The 4 Stages of Learning and Relationships – Part 1

Learning to Drive

Learning to Drive

 Do you remember when you first learned to drive? 

How you could hardly wait to get your driver’s license?  Before that, driving a car did not interest you at all.

Sure, you rode in the car with your father or mother driving, but that happened without you being concerned in any way with what was involved in the activity of driving. You just got in the car with them and ended up wherever they were going without any awareness at all of the process of driving the car to get there.

Until you wanted to learn, driving a car did not exist for you as a distinct activity. And then one day it did and from then on you could hardly wait to learn! And either you took drivers education in high school or you learned from a private driving school or your father or some other relative taught you. There was no question that you needed a teacher because you could not teach yourself!

Once you started to learn you realized all the things you had to be aware of and pay attention to, all at the same time. If you’re old enough to have learned on a manual transmission, you remember how overwhelming it felt to manage the clutch and the gas and shifting all at the same time. And, doing it in such a way that the car didn’t lurch and stall. Which it did many times, no doubt!

Eventually, you learned to coordinate letting out the clutch, stepping on the gas, looking in the rearview mirror, watching where you were going and applying the brake without putting everyone through the windshield all at the same time. And doing all of this without stalling the car or running into anything. You might have been nervous and sweaty, but you were beginning to drive!

When you finally got your driver’s license you could drive by yourself without any one teaching or coaching or correcting you. And today you can drive a car, carry on conversations with passengers and listen to music all without a second thought. You can drive for hours without having to pay any conscious attention to all the myriad things that were so overwhelming when you were learning. Now driving is totally automatic for you.

Your driver’s license qualifies you at a minimal level of competence to drive a car. Before you could get your driver’s license you had to pass a written test and a road test demonstrating your knowledge of the rules of the road and your skill at maneuvering your vehicle without causing any damage to life or property. Beyond that, how well you drive a car depends upon how good your teacher was and how good of a student you were.

What we have just described here represents the four stages of learning relative to driving a car. These four stages apply to learning just about anything.

The four stages of learning are:

1. Unconscious Incompetence – you are not aware of the existence or relevance of the skill – you don’t know what you don’t know

2. Conscious Incompetence – you become aware of the existence and relevance of the skill and you may choose to learn it – you know there is something you don’t know

3. Conscious Competence – you have learned and can perform the skill without assistance – you know what you know but you have no mastery

4. Unconscious Competence – you become so practiced at the skill that it enters the unconscious parts of the brain – it becomes ‘second nature’ – the beginning of mastery

There is actually a fifth stage which we will touch on briefly in part two of this post.

So, what does this have to do with relationships? A lot, actually, only with some complicating twists. We’ll talk about that in our next post, so stay tuned . . .

Questions to ponder for comment: 

  1. What was new for you in this post?
  2. What was validated for you in this post?
  3. How can you use what you learned in this post?
  4. Do you have any questions about this post?
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