“Want something in your life you’ve never had before?
Then do something different.”
The Conscious competence ladder or the Four stages of learning.
When it comes to learning any new skill, this model will explain the emotional and psychological stages we all go through. It might allow you to be a little more aware of what is happening and enable you to make better decisions during any learning process.
It is based on the premise that before we become proficient with any new skill we have to go through a 4 stage psychological process, or levels of competency
First off, unconscious incompetence, this where you don’t know that you can’t do it well.
It’s the first step in learning any new skill. We simply don’t know until someone tells us, or we encounter a situation that brings our incompetence into our conscious awareness. We are unaware even of what we’re lacking. It is from this stage, we graduate to the next level.
Conscious incompetence, now you know you can’t do it well.
This stage is usually painful, why you may ask?
Because this stage is littered with failures, and feel like giving up because you don’t feel good enough, and might attach these failures to your worth, don’t panic most of us do. It becomes painful to see and feel yourself fail because failing means, “you already know this”. So most give up at this stage to protect their self-image by saying things like.
“I can’t do it”
“ I might get hurt”
Or by lying to ourselves.
“It is just not that important”
“I don’t see the value in learning how to do that”.
Then we get to conscious incompetence, confusion is used as an excuse in order to not face the consequence of taking or making a decision. We create confusion so we don’t have to decide. Because deciding means that we now have to be responsible for the consequences. Often accompanied by an internal dialogue that goes:
“I don’t know what I want”
“I don’t know”.
Basically any excuse where you don’t have to be uncomfortable and grow falls into this category.
Finding our way through. Ok, now you make the choice, the choice of learning the skill despite the effort needed.
Having made the decision to learn, we slowly move into the next stage.
The only way out is through.
Conscious competence, you do it well, however, you need to think about the work as you are doing it.
This is where the individual has succeeded in executing the skill and can do very well. However, it requires a lot of concentration to execute the task. But once the skill has been accomplished several times successfully, you slowly graduate to the next level.
Unconscious competence, you have become so successful it’s “automatic” you do it well, without thinking about it.
When you have successfully executed the task at hand skillfully and consciously many times, then the skill becomes second nature. You don’t even have to think about doing it, you just do it.
This is where mastery lies. You might have heard that “practice makes perfect”.
But, it’s only half true. It is perfect practice that makes perfect. Imperfect practice creates a fool.
You can learn to do something incorrectly keep practising, you end up learning the wrong way of doing.
So If you learn to do it well you are consciously competent.
Now we add something to the established theory that is not part of the original competence hierarchy.
Extremely conscious incompetence:
You know you can do it well, but choose to be incompetent
Both giving up by not feeling good enough (see above under conscious competence) and giving up by lying to ourselves during conscious incompetence causes you to arrive here.
If you think that was bad, there is an even greater evil.
This is when when you start something out new and you know that you are good at it. But you become lazy and pretend that you’re not good at it because you just can’t be arsed to put in the effort.
This is even more painful because now you know you’re good at it and you might have a better quality of life by acquiring that skill. Instead, you deny yourself, and your conscious awareness now knows that you’re actively denying something that is good for you. The subconscious starts to remind you that you don’t respect yourself, And you lose respect for yourself.
An old Arab proverb suggests
He who knows, and knows he knows, He is a wise man, seek him.
He who knows and knows not he knows, He is asleep, wake him.
He who knows not, and knows he knows not, He is a child, teach him.
He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, He is a fool, shun him.