\ Unconscious Competence | Christina Brandt

Christina Brandt

Thursday, October 6th, 2022 | Making "What's Next?" What Matters ™

Unconscious Competence

How many of you out there say to yourselves, as you’re driving up to a red light “It’s time to apply pressure with my right foot to the pedal that’s next to the gas pedal.” Probably none of you, unless you’re a brand new driver, in which case we thank you for being so deliberate about knowing where the pedals are and using them correctly!

The conscious competence theory is another name for the “Four Stages of Learning,” a theory posited by 1940’s psychologist Abraham Maslow. The Four Stages of Learning are an explanation of how people learn something, progressing from

1. Unconscious Incompetence – you don’t know that you don’t know something, to
2. Conscious Incompetence – you are now aware that you are incompetent at something, to
3. Conscious Competence – you develop a skill in that area but have to deliberately think about it in order for it to happen, to the final stage:
4. Unconscious Competence – you are good at it and it now comes naturally.

I’d say that most of us can claim to be in each of these stages, depending on the task/skill in question.  I’m clueless about plenty, certain that I’m incompetent at lots of stuff, and I’m aware that I need to be deliberate about certain things.  That covers off on Stages 1 – 3.

What about Stage 4, though?  I know I don’t spend much time thinking about what I know so well that it doesn’t require thought.  Maybe it’s time to step back and be grateful for all the things we do so well that they’re second nature to us:  driving, typing without looking at the keys, sewing, making a pie crust, helping others become their best selves…the list for each of us is likely to be very long.

When we become grateful for what we already know, we’re likely to cut ourselves a bit o’ slack and loosen the “I’m a loser who can’t do anything” mindset.  And that, my friends, is always a good thing.

At what are you Unconsciously Competent?

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