously incompetent (top right). A week goes by and now as your mouth forms the word ‘analyst’ you pause and with a smile and say ‘…consultant’. Now you’re consciously competent (bottom right). A few weeks goes by and you refer to yourself as a consultant without hesitation. Now you’re unconsciously competent (bottom left).
This process is pretty standard for all long-lasting change that you want to sustain. What I’m really interested in are the shifts in consciousness: how one transitions from incompetent unconscious to conscious (left to right), and then after the skill is learned, from conscious to unconscious (right to left). The next two blog posts will explore each of these in turn.