The next time you have the chance to learn something new at work or in your personal life, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
By Ryan Timmermans, CLAC Regional Director
Learning new things is not easy. It takes effort and can at times be a bit scary. When we’re young, we’re forced to start at the beginning; but as we get older and gain knowledge, experience, and become really good at things, especially in our jobs, we can find confidence in our competence. Unfortunately, this confidence and its comfort can sometimes get in our way and stop us from learning new things or trying something different.
At a recent conference I attended, the presenter described the learning cycle this way:
Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence—You don’t know what you don’t know. This is a true beginner.
Stage 2: Conscious incompetence—You become acutely aware of all the things you don’t know and this can be a bit overwhelming.
Stage 3: Conscious competence—You know what you’re doing, but it still takes effort.
Stage 4: Unconscious competence—You can do whatever it is without a second thought; it has become natural and something you have mastered.
When we reach the mastery level, it brings a sense of accomplishment, confidence, and security. To go back to the beginner stage in anything may not be that appealing. However, if we acknowledge this cycle of learning as pretty normal for all of us, maybe the willingness to try something new and not be paralyzed by fear gets a bit easier. It may help us remember the first stage of learning is also where there is excitement. Tremendous energy and creativity can come from giving yourself permission to be honest about what you don’t know. It’s where we develop new skills and grow as people.
The next time you have the chance to learn something new at work or in your personal life, don’t let the opportunity pass you by or give in to the comfortable response of “maybe next time.” Take the chance and show up as a beginner, admitting what you don’t know and getting excited about the new thing in front of you. Be ready to learn and find out what you’re capable of.
If you make a habit of taking the risk and trying something new, your knowledge base and skill level naturally increase. While this benefits you individually, it has the added bonus of making you a greater asset to the communities you belong to, both personally and professionally.