Mastery During Transition

Each day during the isolation, over the past few months, and as we ramp up now with re-opening, we have been faced with uncertainty and change. During our day-to-day, predating COVID, our routines were likely well established. At the least we may have had a vision of what we wanted to work on and towards. Unexpectedly the entirety of our existence has been shaken up. The energy we expend during moments of volatility is greater than the effort needed at times in which we flow with the regularity of a schedule. If you are feeling a bit more drained with the constant change, this can explain where that energy might be going.

The “currency of change” is the power available to us each day to establish new networks in our brain pathways. This is a limited resource and it is the evolutionary reason why we establish and maintain rituals. The unconscious activities, habits, are part of our survival strategy, and they allow us to accomplish quite a lot each day without exerting as much energy as it takes to learn a new task.

The biggest problem with a new problem or challenge, in Tony Robbins’ words, is the belief that, “I am not supposed to have them.”

In addition to the challenges of changing schedules are the new tasks and altered manner in which we conduct business. Telehealth is now a household word. Social distancing and personal protective equipment are also now commonly used in our lexicon. Staffing and shifts are maneuvered to meet the changing landscapes every few weeks. The reality of being unaccustomed to the implementation of these strategies, and the disruption these changes cause to the stream of our required tasks, taps into our energy reserves. The integration of new workflows requires thought and planning – even if you are not fully aware of your brain’s “software” updates as they are happening.

These past few months have been a challenge to each and every person on the planet. Challenges can be looked at as impeding your way, or you can see the obstacle as the impetus to positive growth. This shift in attitude is vital. Recognizing the opportunity in adversity is a useful mindset. Many of us have thought about what is and what is not important since the beginning of this pandemic. In that way certain aspects of what is needed to achieve your goals might have come to light. So what to do now as the world around us seems to be evolving faster than ever? What new skills will serve you?

Once a person recognizes the need for a new competency, the learning can begin. Before this occurs you are unconsciously incompetent – you don’t know what you don’t know. Thereafter a choice is made to engage or ignore the opportunity. This is a foundational step and not one to take lightly. We can not engage in every new thing otherwise we become the jack of all trades and master of none. Setting priorities takes work. Knowing what is important and how far you will have to go to gain a new skill is key.

If you have ever tried a new skill, you immediately become aware of your incompetence. This is the feeling of being a “fish out of water,” and it is normal. Allowing yourself to feel down, or to say things like, “I hate change,” will not make the process any easier. Embracing the growth mindset will allow you to recognize your stages of improvement. Applying constant effort brings forth millimeters of progress. Eventually you wake up one day and realize you are really quite competent. After this conscious competence comes the sense of what Michael Jordan calls, “being in the zone” – when time stops and you seem to be unconsciously performing the skills you have mastered.

As a final point not covered in Noel Burch’s stages of competence is the recycling of conscious effort into your mastery. Returning to the drawing board to simplify and focus energies on that which is most important, to the greatest degree, is a concept that has really been on my mind lately. Doing things well is only part of living a great life. As we emerge from the isolation during our place as the epicenter of the COVID pandemic, through the first stage, and into the second stage of reopening you, like me, might be wondering, “what is really important?”

It has been suggested by performance experts that 80-90% of the activities in our day do not serve the greatest priorities we hold for ourselves. We can spend decades in mastery and unconscious accomplishment. It is really a great time to evaluate your priorities, list them, and identify that which does and does not support your most important objectives.

“Stop doing the 95% of things that are NEVER going to work….put that effort into the 5% that do have a chance!” – Mark B. Reid, MD

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