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Gaining healthy living skills through disciplined efforts

“Discipline is the habit of taking consistent action until one can perform with unconscious competence. Discipline weighs ounces but regret weighs tons.” (Jhoon Rhee)

Usually I try to have my two blogs’ subjects be individual. But today they will be identical.

Today’s quote is about building unconscious competence. It follows from the adult learning model, which many of us have seen. We go from not knowing what we don’t know, to having a new skill.

development cycle

In this model, a person progresses from the discovery state of not knowing what they don’t know, to the skilled state where they perform without even considering what they are doing.

Think of the progression in learning how to drive a car. At first the person doesn’t know much at all about how a car is controlled, how much pressure to apply to the throttle or brake, when to signal a turn, how much to turn the wheel, and so on. Throw in a manual transmission, and the number of things to consider goes up dramatically. In this part they are unconsciously incompetent, they don’t even really know what they don’t know.

In the learning phase, the new driver begins to understand what the various controls mean, what traffic laws apply in which circumstances, and how to basically navigate around. This might be a classroom session, or handled in a parking lot for safety. Here they are consciously incompetent. They know what they are supposed to do, but have no skill built yet to execute.

Next the new driver may hit the road. They have an idea of what to do, but every maneuver requires thought, and conscious effort. They are up on the wheel, radio off, focused completely on their actions. Mistakes are frequent, which is why they make those special cars with the extra brake. As they progress through this phase they become consciously competent.

The final state is where most drivers spend their time at the wheel. The control of the vehicle becomes second nature. The driver can handle the control of the vehicle and carry on conversation with a passenger, or even listen to the radio. (There is a lot to be said about some of the dangers of being in this state in terms of distraction at the wheel, but that’s another discussion for another day).

In the past 5 weeks of my journey to better health, I have had many areas in my life where I have been progressing through this model. In some cases I started in the conscious incompetence phase – I knew what I needed to do, but didn’t have the skills to do it. Others, like how to properly work out in the gym, I was in the unconscious incompetence phase – I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.

I am growing in my skillset to be a healthier person. In most areas I am in the phase of conscious competence. I know what to do, and even how to do it, but I have to constantly still think about it. For instance, I know that in a restaurant I should cut the food in half to save points, but I sometimes still attack the plate as though it were a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

Today’s quote reminds me that the key to mastering these new skills is discipline. It is through disciplined actions, with proper thought and diligence, that I will become skilled at living the healthy lifestyle that I seek. Documenting my food, measuring my blood sugar, and tracking my exercise are the keys to building those disciplines within. At some point, most of what I do will become second nature. There will still be mistakes (even the best make their share), but I will unconsciously know how to recover from them to go on and thrive.

I know that I can make this progression, because I have gained other skills in my life. I know that it will take effort, and that the road will not always be straight or easy. But, I also know that the results are worth every drop of effort to get there, and more!

Weight loss and my belief that I can

“When you believe and think ‘I can,’ you activate your motivation, commitment, confidence, concentration and excitement – all of which relate directly to achievement.” (Dr. Jerry Lynch)
In a change of pace today, I am going to use the same quote to inspire posts in two of my blogs. Earlier today I wrote in Just some thoughts I have… about this quote from Dr. Jerry Lynch. You can read that post here. As I have reflected on the quote, there are examples beyond my forays into woodworking. My weight loss journey is prime among them.

Back in 2000, when I decided to lose weight, I started with the idea that I could do it. I remember sitting at a restaurant with my wife for our anniversary. While working my way through a giant pile Italian delights, I told her that I had decided to lose weight. The fact that it was Buca di Beppo, and there was plenty of old-school Catholic-themed décor surrounding me even made me quip that it was my “last supper”.

That was a long time ago, and I cannot remember exactly what lead me to want to start losing weight. I do know that I had tried and failed in the past. I would get a week into something, or even a few days, and I would falter. Each of the times that I failed I had the attitude of failure going in. I saw the mountain as too high to climb. But that night, with my belly full of pasta, I believed I could do it.

The following weeks and months had their ups and downs, but never did I falter in my belief that I could accomplish the weight loss. I ended up losing 25% of my weight in about 5 months. Had I managed to keep that weight off, this blog wouldn’t exist. But, that is another story for another day.

In recent years I have thought often about losing weight. I have tried eating less, exercising more. We bought a gym membership, and I had a subscription to Weight Watchers online. But all of that failed because I didn’t believe that I could lose the weight. Because I lacked that belief, I had only a glimmer of motivation and concentration, and I lacked commitment that would last more than a day. Because I had no confidence, I also had no excitement. I was doomed to failure from the start.

It wasn’t a conscious choice, but this time I did approach my weight loss and fitness journey by first believing I could do it. I may have been hesitant, and I parsed some of my words here, but under that I had a belief that losing weight and becoming more healthy was something within my power. I could, indeed succeed.

Since that day I have been a steam train chugging down the track. My motivation, commitment, excitement, confidence and concentration have all been high. The results are preliminary to be sure, but encouraging as well. With some dedication I can reach my 5% weight loss goal by the end of next week. Taking five weeks to lose 5% is remarkable, and it all started because I believed I could do it.

There are going to be times when this journey is tested. I will have weeks when I lose almost nothing, or even gain weight, it is inevitable. No one outside of a reality TV show can sustain a healthy, rapid weight loss for a long period of time without there being plateaus and setbacks. But, because I know I will ultimately succeed, these will be but pebbles on the path. I know I will push my way through them.
All because I believe I CAN!