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A black-and-white shot of a lone hiker standing on a dirt trail on a wooded slope. What is your Level of Competence

What is your Level of Competence

The 4 Levels of Competence

Have you ever used a compass and a map whilst walking? In the military you have to have a good level of competence in map reading and using a compass. Not surprising really. What is surprising is how few of us do exactly the same with our lives.

Let me explain

Imagine you’re in a forest without paths. You have to head, say North, to get to your destination. You can either constantly look at the compass, which means you’re not looking where you’re going and miss the branch that smacks you in the face, or you can check your compass, pick a tree and head for that tree, and continue to do the same thing, until you reach your destination.

Makes sense right? But, that’s not what we do.

The forest is like our life. There are no clear paths that we can see and there always seems to be obstacles. You cannot navigate through this forest without having an idea of where you are headed. You have to have a goal, a target.

There are short term goals (the tree), medium term goals (you know you have to pick another tree to head for) and long term goals (just because you’ll eventually get out of this forest, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t another one ahead, and there usually is).

What does this have to do with our level of competence?

It’s about having somewhere to go, a target, a goal, because then you can gauge how far ahead you are or not. It’s about knowing yourself, your level of knowledge and understanding, and whether you are moving in the direction you want to be. And you can’t do that without having a goal.

There are four different levels of competence:

  • Unconscious Competence,
  • Unconscious Incompetence,
  • Conscious Incompetence,
  • Conscious Competence, and
  • Unconscious Competence.

It’s not a mistake – there are four levels, one repeated twice. Read on and you’ll understand why.

We’ll start with

Unconscious Incompetence

This describes a person who is simply existing and falls within the daily normality of life. This is the majority of the population. They go to school, after school they get a job and stay in that job for their entire life, provided that job is always available. Most people are not aware and have never wondered why their life is like it is. If they have, they probably dismissed it as fate, God’s will, luck, chance or a number of other reasons they find or are used to hearing in their environment.

There are others who simply choose to live such a life. There is nothing wrong in living this life and I know people who are happy being this way. The point is being happy. And you can lead a life of accomplishment – it is no easy task to raise children and do so in a way where they become exceptional.

But if you want to live an exceptional life, then this is not enough. Your level of thinking has to change and with it your level of competency.

Conscious Incompetence

You’ve read all the books you can get your hands on for the law of attraction, every principle you can imagine, spiritualism, the conscious and subconscious mind… Your knowledge is like a garden just after the first rains of spring; full and blooming.

But, you’re still nowhere further than you were form the day you started reading.

You’ve reached the point of knowledge, but, you don’t seem to know how to apply the knowledge you’ve gained. The saying of, “To know and not to do is the same as not knowing” applies here.

In truth, it’s not that this person is “missing” something or that they don’t know how to apply what they have learned, it’s that they have not moved on from reading to simply applying what they have read. They have beliefs, fears, opinions of their own and from others, blocks that they need to overcome. The problem here is that we don’t always see what is in plain sight, right in front of our noses. Other times we are not prepared to accept the obvious and we stay put where we are.

The consequence of all this, is that even if we begin to apply what we have learned, it appears that nothing is working out. We lack sufficient faith and belief to accept that everything will work out.

Conscious Competence

Now, we have the knowledge and we are applying what we are learning and have learned, and doing so with success. The key here is that we are doing it consciously.

That means that this person is consciously creating what they want – they are having to make the effort to think the whole process through.

At this stage, even though there is a degree of success, we are still using our conscious mind. We believe we can, we know that it is our divine right and we are in the knowing that the universe is on our side. We understand the term, “We become what we think about” and consciously maintain that thought.

But it still doesn’t feel natural.

Unconscious Competence

This is where we are aiming to get to. Where our knowledge, beliefs and belief in the outcome is as second nature as picking up a pen of a table, hearing the wind, seeing near and far, and every other thing that we do as second nature.

There is no conscious effort – we just do. We “let go and let God” or trust that it will be so and that it will be. And this is also a second nature feeling.

The reason it’s the first and the last, is because there are individuals who just seem to be successful in everything they do, and they’ve never read any books that tell them how to be successful in life. To them it is as if it’s an in-build skill. In truth, it could have been a conscious or unconscious decision that they took to be successful or the environment that they grew up in – the support from friends and family.

Regardless, these people have the tools without knowing it, hence unconscious competence – they are unconscious to the knowledge they have. Consequently, their actions for success are all second nature and they never question what they do. These are beliefs they hold in their subconscious mind and they are not aware of them.

The rest of us, who have had to learn, must continue to practice until it becomes second nature.

The comparison is that to driving a manual car. At first there is the learning stage – how it all works and what we have to do. Then there is the practice in conjunction with the knowledge – being aware of every move we make and why. And after a while, we are driving the car without second thought – it has become second nature.

In the same manner we must practice, consciously being aware of what we do, until it all becomes second nature and we enter that mindset that is unconscious competency.

The significant problems we have, cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
Albert Einstein

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Genesis 1:3

Photograph by: Mohit Kumar on Unsplash


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