As a foundation of our work together Neil and I focus on two principles, mindset and skillset.
Mindset is our belief systems, mental models, world view, personal narratives and stories. Many times mindsets can be hidden or unconscious; ‘it is just my way of doing things,’ ‘that’s just how I am’. What has been known for a long time and is recently being confirmed by science is that ‘just the way’ you are can be shifted through practice.
In comes skillset. Many of us have attended numerous training’s to help us get better at management, parenting, relationships, etc. These training’s offer us different ways of interacting to build upon the skills we already have and help us ‘do’ relationships better.
Often times new ways of doing relationships can bring welcome relief to both ourselves and our partners. Yet the challenge lies in situations, or a series of situations, that bring us to our boiling point when we revert back to our baseline skillset which was learned through our early experiences in life and is based on our perception of ourselves or our mindset. Everybody with me?
We have all heard the expression “poker face.” This is an interesting phrase in language because the description combines both a mindset and a skillset in the context of the physical body. For someone to have a poker face they have to possess a practiced resolve about not revealing their inner world. This resolve comes about through experiences within our lifetime that has shaped this mindset. If it were simply a skill a poker face would be hard to uphold moment to moment. I can have a poker face for about 30 seconds, clearly I need to practice; whereas a friend of mine can keep a poker face indefinitely. Early shaping of our experience and practice has honed these skills.
Mindset and skillset also lie within the body. Using the poker face metaphor, most of us can come up with what that face and body may look like: expressionless, unchanging, rigid, or if they are really good can be full of expression yet hiding their inner motives. As someone experiencing this person we feel a sense of wonder, many things are left up to interpretation and depending on our mindset, quite extravagant stories can be built that take up our time and energy. We can also feel a sense of incongruence with what the person says, ‘I like that …’ and how we perceive them, ‘they don’t look like they like that …’
This is where practice comes in, say we want to shift our ability to remain calm in the face of pressure which can be stress from work, demands from our partner and children, or for example, the Holiday season. In a sense we want to develop a skillful poker face, external presentation, that matches a sense of inner calm, resulting in an external perception of congruence. In order to achieve this we decide to meditate every day for 15 minutes for one month and see if there is a shift: we begin developing a skill set to overcome our challenge. As we progress in our practice we notice a subtle shift in our ability to remain calm, situations that would have angered us before we calmly navigate. We begin to sense that we have overcome our challenge. Then a particularly tough day occurs and we find ourselves, despite our practice, right back where we were before. What happened?
Our brain basically has three layers, Paul MacLean calls it the Triune Brain. The first layer to develop was our reptilian brain, our ability to move instantly into fight or flight, regulate breathing and body temperature and digest our food; thankfully this part of our brain operates below our level of consciousness. The second layer to develop was our limbic brain, our ability to sense connection, build a mother child bond, community, choose a mate, this part of our brain also operates under our level of consciousness but can be influenced by complex thought. The final layer to develop was our neocortex, or ability for complex thought and language.
When we are learning a new skill set we are using our neocortex. We read or attend a coaching session or training and learn new skills. We then begin to apply what we learned and sense that people around us like or dislike the change in us, our limbic brain. Say we sense they like it and we keep practicing. We get pretty used to our new behavior but something happens and we react, the trigger can vary depending on our past historical experiences. At this point, we have been hijacked and no amount of thinking from our neocortex or connection from our limbic brain is going to stop this train. We are off for about 19 minutes, so science says, and depending on our learned patterns, we could stay triggered a lot longer.
Neil and I believe that the value behind the work we do in our workshops, one-on-one coaching and consulting is that we tap into all levels of the brain and begin to work with the deepest level of mindset and our primary learned skillset. When we can identify these unconscious ways of being in the world, value and utilize their benefit and allow ourselves to actually speak what we truly desire, with help we can alight a path toward our goals that though practice overtime will become a new mindset and skillset. Come invite perspective, discover your underlying motivations, and take a firm step on the path to a calm and fulfilling future.