When we initially learn, we input the fresh information into our brain via the conscious mind. We must be consciously aware of the new information in order to understand it and try and make sense of it.
But to get really good at something, you need to bypass conscious thought and be able to perform well an action, without really thinking about it.
Introducing the subconscious mind! Consider driving on approach to a roundabout at speed, without the subconscious mind it would be a very difficult task.
You would have to consciously think about applying pressure on the brake pedal with your right foot, putting the clutch down with the left foot, changing gear with your left hand whilst steering with your right, turn your head right to look for oncoming traffic, look with your eyes, listen to the radio in the background and talk to the person in the passenger seat, the whole time constantly breathe and maintain a heartbeat, all in a matter of seconds.
If you had to consciously think about all those things at once I’m sure it would end it up in a crash. Yet we do this with relative ease?
This wonderful mechanism, the subconscious mind can multi-task and execute better judgement than when conscious thought is involved. When a footballer scores a wonder goal during a match, in the post match interview, the interviewer may ask 'So what went through your mind when you stuck that ball?' and the footballer’s response is ' I don't know really, I just struck it sweetly and it ended up in the back of the net!’ The best results are achieved when little conscious effort is made and instinct takes over.
It is this automatic function which enables us to attain expert ability. So how do we become great at something we are poor at now, but wish to be better? This transformation is broken down into four stages....
- Unconscious incompetence - This is when we are still unaware of what we aren't good at yet.
- Conscious incompetence - At this stage we are aware of what would like to be good at, but still know that we aren't any good at it yet. In comparison with others we feel like we are rubbish at this particular activity.
- Conscious competence - Now we have reached the level where we are good at the skill, but still have to think consciously about the actions involved to perform at a high standard. If a conscious lapse is made or in other words loss of concentration, mistakes can still be made.
- Unconscious competence - Your there! It has become so easy and natural. Coordination is smooth and controlled and it all takes place with minimal conscious involvement. Congratulations you have a new talent.
Disheartening because it means time and effort will be necessary, comfort zones will have to be stepped out of; Yet encouraging because anybody who is willing to pay the price, are guaranteed to succeed in the end. You see, the subconscious is a creature of habit. It feeds upon repetition.
Your conscious mind acts as a gate keeper, whatever is frequently entering the conscious mind will be embraced by the subconscious mind. Both good and bad habits are formed this way. It is your job to keep vigilant watch that your conscious thoughts are constructive, that they are the only kind you would wish to allow entry into the realm of the subconscious, and in turn, reflected in your outer world and circumstances. If you want to become competent in something all you need do is learn how to do it right, and then repeat that over and over.
Get going! On my wish list is to learn the guitar and piano, several new languages, to speed read, become a better driver and typist, and better at the sports I enjoy. Maybe even one day I’ll be able to dance without looking like my Dad at a wedding. I had best get practicing.
All the best, start writing your own wish list today, and follow through until you have many new skills.