Conscious incompetence

So, this is my third post in a day…after a week of adventuring, hiking, exploring, snorkelling and being on the go it’s been so lovely to stop and just ‘be’ for the day, and I’ve been ruminating so much with ideas and thoughts and reflections.

I also gave in and bought myself a notebook – count yourself lucky or I might have written more like 10 posts today 😜

The thoughts I’ve been having this afternoon are about my journey to becoming a life coach and how uncomfortable it can be to be a student again – trying and so often feeling like I come short of being the coach I want to be.

A coach who is comfortable and confident, able to sit with silence for long periods of time if needed, ask succinct questions (mine are always so damn long, I can’t seem to help myself!) and get tangible outcomes for those I work with.

But the truth is that I’m learning. I’m not always going to get things perfectly right and that’s ok. At least I want it to be ok!

And I’ve realised today that I’m in the space of conscious incompetence, which is what feels so icky and tricky to me. But it’s part of any true learning experience and I think it’s something we can all benefit from remembering. So I want to share the four stages of learning (of which one is ‘conscious incompetence’) with you:

The four stages of learning

Unconscious incompetence – we are in this category before we start learning something new. We are unaware of what we don’t know and so, this space can often feel exhilarating, exciting, refreshing and full of possibility. It doesn’t matter that we have no mastery over the subject area (whether learning to play the guitar or take on studies for a change in career), the future is full of possibility.

Conscious incompetence – once we start learning, we are faced with just how much we are going to have to learn and how far a journey we’ve got to go to get to the point of mastery. Even if we are naturally gifted at what we’re learning, we are still aware that we aren’t fully competent and this stage in the learning journey can be uncomfortable, disheartening as we see how far we have to go and sometimes it can seem easier to give up than to keep on going and persevere.

Conscious competence – if we hang on in there, use our tenacity and grit and keep on learning, we will get to the point of slowly having moments of competence. Moments where we manage to play a whole song on our guitar, master a technique we’ve been studying, get some of the results we’re looking for. The timeframe may differ depending on the level of difficulty, but if we keep on trying, we’ll get there. To moments where we’re aware that we’re doing not that bad and are achieving at what we’re aiming for.

Unconsciously competent – this is the sweet spot I want to hit. The moment we’re able to perform with no real thought or effort. When we’ve integrated what we’ve learnt and it flows easily.

It’s good to remember this learning journey as it reminds me that it’s precisely that – a journey where I can’t expect to get everything right.

It also gives me heart that I will get there – finally, one day, to a space where I’m able to be the coach who is comfortable and confident, able to sit with silence for long periods of time if needed, ask succinct questions and support those I work with to get tangible outcomes for themselves.

So I’ll keep on going with my conscious incompetence and take heart at the moments where I think “you know what, I did something good here” and trust that the learning journey will continue and I will get there with time.

If you’d like some support on your learning journey, why not contact me to see what coaching could do for you. Since I’m a coaching student – still learning myself – I have an introductory coaching offer.


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