CAN you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? Before you learned how, you were in Phase I, which is Ignorance.

When you first went out with an instructor to learn how to drive, you arrived at Phase 2: Awareness.

You may have felt overwhelmed by the tasks before you, but when these tasks were broken down one by one, they weren't so awesome after all. They became attainable. Step by step, familiarity replaced fear.

With some additional practice and guidance, you were able to become competent in driving the car through recognition of what you had to do. However, you had to be aware of how you were handling the mechanical aspects of the car.

You had to be consciously aware that you should signal well before you executed a turn. You had to remember to monitor the traffic behind you in your rearview mirror. You kept both hands on the wheel and noted your car's position relative to the centreline road divider.

You were consciously aware of all of these things as you competently drove. This third phase is the hardest stage - the Practice stage, when you may want to give up.

You may have felt uncomfortable when you made a mistake, but this is an integral part of Phase 3. Human beings experience stress when they implement new behaviours, especially when they perform them imperfectly.

In Phase 3, you must realise that you will want to revert to the older, more comfortable behaviours, even if those behaviours are less productive.

In this phase, you must realise it is alright to make mistakes. In fact, it is necessary so you can improve through practice, practice and more practice.

Then comes Phase 4 in your quest to learn how to drive. Think of the last time that you drove. Were you consciously aware of all of the actions mentioned above?

Of course not! Most of us, after driving for a while, progress to a level of Habitual Performance. This is the level where we can do something well and don't even have to think about the steps.

They come "naturally" because they've been so well practised that they've shifted to automatic pilot. This final stage, Phase 4, is when practice results in assimilation and habitual performance and your productivity increases beyond its previous level and reaches a new and higher plateau.

Just as in driving a car, this four-phase model for success can help you break out of the rut most people dig for themselves. By experiencing success and encouragement at each level, change can be exciting instead of intimidating. The bottom line is this: skills and attitudes will both improve by taking one step at a time.

As someone once said: "The longest journey on earth begins with a single step."