Hard ≠ Impossible

Date posted: November 11, 2012

In working with my clients lately, I’ve noticed many of them are struggling with impatience around the progress of their respective journeys. Some are frustrated at themselves for not taking the action they say they want to take. Some feel like giving up due to uncertainty of how to even tackle the next step.

concentrateIt seems a lot of people, during this heightening vibrational time on our planet, have grown tired of the status quo, and want to make some big moves – and quick. As a coach, it’s always interesting to see patterns in behavior that seem perfectly in sync despite my clients being spread out all over the globe.

A conversation I often have when supporting my clients is on the Stages of Learning. It’s easy to forget that just because you don’t know how to do something at the beginning doesn’t mean it’s the wrong turn for you to take.

Let’s talk a bit about the four stages, and you’ll see what I mean:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: When in this stage, you don’t know how to do something, but you also don’t realize you’re even missing it. This is the “you don’t know what you don’t know” part; or the “ignorance is bliss” idea. You can hang out here for your whole life, or until you get that itch to kick things up a notch. When you decide you want to step out of your comfort zone and head into your stretch zone, now you’re entering Stage 2.
  2. Conscious incompetence: You’ll find yourself here when you’ve decided to try something new, add a new component to your business or life, or have just realized the benefit in learning the skill you may have negated in Stage 1. When you’re facing conscious incompetence, things can feel pretty scary; even overwhelming. This is where I see a lot of clients wanting to quickly jump from where they are to where they want to be; to hurry up and be done with it. The idea of walking through the process methodically is daunting, so this is where the power of small steps really comes into play. Just because you don’t know how to do something yet, doesn’t mean you never will. Remembering this, you’re able to give ourselves a break and show up to just that very next step. Believe it or not, this approach will get you where you want to go the fastest and with a solid foundation underneath. In this stage, mistakes are a vital part of the learning process, so be gentle with yourself. Soon, you’ll have done it, and on you go to Stage 3.
  3. Conscious competence: As you successfully complete similar tasks or projects over and over, you slide into the Conscious Competence stage. In this stage, you know you can do this. You’ve proven to yourself that it’s possible. Although the completion of it takes a good amount of focus and concentration, you know you have what it takes, and you know the benefit of small moves. As you get more and more comfortable, you’re heading into Stage 4.
  4. Unconscious competence: At Stage 4, you’ve mastered a skill so much that it has become second nature to you. Think about driving a car. You’re so unconsciously competent at this skill, that you can even multitask while doing it – change the radio, have a phone conversation, etc. You no longer need to hyper-focus on the small steps to drive safely from home to work. It’s when you reach this place that you could even take things a bit further and begin teaching others how to do it.

Frustration usually rears its head when in Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence. It’s tough to be so aware of what you don’t know. For example, I recently announced a free video class on “Energetic Marketing”. Preparing for this took a lot more time than I thought it would, and I faced a lot of temptation to throw in the towel.

Having never launched a new offering in this particular way, I was up against all the things I didn’t know how to execute. Taking my own advice, and the advice of my coach, I broke the project down into teeny, tiny steps, and I made sure to ask for help and support. My coach reminded me several times that it’s this first time doing it that’s the hardest. The more I do it, the easier it gets. At some point, though it’s hard to remember, I’ll be hanging out in Stage 3 – consciously competent!

Prior to considering the creation of a formal offering (meaning, an official information page and follow-up emails, etc.), I was blissfully in the unconsciously incompetent stage. Such a comfy place to be. Until it isn’t. I no longer turned away from the idea of a video class, telling myself it wasn’t for me. I now wanted to head in that direction and the pull to do so became stronger than the fear.

What are you up against right now that is challenging your skills and abilities? Take a closer look at the project or goal through the lens of the Stages of Competence. I’ve found that my clients, when using these stages as a reminder that they’re just fine where they are, can make progress much more easily.

It’s ok to not know how to do something. You can learn it and you can almost always find someone willing to help you. Success leaves tracks. Follow the path left by those who came before you.

OK, you’re up! Share with us in the comments below – where are you finding it hard to come up with a next step? Can you be patient with yourself as you go through the stages of learning? How can you reassure that tentative little one inside that you have what it takes?

You can do this!

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