From Cat-O-Pillar to Colossus

October 24, 2016 by Blog No Comments

From Cat-O-Pillar to Colossus

For the last 3 years I’ve decided to celebrate my birthday doing something that I’ve always been terrified of….riding rollercoasters.shutterstock_230140393

Since I was very young I have had a fear of anything “fairgroundy”.  Anything that spins fast, drops quickly or throws my body around so erratically I feel like my brain has been rattled around in my skull.  As far as I can remember this stems from an episode on a Waltzer at the age of about 7 or 8 on Brighton Pier when my response to the “scream if you want to go faster” sign was wholly misinterpreted by the sadistic Waltzer operator.

Since I discovered my love of learning and development and the benefits of pushing myself to the edge of what I thought I was capable of, I’ve been taking steps to challenge this fear.  I clearly remember the intense feeling of pride when I rode the Cat-O-Pillar rollercoaster at Paulton’s Park!  To give you an idea of where the Cat-O-Pillar features on the scare-o-meter I rode it with my (at the time) 3 year old son but a massive step for me and I was buzzing because, not only did I push myself out of my comfort zone, I actually enjoyed it.

Six months or so later I decided to do it again.  The next step in the fear challenging mission was a very conscious choice to revisit Brighton Pier, the scene of the original crime.  I decided, in my wisdom, to take my 2 older children on the Crazy Mouse.  To those unaccustomed to Brighton, this ride sits right at the far end of the Pier and could be described as a Waltzer in the air.  The car spins as it whizzes round the track and if one was to have one’s eyes open, one would feel like they were going to be launched into the sea at every hairpin turn.  I wouldn’t know about that though!  I laughed slightly hysterically all the way round the ride (with my eyes closed obviously) – an unconscious strategy to convince my brain I must be having fun because I was laughing.  It wasn’t until I got off the ride and opened my eyes I realised my middle son was as white as a sheet and apparently traumatized.  The irony of having challenged my fear in the place of its birth but having apparently handed the baton to my son at virtually the same age as me when I developed my fear, in exactly the same place and on virtually the same type of hell-machine is not lost on me.  So anyway, back to me.

The next birthday goal was to do a “proper” theme park.  This would surely mean I had conquered my fear.  So Alton Towers it was.  As I queued up with my eldest son for RITA – 0-60 in 2.5 seconds – I felt terrified but excited as I knew how proud I would be once I’d done it.  The type of terrified excitement of going into labour but the reward at the end of the “ordeal” being the pride of having felt the fear and done it anyway rather than a baby.  And I really was extremely proud of both my son and I when we staggered, shaken and most definitely stirred off RITA.  The acceleration was ridiculously fast and, whilst I think my head fell off at some point during the ride, I really enjoyed it.  I think.

And so 3 years on since my daring encounter with Cat-O-Pillar, last weekend I found myself queuing for 2 hours to ride Colossus, a nearly 100ft rollercoaster at Thorpe Park where the warning  signs advise riders to keep their heads back at all times and pain killers are sold in the Colossus shop half way along the queue path.  And yes it was terrifying…and yes I loved it.

So what have I learned?  I’ve learned I’m brave and am willing to put myself in uncomfortable situations to stretch myself and prove my fear wrong.  I’ve learnt that taking incremental steps to increase the challenge every time is becoming exciting albeit still pretty scarey.  But I’ve also learnt that because I leave fairly large periods of time inbetween my challenges the old fear is very prevalent the first time I get back on a rollercoaster after a period of time and yet, once I’ve been on one or two rides again it becomes easier and the excitement of repeating the experience becomes greater than the fear.

Whilst I’m not convinced I necessarily want to spend every weekend riding rollercoasters in order to transfer my fear into a habit I do know that we need to practice doing something regularly to carve out a new neural pathway – to create a new habitual way of behaving as demonstrated in the Four Stages of Learning Model below.  We need to practice doing what is uncomfortable and keep doing it to move it from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they become aware of their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the individual can carry out the skill without it being consciously thought through – they have reached unconscious competence.

Four stages of learning

Clarity4D is a simple, affordable and effective intervention for highlighting our behaviour preferences (how we habitually behave but may be unaware of) and mapping them to colour so we can then gather feedback from our key stakeholders and make a conscious choice how to develop ourselves and improve our relationships.  Or so we can identify how we’d like to behave in situations which are currently hindering our progress and consciously practice doing something different – choosing how we’d like to behave in those situations.

Habitual behaviour is unconscious.  Our brain will look for the path of least resistance, the path already trodden (the way we normally behave in that type of situation) and will unconsciously follow that path unless we consciously direct it to take a new untrodden path.  The more we tread along that path, the more defined it will be and the more likely a new habit will be formed and moved into unconscious competence.

Clarity4D interventions can add real value to our relationships in our personal or professional lives by improving leadership, communication, engagement and motivation and thus drive down risks associated with poor leadership or communication, lack of engagement and motivation.  Clarity4D can help embed colour into our lives or our organisation as a language by which to communicate and collaborate and create long-term sustainable change.

So how does this relate to rollercoasters?  My behaviour preferences indicate that I am less likely to be energised by traits such as risk taking, being direct or challenging – these types of traits are represented by the colour red in the Clarity4D Model.  So, by challenging my fears, being focussed on the goal and taking risks by riding rollercoasters I’m proving to myself that I can flex my behaviour and replicate it in any area of my life.  And not only can I do it but I can also enjoy it.

Which of your habits are a barrier to you achieving the personal or professional success you’d like?  How are you showing up with your behaviour to people who have influence over your personal or professional success?  What would be the benefits of an improved relationship with them?

I’d love to talk to you and see how Clarity4D interventions could help you.