Key Take Aways:
Whatever it is you care about, in order to improve you have to spend dedicated time in each of the two zones: the learning zone and the performance zone. In our professional lives 1-2 years after we get out of school, we’re spending most of our professional time in the performance zone. But that doesn’t make us better. We become stagnant; get in ruts; and before you know it, you have a therapist (or insert your profession) that’s been doing the same ol’ tired things for 20 years. *snore* Daily bore!
So what do we do to get out that rut, get in the learning zone and give ourselves a chance to improve?
- “We must believe and understand that we can improve, what we call a growth mindset.” Not as easy as it sounds. Do you REALLY think you truly can improve? Be honest with yourself.
- “… [W]e must want to improve at that particular skill… because it takes time and effort.” Motivation is key to success. Pick something that’s exciting to you!
- “…[W]e must have an idea about how to improve, what we can do to improve.” Make a plan. Write it down. Tell someone how you’re going to go about this to keep you to your goal.
- “… [W]e must be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected, then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant.” Take the pressure off, so if you boo-boo, it’s ok.
So what does that look like in therapy? I’ll give you my own example. So I’ve enjoyed treating balance, but didn’t feel like I was equipped the way I wanted to be coming out of school. So I’ve taken probably too many CEU classes on balance related topics. At the moment I’m working through a Tai Chi certification. Or that’s my end goal. I’ve mentioned this to several people in my family and my supervisor. I know which class I need to take next, although the steps after that are a little fuzzy. I’ll get more guidance at the next class. I have a video of what I’m supposed to be teaching, so I can practice doing it myself and also practice how to cue appropriately. I practice the items I feel fairly confident about with some of my patients who are appropriate and I’ve also recruited my grandparents to do some with me as well for low-stakes practice; my grandparents think I’m wonderful, no matter how many times I mess up verbal cuing for Crane Takes Flight.
Making these mistake free zones in your practice may require outside practice time, like I’m doing. Or you may find a patient that’s willing to be a guinea pig. How I approach something new to me is that I make a little cheat sheet the night before and take it with me to the session I’m planning to try it out in. I usually don’t mention a thing to the patient, but if they ask why I keep referencing my cheat sheet (no one ever has), I would just say, “I want to make sure I’m doing it right.” No one minds you doing things right!
Get out of your rut and into the learning zone!
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