Bob Marley said it better than I ever could, “Free yourselves from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds.” Now, I have no idea whether or not Mr. Marley studied psychology in a formal context, but I do know that he was absolutely right. We tend to be our own mental and emotional jailers; if we could somehow learn to eliminate self-defeating thoughts from our minds, we’d become much healthier and productive people.
But we don’t. Instead, we lock ourselves into visions of ourselves in which we accept less than we deserve. More and more research within the areas of performance psychology is indicating that before we can really achieve mastery over any particular skill, we have to believe that we are both capable and worthy of attaining higher levels of skill mastery. If we do not believe that we are capable of learning more and acquiring more skills, we simply will not.
For example, there is a “model” developed by a couple of guys whose last name was Dreyfus that describes a five-step path of skill acquisition. It’s called the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition and the five steps are:
- Novice: Minimal, or ‘textbook’ knowledge without connecting it to practices
- Beginner: Working knowledge of key aspects of practice
- Competent: Good working and background knowledge of area of practice
- Proficient: Depth of understanding of discipline and area of practice
- Expert: Authoritative knowledge of discipline and deep tacit understanding across area of practice
When these steps have been tested and analyzed, researchers have found that the vast majority of people achieve “advanced beginner” status but not much more. Only few within any given context achieve anything higher than that level. To me, the main reason that I have seen that people keep themselves at the advanced beginner level is that they do not believe themselves capable or worthy of achieving higher levels of skill within any domain/context.
Many years ago, l learned about how people perform to the level they believe they are capable. Educational psychologists call this the Pygmalion Effect. I have learned that people will also punish themselves at the level they think they deserve. Guess what? Most of us carry a sense of unearned guilt that has become so ingrained that it flows through every one of our behaviors. We then entrap ourselves within that negative view of the person we are and we enslave our mind.
I know, without any doubt, that achieving higher levels of skill is within reach of any person within any given domain. But, it does me no good to know this if others refuse to believe it about themselves. We can become experts at whatever we choose; but, before we set out towards that end, we HAVE TO BELIEVE we can. None but ourselves can free our minds.