20 Nov 2018
Are You Complete

How ‘Complete’ Are You? A Guest Post by John Ravenscroft

Today’s post has been written by John Ravenscroft of Puma Energy. We want to thank John for his insightful contribution and trust you will find it valuable.

Have you finished learning?

If you wish to grow, or improve, then how?

I’m going to talk today about something that I feel passionate about. You might not traditionally associate these topics with passion, but the concept of ownership over one’s decisions and actions and the understanding of self-motivation and things that make us do what we do, are passions of mine.

Throughout the Governing Change programme, mention is made of how our sub-conscious affects the way in which we think and behave, the decisions we make and the habits we form. If we want to create change in ourselves we need to understand that our subconscious plays an important role in our lives and the ways in which we interact with others.

So, what are the practical mechanics that you can apply in order to develop and improve?


Habits are a neurological phenomenon. They are built by an algorithm that runs on your wetware. Once formed, they are encoded and hard to remove.

This is because they are stored in an area of the brain that is distinct from memory and will power. They are stored in our subconscious.

We’re all aware of negative habits. Smoking, drinking, punctuating your sentences with swear words, driving in the middle lane.

What about positive habits? Cleaning your teeth, emptying the rubbish bin, thanking someone for holding the door. We do these things without thinking. Or some of us do.

The habit mechanism is what a computer programmer might call a constructor class. That is a template in your brain that assembles components to create an instance of a habit, hooks it into the correct event triggers and outputs, and stores it.

The components are a cue, a routine, and a reward. I get stressed, I go for a smoke, I feel relaxed. I get bored, I reach for a snack, I feel satisfied. The cues trigger a routine that leads to a reward that we crave.

This can be manipulated to instil positive behaviour. By repeatedly practising routines that enable us to accomplish goals that feel rewarding, we can make these routines easier and easier until they become second nature.

People that maintain successful exercise routines eventually do so without thinking. They don’t need to be told to do it, they don’t need an item in their calendar, they don’t need to be persuaded or coerced. They get home from work and they go for a run. It’s a habit.

Habits are distinct from conscious memory. They are activated and carried out automatically. They can be tough to interrupt, because we do them without thinking.

This is because the habit constructor in your brain takes its inputs from its environment, and then stores the created habit in a part of your brain called the Basal Ganglia.

Once our habits are stored, we no longer require memory to carry out a routine.

Take driving. Reversing out of your driveway is complicated. There are a lot of things to pay attention to and a lot of actions to take, even after we first learnt to do this it remains difficult. Check the mirror, press the clutch in, make sure you’re all the way in gear, where is reverse gear? Find the biting point, what does that feel like? Check your mirrors. All of them. Over your shoulder. Your phone rings, distracts you from the manoeuvre and you let go of the gear stick and lift your foot off the clutch and clunk, the car stalls because the hand break is on and you panicked.

Now that you’ve done it a thousand times, you know where the reverse gear is, you know what biting point feels like, and you know how to abort the operation without stalling. Because it’s not a memory anymore, it’s a series of habits stored in the Basal Ganglia. You don’t need to think, you just do it, and it enables you to get in the car and go out and do the other things that are more important to you.

The Mitchell Phoenix Governing Change programme provides an effective toolkit. These tools, once learned, reside in our memory. If we’re satisfied that they are useful tools, and they can enable us to progress towards a greater goal, then we should practise them, since practise is the only thing that will create a learned and structured improvement. You must work with these tools if you want them to become habits.

Teachers can talk to our conscious minds and give us information to store in our memory, but only we can take advantage of them through our knowledge of the habit-forming mechanics and turn these lessons into functions and routines,  install them into our habit libraries and make easy use of them every day.

I don’t have my own examples to share with you today. Just this insight which you can take or leave. Either there is something worth you taking from this course, or there isn’t. If there is, then it’s up to you to make it stick. No presentation, seminar or TED talk is going to install these habits within you. But these resources can be temporarily stored in your memory for you to use your willpower to drive them into habits that you can use and rely on in the future.

Will you take advantage of these tools and develop your investment in them?

Will you own your personal development?