I don’t drive in Bangkok, I’ve no need. So when I get in a car it could be several months or sometimes years since I last drove. On my
recent visit to the UK, my first driving task was parking. When asked in advance, I fleetingly wondered if I’d be able to maneuver the
unfamiliar car. But when I sat in the driver’s seat my automatic behaviour returned and I was neatly in a parking space before I had a
chance to consciously think about it.
This reminded me of the learning model - unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. This model states that we start not
knowing what we don’t know, unconscious incompetence. For example many people offend people in different cultures just because
they are completely unaware of the other’s customs and ways of showing respect. When we become aware there’s something we
don’t know, we become consciously incompetent. We still do not know what to do but we are aware there is potential for us to learn.
When we decide to learn, each time we do the new behaviour we will consciously think through each step, we are consciously
competent. Later, with practice the new behaviour will become automatic so our competence becomes unconscious. For me, driving
is unconscious competence.
Interestingly my automatic behaviour included not only my good habits, but my bad ones as well. I automatically looked in the mirror
and automatically crossed my hands on the steering wheel. I did not think about ‘how’ to do any of this, I just did it. If you ask me to
show you how to drive, I’m not sure I could! I’m not sure I could take one step back to conscious competence without experiencing
some conscious incompetence first!
If I had got into a state of worry before parking I’m pretty sure I could have convinced myself that when driving I had to be in control.
And to feel in control I would have had to consciously think about each action. This would have involved much more energy and as I
said I’m not sure I would have been effective.
There are many things we do automatically- walking, greeting someone, cooking, writing. By having these things done automatically,
our mind is free to focus on where it’s needed, learning something new, for example.
Sometimes however, we don’t allow ourselves to respond automatically. Maybe an emotion (like fear) gets in the way and tells us we’re
unable to trust that part of ourselves. So we analyse, think, try and we disregard our natural intuition and abilities.
For example our creativity, I believe is something every human does automatically. To be aware of how you’re being creative and to
be creative at the same time is quite a challenge. With this consciousness you may also be judging the level of your creativity. The
judgment can lead to many emotions which then produce a block. Our task is to allow ourselves to be creative, releasing control and
accepting any feelings that might produce.
I’m against self awareness, but choose the areas in which you want to build awareness. If you’re looking to change something about
yourself, you can first see if there is a positive natural or automatic behaviour you’re blocking with your feelings- your creativity,
connection with others, ability to ride a bike. In that case the ‘change’ comes from ‘getting out of our own way’, releasing the feelings
so the true you can shine through.
As with my driving, automatic behaviour might not be all good. There may be some habits that have a negative impact, such as over
eating. In this case we could to go back to being conscious of our behaviour so we can be aware of the triggers for our over eating,
analyse what we eat when and why and be aware of how that feels. This takes a good deal of energy and as ‘what we pay attention to
grows’, focusing on the problem often makes the problem bigger!
Another option is to use the power of Intention. One thing that was significantly different in my driving on this visit was that it was
slower. Rather than racing to get to my next appointment, I had plenty of time and my intention was to enjoy the scenery. I did not
think about driving at a specific speed it just happened automatically once that intention was clear.
Using our intention means we focus not on the mechanics of the behaviour we want to change but on the positive outcome we’re
wanting to achieve. This re-aligns our behaviour without us having to get all self conscious!
Automatic Pilot ~ The Power of Automatic Reactions