Becoming aware of growth – conscious competence!

I was reminded this week of the stage of learning a new skill or changing an old habit:

1. Unconscious incompetence — I’m not aware of the situation – either the possibility of growth, the area of need, or the new perspective. It’s the “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

2. Conscious incompetence — I become aware of the situation.  I start to learn a new skill, or become aware of an area of my life that needs to change, or begin to see things differently.  My instinct is still to fall back on my old way of doing things – it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I feel very incompetent.

3. Conscious competence — I gain confidence and experience in the skill or new habit.  I am able to do or see things the “new way” — but I’m still very aware of the change.  I might still have to think or talk my way through things, but I’m able to consistently “perform the new trick.”

4. Unconscious competence — The new skill or perspective or way of life becomes so second nature that I forget I’m doing it!  In one respect, I’m back to “I don’t know what I don’t know” but only because it has become the new default – the natural reaction – the “new pair of glasses.”

The reason I like being reminded of this learning dynamic is when I’m in between the second and third step life can be frustrating, particularly for this perfectionist addict who is comfortable in some old patterns.  The “problem” is I’m now aware of the situation and want change…but oft times will still fall back into my normal way of thinking.  But, like learning to drive a car, I find comfort in knowing that the teen-age like awkwardness of jumping the clutch and having to mentally go through my checklist as I pull out of an intersection or start the car eventually becomes second nature.  I drive today without even thinking about it – and yet I know that if you had asked me on day three of my student driving class if I ever thought I’d get this driving thing down pat, I would have burst into tears!


This week, I became aware of how my reaction to situations and the actions I take in certain ones is become more conscious competence than not. I’m present enough and aware of myself that I’m able to recognize the inherent powerlessness in a situation, and “work some steps” on a situation rather than try to fix, manage and control it.  I am able to see and catch my competitive tendencies before I act on them, choosing instead to connect, to be happy, to be helpful.  I still have to walk, think or pray my way through.  But, to be aware of the growth in myself was invigorating. It was like having an outside of body experience – being able to step away and observe the situations that came up and realize that the person I was watching was different from the person from my past.  I am growing, learning, adapting, transforming.  And, I like what I see!

I’m far from unconscious competence!  And in some situations or for some things, I may always be at the level of conscious competence. In one sense, it keeps my present, connected and aware of my powerlessness when I’m in that state. But, I have hope that like driving, I will someday have a new set of instincts and reactions which will be second nature…simply a part of who I am…or in fact, present because that is who I am.  I will have just unlearned the coping skills or removed the masks, connected with my true self and allowed that man to step out of his shell.

For the awareness, I’m grateful.

For the growth, I’m grateful.

For today, I’m grateful.



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I see life as full of possibilities and the world full of beautiful people possessing unique and often untapped talents. I’m a learner and connector, seeking ways to leverage the abundance in this world through strong community.

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