The Simple Guide to Conscious Learning

When you are able to learn effectively, you pretty much have living the life you want in your pocket. Oddly enough, very few people are good conscious learners. Some may know a lot of stuff, but when it comes to actually developing, their learning gets stuck.

There is one thing I found out about a long time ago, which helped me a lot in improving the way I learn and make more, faster progress. It is also something I constantly talk about in my training and coaching programs.

This thing is a simple, powerful model of human learning and personal development. According to the model, our competencies develop in 4 stages:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – you don’t know, and you don’t know that you don’t know. This is the stage when you are not aware of your flaws or specific areas where you can improve.
  2. Conscious Incompetence – you still don’t know, but at least you know that you don’t know. This is the stage when you’ve realized your flaws or specific areas where you can improve.
  3. Conscious Competence – you know, as long as you practice consciously. This is the stage when you have discovered how to improve, the specific changes you need to make, and you practice them consciously.
  4. Unconscious Competence – you know, without even thinking about it. This is the stage when you have practiced something so much that it became automatic and you now do it naturally.

Of course, once you reach the last stage in one area and you have a new skill, there are other areas where you are at the first stage and where you can evolve through the 4 stages. So this is not really a learning cycle, it’s more of a learning spiral which can go on your entire life.

What effective learning means is moving from one stage to another. Effective learning is conscious, step by step learning. And it’s about skills, attitudes, not knowledge, which is just an intermediary step in the process.

If you look at human learning through this model, you can realize that all human failure in learning is triggered by certain personal or process flaws which make us get stuck at one of the first 3 stages:

  • People who get stuck in stage 1 don’t even think about where they can improve, are not very self-aware or they are too proud to see their flaws.
  • People who get stuck in stage 2 know what they can improve but don’t decide to do anything about it, they try to figure everything our by themselves or they use the wrong ideas and methods to improve.
  • People who get stuck in stage 3 don’t act sufficiently and consistently enough, they don’t plan their practice, they get distracted and they procrastinate.

Look at this model of learning and think about the stages where you tend to get stuck. We all tend to have at least one which is our sticking point. Becoming more aware of this and working on perfecting your learning process is one of the best ways you can use you time and energy.

When you are able to learn effectively, you pretty much have living the life you want in your pocket. Oddly enough, very few people are good conscious learners. Some may know a lot of stuff, but when it comes to actually developing, their learning gets stuck.

There is one thing I found out about a long time ago, which helped me a lot in improving the way I learn and make more, faster progress. It is also something I constantly talk about in my training and coaching programs.

This thing is a simple, powerful model of human learning and personal development. According to the model, our competencies develop in 4 stages:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – you don’t know, and you don’t know that you don’t know. This is the stage when you are not aware of your flaws or specific areas where you can improve.

  1. Conscious Incompetence – you still don’t know, but at least you know that you don’t know. This is the stage when you’ve realized your flaws or specific areas where you can improve.

  1. Conscious Competence – you know, as long as you practice consciously. This is the stage when you have discovered how to improve, the specific changes you need to make, and you practice them consciously.

  1. Unconscious Competence – you know, without even thinking about it. This is the stage when you have practiced something so much that it became automatic and you now do it naturally.

Of course, once you reach the last stage in one area and you have a new skill, there are other areas where you are at the first stage and where you can evolve through the 4 stages. So this is not really a learning cycle, it’s more of a learning spiral which can go on your entire life.

What effective learning means is moving from one stage to another. Effective learning is conscious, step by step learning. And it’s about skills, attitudes, not knowledge, which is just an intermediary step in the process.

If you look at human learning through this model, you can realize that all human failure in learning is triggered by certain personal or process flaws which make us get stuck at one of the first 3 stages:

  • People who get stuck in stage 1 don’t even think about where they can improve, are not very self-aware or they are too proud to see their flaws.

  • People who get stuck in stage 2 know what they can improve but don’t decide to do anything about it, they try to figure everything our by themselves or they use the wrong ideas and methods to improve.

  • People who get stuck in stage 3 don’t act sufficiently and consistently enough, they don’t plan their practice, they get distracted and they procrastinate.

Look at this model of learning and think about the stages where you tend to get stuck. We all tend to have at least one which is our sticking point. Becoming more aware of this and working on perfecting your learning process is one of the best ways you can use you time and energy.

Comments

  1. Hi Eduard.

    You bring up a valid point about how consistency is what takes someone from stage 3 to stage 4. Without that consistency, there is no way for the competency to transfer to the unconscious. We have to almost program ourselves in this fashion.

    Sometimes I think about how we can be in stage 4 for some activity and stage 1 for some other activity we don’t even know we are in stage 1 in. We can’t assume that we are in the same stage for all activities.
    .-= Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..Your Comfort Zone Is Your Unproductive Zone =-.

    • Hey Armen,

      Consistency seems to be one of my most used words when I talk about personal development and people skills development. I know it’s a sticking point for many people, including sometimes myself.

  2. I think complementary to this is the idea that as we master things, we move from intellectual (regurgitate it), to emotional (we have feelings about the info), to physical (it’s baked in our bodies … our body just knows what to do.)
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..A Lean Way of Life =-.

  3. Eduard, I can’t THANK YOU enough for writing about this. Years and years ago, I came across these 4 stages in a workshop and they made such sense to me. Over time I have lost them and didn’t even know how to search for them. I am so happy to read them again. Familiar but excellent reminder! I truly believe in these 4 stages. Thank you SO MUCH :)!

  4. I am on stage 3. Sometimes jumping back and forth between 2 and 3. So, right now procrastination and laziness are my enemies. thank you for the post.
    Very refreshing.

  5. akun goyal says:

    Sir Eduard

    U r a true treasure for the society ! keep up the good work !!

    best wishes

    akun goyal
    (INDIA)

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