Four Stages of Competence

In order to live well and be successful in your life, you must be competent.
Competence comes with three things: skill, experience and confidence. You can assess your own level of competence in any area using the “Four Stages” model:
Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
Unconscious Incompetence means you don’t understand or know how to do something and you don’t necessarily recognize the deficit. In other words, you don’t even know what you don’t know. This is like your first day on a new job, your first sexual experience, when you become a mother for the first time or the first time you are living on your own. Remember when you were a kid and were learning how to drive? You didn’t know the first thing about what to do behind the wheel of a car. But you really wanted wheels, so you were motivated to learn. Some people can stay at the unconscious incompetence stage for a long, long time. In order to move to the next stage, you have to recognize that there is something that (1) you “don’t get” and (2) you have to learn. How long you stay at the unconscious incompetent stage usually depends on how motivated you are to be competent in your situation and/or how fast you get frustrated.
Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
You know something’s missing. You might not know what or you don’t know what to do to fill in the gap – but you know it’s something. You are consciously aware that you are incompetent in a situation. It was like after you had your first driving lesson and were suddenly aware of how much you didn’t know about driving. Who knew you had to think about all those things? When it comes to their future well-being and success, some women choose to stay at the conscious incompetence stage. They decide that it’s too much time, trouble, or energy to move to the next stage. They don’t learn how to handle their own finances or take control of their life because they decide it’s easier and less scary to let someone else do it. This is where a victory stretch comes into play in your life. A victory stretch is when a woman chooses to move out of this stage, even when it’s challenging. The victory stretch is what makes the difference between a victim or surviving woman and one who is savvy and victorious.
Stage 3: Conscious Competence
This happens when you know you know – the skill or behavior – and you can do it, but it takes a lot of concentration. Remember when you took your driving test? You had to concentrate on every little thing – getting into gear, getting used to how much pressure to put on the gas or brake, how and when to use the turning signal. You can do it but it takes your full concentration. On a new job, conscious competence could be as simple as getting a new phone system and having to look at the printed instructions every time you want to get into your voicemail. But after a while, you develop. . .
Stage 4: Unconscious Competence
The woman has had so much practice with a skill that it’s “second nature” and can be performed easily. Remember the days when you were just a “conscious competent” driver? Back then you probably couldn’t imagine that you could drive and do other things. . .eat, talk, yell at kids, etc. Now driving is like walking. . . you are competent without even thinking about what you are doing. As a result of unconscious competence, you may be able to teach what you know to others. You can teach you daughter to drive or, at work, you might be the person chosen to mentor the new manager or teach a professional development class.
Throughout our lives we are always in one stage or another. Recognizing your level of competence can be a huge help in moving from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. If you are missing a social or communication skill, once you can name it and claim it, you can change it. The more you learn, the greater your level over overall competence.

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What are the Maine Diaries?

The Maine Diaries is a fun look at my annual adventure to New England where I unwind from normal life and reconnect with myself.

I was captivated by the Maine Coast on my first trip there in the late 90’s. In the years since, I’ve traveled up and down the coast from Kittery to Calais but I spend most of my Maine time Downeast. I love the adventures I have and the chance to unwind from the world and restore my inner clarity. I chronicle my experiences in The Maine Diaries.

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