Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Learning steps

Here’s one of the reasons I write a lot about consciousness:

“In order to learn, you must be conscious about your actions”.

The following model ALWAYS works when you are learning a new skill – or getting better at a skill. There might be other, cognitive learning models, but this works for what I am writing about: leadership skills.

Let’s use an example:

When you are 3 years old, you don’t know that you don’t know how to drive a car. Someone puts you in the back seat, something happens outside the windows, and you are at the destination. (You are unconsciously incompetent).

When you are late teenager, you sit down with an adult in a car and you very quickly become aware that you know that you don’t know how to drive a car. You learn to hate the sounds of complaining gear shifts and stalling motor, etc. (You are now consciously incompetent).

After some training, you get better, you can turn and gear and blink and even go on the highway and you know that you know how to drive a car. You get your driving license, and you still have to think about the driving. Sometimes in this period you get lost, because your brain didn’t have capacity to also navigate ;-) (You are now consciously competent)

After a while, this happens: You find yourself in the car park at work and you have no recollection of getting there, you didn’t think about the driving at all – you don’t know that you know how to drive a car (you are unconsciously competent).

This model works for all kinds of skill learning. Replace driving with playing an instrument, listening skills, juggling 3 balls, presenting skills, etc etc.

Learning only happens in step 2 and 3!
This is why your handwriting probably isn’t any better now than 10 years ago, even if you’ve had some practise. You haven’t been conscious about your learning.

Why it is important to know about this:
You are so competent in so many ways. But if you want to get better at something (or pick up a new skill) you have to become consciously incompetent. Know that you don’t know. And to be bad at something really sucks, right? This is why it is so uncomfortable for a lot of people to learn new skills. It is just plain uncomfortable and scary to admit that they are bad at whatever they want to learn.

So: be gentle with yourself when you learn. If it feels uncomfortable and you want to give up, it is because this model works! Love to fail. It helps you learn.

Imagine the toddler wanting to walk. She gets up, holds the table, tries to walk and falls. She gets up, holds the table, tries to walk and falls. She gets up, holds the table, tries to walk and falls. Over and over.
She NEVER says: “ Naaah, this walking stuff is for the people who know how to do it, I’ll be fine crawling along and stay on the floor. It suits me”. She hasn’t learned that failing is bad.

Be gentle with yourself when you learn.

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