Mental Skills Training
The method – Mental Skills Training, created by Dr Richard De Souza – provides a sure-fire mechanism to becoming a high performer both at home and at work. It utilizes the Cycle of Learning as its foundation and a number of tools and techniques which help people to navigate themselves through the cycle quickly and effectively.
Cycle of Learning and Mental Skills Training
The Cycle of Learning is a standard model used to explain how people learn. It consists of four stages repeated endlessly throughout our lives.
Let’s take learning to drive as an example. As kids our parents ferried us around. During those years, we might not have had a desire to learn to drive, or known that there was a special skill to it. This stage is called Unconscious Incompetence or Ignorance.
As we grow older, the desire to be independently mobile becomes strong. We still can’t drive, but desperately want to learn. This stage is called Conscious Incompetence or Awareness.
The next step is taking action and learning to drive. During this stage we take lessons, learn theory, and practise for hours. At some point we reach a level where we can drive but need to concentrate. This stage is called Conscious Competence or Change.
Finally driving becomes second nature. This stage is called Unconscious Competence or Effortless.
In our lives we go through this cycle thousands of times. In most cases we complete the cycle but there are many instances where we don’t because we fail to turn up, give in and just walk away.
The Ignorance and Effortless stages are static states where nothing happens. You can either do it or you can’t. The actions we take during the Awareness and Change stages define ultimate success. Performing well through these stages allows individuals to learn quickly and successfully.
Mental Skills Training seeks to support people through the Awareness and the Change stages of the Cycle of Learning. The method is based upon building high levels of:
- Non-distractible Focus
If you achieve high levels of the above you are likely to safely navigate your way through the Awareness and Change stages to become a hungry learning machine.
Desire is the first step in the MST method. Simply put, if you have huge desire to achieve something, you can construct a rock-solid commitment to make change. It requires you to actively determine what difference acquiring a particular skill, opportunity or effect would have on your life. It is only through a structured self-analysis that you can build a super commitment, which would then create sufficient momentum for planning change and staying on the path. Building Desire is all about asking yourself the key question. What would life be like if...?
The following are a number of example questions with potential answers:
Q - What would life be like if I was fluent in German?
A - I could live in Germany and experience a new culture.
A - I could double my salary.
A - It would increase my confidence and self-worth.
Q - What would life be like if I was ranked top 50 in the world at tennis?
A - I could demonstrate to all my doubters that I could make it.
A - I would be set up for life.
A - My confidence and self-worth would be sky high.
Q - What would life be like if I lost four stone in weight?
A - I would be attractive to my partner.
A - My confidence and self-worth would be sky high.
A - I would be able to play with the kids, run, and cycle.
A - I would reduce my risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Desire can only be attained in a structured manner. The questions and answers must be written down and reviewed periodically to ensure that they are still relevant. This exercise must be undertaken on entering the Awareness stage and throughout the Change stage.
Structured Planning is critical to negotiating one’s way through the Change stage. The plan needs to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed). It has to be regularly reviewed and modified to ensure that, should things go wrong, corrective measures can be put in place. Monitoring and reflection are fundamental to MST, and applies not only to Planning but to all aspects of the method.
Self-Belief, Non-Distractible Focus, and Resilience
To successfully negotiate through the Change stage you need to stay the distance. People fail to make effective change because they fall off the path. Many times failure can be attributed to the past, stresses and strains of the daily grind, and other people’s opinions. For effective change you need:
- Self-belief (believe you can do it)
- Non-distractible Focus (single-minded determination to make it happen)
- Resilience (keep going when the going gets tough)
The Tool Kit
Mental Skills Training utilizes a tool kit to build high levels of Self-Belief, Non-distractible Focus, and Resilience. The tools include Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), music, films, Emotional Intelligence, confidence-building, hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique, visualization, etc. For effective and permanent change the chosen tools need to be used regularly.
MST has been developed specifically to improve performance and increase learning. It is a structured method that can be used in any situation, and tailored to individuals by modifying the tool set.
To become a high performer you need to navigate yourself easily and often through the Cycle of Learning. Building a strong Desire drives people into the Change stage. It is important to ask yourself this key question: What would life be like if...?
Moving through the Change stage, and into the Effortless stage, is all about Planning, taking action, and not getting hijacked. During the Change cycle, whilst it is imperative to have a plan and to take action, the key is not getting hijacked. High levels of Resilience, Self-belief, and a Non-distractible Focus are required. Tools such as EFT, CBT, NLP and visualisation all help to build these traits.
Monitoring and reflection are key elements of the method. Throughout the Awareness and Change stages it is important to determine if the Desire, Resilience, Self-belief, and Non-distractible Focus are still strong. Assessing the health of these traits, reviewing progress and re-planning if necessary is vital for successful learning.