If you’re like many people, these kinds of activities are most likely second nature to you now. It almost seems unimaginable that there ever was a time that you didn’t know how to do any of these things.
And yet, I’m here to remind you that there indeed was a time when you didn’t know how to do some things you take for granted now.
Think about it. What’s something you enjoy doing now that you didn’t know how to do before?
For me, it’s cooking in the kitchen. For others, it could be using social media or running on the treadmill at the gym.
At some point you didn’t know how to do something, and then you learned how to do it.
In psychology, there’s a learning model called the “Four Stages for Learning” that was developed in the 1970s by Noel Burch of Gordon Training International.
If you’ve learned a new skill, you’ve probably gone through these following four stages:
- Unconscious incompetence
At some point in your life, you didn’t know how to do something and you probably didn’t care much about not knowing how to do it. If you’re two years old, why does it matter that you know how to tie your shoes when someone much bigger can put on your shoes for you?
- Conscious incompetence
At this stage, you know that you don’t know how to do something, but now you’re recognizing there’s something valuable about learning how to do it. When you’re six years old and you don’t know yet how to tie your shoes, you probably will want to learn when you see your classmates in school tying their shoes during recess.
- Conscious competence
Once you make the decision to learn how to do something, then you start doing it. Here, though, it takes some effort to get going. You may not be making as much mistakes as you once did, but you have to concentrate a bit more to get the hang of it. For example, if you’ve ever tried your hand at social media tools like Facebook Live, Snapchat, or Instagram’s instastories, you probably recognize that you have to be deliberate and conscious about the steps you take to make them work the way you want.
- Unconscious competence
At this final stage, you’ve been doing something so often that it really does feel like second nature to you. You might be one of those people who can type on a keyboard without looking at their fingers. Or you might be someone who can get into a deep meditative space in the matter of a few seconds.
Why is it important to understand these stages of learning and competence?
I share this learning model with you today to help ease your heart if you’ve been beating yourself up for not knowing how to do something or if you’ve been struggling with not knowing what to do.
When I meet with my coaching clients or lead a workshop, I often hear people lamenting, “Why don’t I already know this? Why is this so hard?"
Learning to do something new sometimes feels hard because you probably don’t have all the information you need, or you simply need more practice.
Not knowing how to do something doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or that you’re inferior, or that you’re way behind, or that you’re unworthy.
Now that you know about these four stages of learning, here’s your coaching assignment for this week:
- Think of something in your life that you’ve been having a hard time learning, or have had a challenging time doing consistently.
Example: I’ve been struggling lately with working out regularly. Sometimes I’ll go to the gym, but more times than not, I find myself tired after work and wanting to just sit on the couch to watch Netflix.
- Looking at the four stages of learning and competence, identify which stage you might be with this learning.
Example: If I think about where I’m at with working out, I guess I’d say I’m in between the stages of Conscious Incompetence and Conscious Competence. I know what I need to do to work out regularly, but I’m not yet at the place where I am doing it regularly. I think I need to up my commitment and practice.
- Give yourself some compassion that you’re still in learning mode. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You’re learning and engaging at your own pace.
Example: When I think about it, at least I have enough of a commitment to go to the gym. Even though I don’t go as regularly as I’d like, I’m at a better place than where I was a few years ago, when I wasn’t even doing any physical activity at all! I’ve made some headway towards this goal. If I keep at this, I know I’ll eventually get to that place where it becomes a regular part of my routine. One step at a time!
At the heart of today’s teaching is this spiritual truth:
Life is always unfolding.
You are an evolutionary being, meaning you are always growing and evolving in new and expansive ways.
And in the bigger scheme of things, perhaps the point of life isn’t getting to a place where you’re unconsciously competent in all areas of your life.
Maybe the point is to engage in life itself, and to expand your capacity to learn and to be amazed at the wonder of life itself.
Now this would be a journey of learning worth exploring.
Abundant Blessings and Namaste.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about today’s post. Please leave a comment below.
And if you’d like to talk with me one-on-one to get more clear about what living your life with purpose and passion looks like, I offer a complimentary life coaching consultation where we can chat. You can set up your life coaching consultation by clicking here.