The Response Factor – Taking Control of Habitual Patterns

by Wendy on February 13th, 2010

This is a synopsis of a talk I was invited to give at the Crossroads New Thought Spiritual Center in Carlsbad, CA on August 23, 2009

Years ago as I was leaving formal religion, looking for a more fluid form of spirituality, I was led to a belief system called A Course in Miracles by the Foundation for Inner Peace. I began a course of study in this doctrine which dramatically changed and improved my life, completely shifting how I viewed myself, others and the world around me.

There were 3 teachings our instructor introduced which stood out as exceptionally meaningful, among the many.

First: “If you always do what you’ve always done then you will always get what you always got.”  Something needs to change (the patterns)  in order for improvement to be made.  This was huge as I had never thought of life as a system of created patterns.

Second: Continuing to do the same things and expecting different results.  This has been termed a definition of insanity.

Third:  The instructor also introduced an powerful tool called the Competency Formula. This teaching made immediate sense to me and was something that included measurable steps so I could identify my progress.  (below)

Through my studies I began to see that the challenges were within me and how I responded to life and others.  It sounds impossible to think that at my age, I had never before recognized these plain and simple truths, that I was always looking outside of myself for solutions and resolution to difficulties.  I was finally branching out, thinking for myself, evolving.  I was beginning to awaken and see that I could not change other people, I could only change how I responded to them and to life in general.


The following is a helpful formula for consciously monitoring your thoughts and responses. The description of this formula is as follows:


This is where you start, unconsciously thinking and doing only what you know without regard to how incompetent it may be. This is a continuing circle of responding in an unproductive and detrimental way. (If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always got).


This is the state of becoming consciously aware of your responses, identifying undesirable patterns and observing the way you interact in your relationships and how you manage challenging times. This is the first and most important step. In order to improve, you must become conscious of your patterns of incompetent and undesirable behavior.


This is the state of awareness where new and improved response patterns are consciously put into practice. These patterns are now used as you work to improve your daily interactions and challenges.


This is the final stage. New response patterns have been practiced to such an extent that they have become an unconscious process. You no longer have to think about what you do. Your responses to life automatically come out loving, productive, and competent.

The fulfillment of this process takes time and practice, don’t expect it to happen overnight. You may experience some shock as you analyze your thoughts and actions, and identify inappropriate patterns. Unconscious and incompetent behavior is very normal and a part of the human condition. Forgive and love yourself and treat less than desirable behavior with loving kindness. Then, gently move on to conscious competence. You will find that you spend considerable time bouncing back and forth between conscious incompetence and conscious competence. This is also normal. With consistency and commitment more and more areas of your life become unconsciously competent.

With change as a constant companion, watch your behavior and be wary of slipping back into negative patterns as you are faced with unexpected issues. The one thing we can all truly count on is change and it is happening so rapidly at times, it is hard to catch a breath.  Stay mindful and in the moment, which is the place of your greatest power.

Remember, this is a process where proficiency develops through practice, and as undesirable response patterns are exposed and replaced by acts of love, the process moves more rapidly. The most important thing to consider as you think about this formula is that we are all in Earth school.  Our lives are labratories for experimentation. We tend to judge our thoughts and actions as either good or bad or right or wrong. These comparisons are not productive and ineffective in furthering our spiritual goals. The best measuring stick is: “Does this response or choice serve my highest good?”

What truly defines us is how we overcome challenges. Very few choices are ever life or death.  It is time to lighten up, relax and experiment. Reaching UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE is a satisfying level to attain even in the little things.  We no longer need to consciously think about changing things anymore as making the most productive choice has become automatic. Experiment, have fun with the process, and take joy in becoming more conscious of your thoughts and behavior.

Relationships tend to be the best training ground.  I call relationships the trenches of life. All of our emotions and fears are tied up in our relationships. When times get tough, the question, “How can I respond differently?” should be a constant thought.  I like the saying, “None of these things move me.” When involved in an adverse situation, be undisturbed by it and it will dissolve. An inharmonious situation comes from some disharmony within.  When there is no inharmonious response,  the situation falls away. Try this the next time you feel your emotions and defenses rise. When you can relax and not take yourself so seriously, it becomes fun to experiment. A Course in Miracles teaches, “The best defense is defenselessness”.  When there is no defensive argument, it defuses the anger and emotion. There is no place for it to go.

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