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Two things that you should know about me: I am a big lover of learning, and I absolutely HATE change. Two things I’ve figured out since graduating from W&L last June: life after college gives you lots of opportunities to learn about yourself, and life after college presents you with lots of major changes. Sounds like I have a real love/hate relationship with my new grown-up life, right? Sometimes. But I’ve been able to come to better terms with my new life since a close friend introduced me to a popular, intuitive learning model that sheds light on why learning requires change.  The Conscious Competence Ladder may seem slightly obvious after you read it, but hindsight is always 20/20.

According to the Conscious Competence Ladder explanation, consciousness is the first step towards learning a new skill. To gain knowledge, you need to be conscious of what you do and do not know, or what your ability level is with regards to the task at hand. The idea is that as you grow proficient in a new area, you move from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious incompetence” and then to “conscious competence”, finally reaching “unconscious competence.” 

The life changes that I SO hate typically occur between unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence. During unconscious incompetence, you are blissfully ignorant because you are unaware of your lack of knowledge and skills in the subject in question. Often, it takes a major life change to make you recognize your incompetence in an area. Other times, a life change actually forces you to gain knowledge in a new area. Either way, when you move to conscious incompetence as a result of this change, you go through an uncomfortable, chaotic period. Your confidence drops as you realize that your ability is limited. You may wish that the life change had never occurred and that you were still blissfully ignorant. But if you stick out this uncomfortable time, you WILL learn the skills you need to succeed. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed during conscious incompetence, but everyone must go through this period to learn new things. Embrace the chaos, and try to recognize where you are on the ladder during the process!

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