Do you find yourself creating goals and then abandoning them before they come to fruition? Do you often give up after the first few tries when learning something new? If so, this may seem like a normal reaction when you feel defeated by something. You may even say to yourself: “I’m just not good at this”. But what if you realized that the frustration was a normal part of the process? Would you keep moving along towards your goal?
W.S. Howell, author of The Empathetic Communicator, created a theory that helps explain how, when, and why we become competent at something. He calls it the conscious-competence model. The first stage is “unconscious-incompetence”; “you do not know what you do not know”. You don’t have adequate knowledge and skills in an area but are unaware of it. You can stay in this “ignorance is bliss” state not realizing your incompetence or you could be faking it.
The second stage is “conscious incompetence”. In this stage you realize you are not an expert in a particular field as you might have once assumed. You are now conscious of your performance and how it compares to others in the field. The decision to improve your skills lies solely on your own shoulders. The acceptance or non-acceptance of your incompetence determines how you will progress in your future endeavors in this field and any goals related to this.
As you increase your knowledge in a particular field you will find yourself in the stage of “conscious competence”. You get to this stage by gaining experience and intensive study of the field. This stage may feel a little like a roller coaster ride: you may improve, make mistakes, and improve further. In the end you will arrive at a point where your works feels natural to you. This is “unconscious competence”. You no longer have to think of each step in the process.
I am sure some readers may have resistance to this. What if I am just not good at it? Yes, everyone does have some natural abilities and there are definitely career fields that may not be suited to your abilities. However, if you get to the third stage, “conscious competence”, and are willing to stay in it for awhile, you can achieve competence through sheer persistence and determination. So are you still afraid to say you are incompetent? Start getting comfortable with it and it will open the doors to creating success and achieving goals. If you aren’t willing to “suck at it” initially, you may never be able to push yourself along to greatness.