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To best learn something, you must actually do it. Learning is a holistic process that involves the entire body–not just the brain. You know you’ve learned something when the thought process behind the action becomes transparent.

The act of learning has several important stages. Learning becomes more difficult— and sometimes impossible—if a stage is skipped. For example, trying to learn without a coach or teacher usually causes us to make the same mistakes over and over again. Failing to practice keeps lessons from being incorporated into the body; the skill is quickly lost and old habits dominate.

Unfortunately, there is no “fast food” version of learning; it takes time, patience, and practice!

Stages Of Learning:

  1. You acknowledge your dissatisfaction with whatever situation or state you are presently in.
  2. You build awareness that you need to learn something new.
  3. You commit to learning (declare your Personal Learning Project).
  4. You request a teacher or coach. This could include co-workers or friends that are willing to be your “committed observers” and provide a support system for your learning process.
  5. Your teacher, coach, or committed observers help you to become a better observer of the behavior or action you are trying to eliminate or acquire.
  6. You PRACTICE the new behavior or action.
  7. You develop minimal competencies.
  8. You PRACTICE, refine, PRACTICE, refine, PRACTICE, etc.
  9. You develop competency.
  10. You manage your moods to favor your learning throughout the entire process.

Unconscious Incompetence
At this stage, you are not aware of the areas in which you are, or are not, competent. Nor are you conscious of your impact on your environment (people, projects, etc.) You may notice problems and difficulties but you do not connect them to anything do. You are most likely puzzled by what is happening, confused about the root of problems, or annoyed by other’s incompetence.

Conscious Incompetence
This is the point at which you realize that unwanted outcomes or damaged relationships may, at least in part, be traced back to your decisions and actions or what you failed to see or do. This is the most uncomfortable stage in learning. You become aware of your limitations and lack the competencies to get past them.

People tend to have common reactions to this phase. Often, they feel bad or guilty about their shortcomings, fearful of the impact of their lack of competence on their credibility with others, or guarded about disclosing their role regarding the source of existing problems.

This is a critical juncture: either you indulge these feelings and moods, or you declare yourself a beginner in a particular domain of learning and plan a way to gain the necessary competence. If you can’t accept being a beginner, learning will be “accidental” or will simply end.

Conscious Competence
Whereas the prior stage is a “moment of choice”, this stage is a process in itself; it takes time to go through the required phases of active learning. Effective action requires that you be conscious of it; it won’t happen by itself but rather demands a committed awareness to consider what is needed from situation to situation. There are three key words in this stage: Practice, practice, practice.

Unconscious Competence
This is the stage where the ratio of effort-to-results shifts dramatically. The competence you’ve developed no longer needs you to carefully consider every move you make. Appropriate action becomes a natural response. This is not luck; it is the result of having embodied new ways of thinking and action through consistent practice. At this point, you may experience a new level of confidence in what you can offer. You gain ease and satisfaction in confronting new challenges. You may also be regarded as a reliable coach for other beginners in that domain.

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