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  • Writer's pictureDan Garcia

4 Stages of Learning any Skill

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

As a baseball instructor, and personal development coach, I've learned there are documented Four Stages for learning any skill or changing a habit. I utilize these stages in all my coaching.

Individuals are initially unaware of what they don't know, or are unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, or habit and then consciously use that skill, slowly and methodically. Eventually, the skill can be done without consciously being thought through, and the individual is said to have unconscious competence. It is that level of unconscious competence that I strive to reach with my personal coaching clients and the athletes I work with. I often tell them “absorb everything I’m showing you, internalize it so it becomes you, then forget it all, and just do it.”

No mind, no thinking.

The 4 Stages of Learning any Skill

  1. Unconscious Incompetence: The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not recognize that they don’t know. The person must recognize their own incompetence, or bad habits, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.

  2. Conscious Incompetence: Consciousness - is the most important part of learning any new skill, or eliminating any bad habit developed in sports, or any part of your personal life. Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize and becomes conscious of the problem. They also embrace the idea of learning a new skill. They know that they don’t know! Getting to this stage can be the result of trust in their personal coach, repeated failure doing it their way, health or financial ruin.

  3. Conscious Competence: Through constant and correct practice, mental skills, muscle memory skills, the building of new neural pathways, concentration and conscious effort the individual understands the mindset required, and learns how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires conscious effort. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill. (Think of scales on a piano, or when you first learned to drive a car consciously thinking of every step) With baseball players its’ conscious awareness of rotating the hips, head down, shoulder closed etc. With my personal development clients creating a new habit, its’ begin with the end in mind, visualize a perfect ending, all thoughts and beliefs on your goal, stay with the process, and stay in the present moment, with laser focus.

  4. Unconscious Competence: Nirvana, the individual has had so much mental, and hands on practice with a skill or habit that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily, unconsciously, correctly. New neural pathways have been developed, mental muscle memory has set in, with a new mindset. The skill can be performed effortlessly, consistently, unconsciously, No mind, Zen, just do it.

It takes time, you can not rush it. Be patient, and believe in the process. The learning curve will grow exponentially. Then,1 day its' done. You're just doing it, or not doing something you wanted to eliminate. Believe in the process, believe in yourself.

‘Swing for Stars’ – See you soon - Danny Garcia

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