How We Learn and Master Any Skill

Learning a new skill and then mastering it. It’s something we’ve been doing since we were born. Whether that is walking, talking, tying our shoelaces or driving. To get ahead in life we need to learn and master a variety of skills.

When it comes to learning, it’s really all about going through the four stages of learning to get to mastery.

Knowing these four stages will help you understand where you are with a certain skill and where there is to go. It was developed at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch in the 1970s and goes as follows:

The Four Stages of Learning: How to Master Any Skill

[1] – Unconscious Incompetence

This is the stage when you don’t know that you don’t know. You have’t got the faintest realisation that you don’t know how to do something. Think about driving a car, or tying your shoelaces. When you’re really young you aren’t even aware that this is a skill that you don’t know how to do at all. You don’t know that you don’t know. Maybe for you now it’s something else. Maybe you don’t know that there is a skill out there that you know nothing about. And then comes…

[2] – Conscious Incompetence

This is where you realise that there is something that you can’t do and you try and do it and you can’t. You get in the car and you stall. You grind the gears. Or tying your shoelaces you end up in knots! This is where you get frustrated and you may even feel like giving up but don’t. Because, if the skill is worth having then comes…

[3] – Conscious Competence

A stage where you have learnt the skill. You can drive the car. Tie your shoelaces. But it takes concentration. Your conscious attention to do it. You really need to think about the process. You keep at it. You put in the hours. And hours. And hours. And then, finally you reach…

[4] – Unconscious Competence

All of a sudden you don’t have to think about the skill at all. You can drive while chatting to passengers and listen to the radio and think about what to have for dinner. And somehow you are still driving. (How well? Well…that depends on you really). And with your shoelaces, you have put your shoes on, tied the laces and not even realised that you’ve done it!

Once you reach this stage the skill becomes so effortless, until you get to maybe the next stage of the skill. Maybe you want to be a racing driver and so you are going back to the beginning. You didn’t know that you didn’t know how to drift round a corner. You didn’t even know that was a skill, and then you climb the learning ladder all over again!


Four Stages of Learning Any New Skilll

Four Stages of Learning Any New Skilll

Knowing the learning stages for me helps make it easier and less frustrating when I start something new. I know that it’s part of the process and that each stage leads to another as I put the hours in.

What do you think? Are you somewhere on the ladder at the moment too?  Let me know what you think about this theory.

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