Learning New Things

There is something interesting that happens when get new toys and want to play with them. We unwrap them with all sorts of anticipation. The excitement of the new experience coursing through our brains and giving us little adrenaline bursts. Only to find that learning something new isn’t always so easy.  All that excitement can be transformed into frustration, because the new thing doesn’t come so easily.

There’s a really important process that we need to understand. It’s called the “Learning Journey.”  The learning journey is made up of four stages, Unconscious Incompetence; Conscious Incompetence; Conscious Competence; and Unconscious Competence.

The first stage, Unconscious Incompetence: What this means is that we don’t even know what we don’t know. So, like a child who’s learned how to speak, but doesn’t understand how  to write, the child is ignorant of all that is involved in writing.  but, as soon as the child goes to school, they begin to move into the second page of the learning journey, which is called Conscious Incompetence.

The second stage Conscience Incompetence, is the stage in which the begin to know what we don’t know. This can be incredibly frustrating. We’ve begun to have a clear understanding of what’s expected, but we really don’t yet understand how to make that happen. In fact, this is the stage in which most of us give up. This can be true of the new game, it isn’t so easy to figure out so we quit. Or, it can apply to a new way of doing something, for instance, changing our diets or managing our anger. But, if we can make it through this stage, will have the benefit of moving on the third stage of the learning journey.

The third stage is conscious competence. In this stage we now know what’s expected and we know how to make this happen. It still takes a lot of energy to do the new task, but we are starting to feel confident.  Neuroscientist, have taken P. E. T. scans of the human brain during stage II and stage III. What they have found, is that the brain uses a tremendous amount of  glucose as it is learning, and concentrating, on new tasks. For this reason it benefits the brain to get into habits of thinking. This is what occurs in the fourth stage of the learning journey.

The fourth stage is unconscious competence. This is the stage in which no longer have to think hard in order to do the task, but rather our brains can shut down as we go into automatic drive. This is the stage in which we feel the most competent doing our task.

Remember these four stages. Because, as we decide to learn new things or would change patterns of behavior we will find ourselves moving through the first second and third stages again and again. It’s helpful to understand the process, so that when you find yourself doing something new or learning some new behavior, you can recognize and understand what stage you may be in.  It’s all about giving yourself a break.  Honoring that you are even trying something new and that takes time and fortitude to master.


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