Aware that you’re not aware?

Unconscious Incompetence

Conscious Incompetence

Conscious Competence

Unconscious Competence

 I came across this sequence of words some years ago, and they so completely explain human behaviour. One rule of behaviour that I have long remembered from a wonderful audio by Dr J. Mitchell Perry is that WE PERPETUATE THE FAMILIAR. That is, we keep doing the same thing because we do it unconsciously, whether it actually serves us well or not. I think he cites something like complaining….if we complain a lot we become very good at it, even criticising or finding fault with people, such that we continue to do it because it is very familiar, and then you become an expert criticiser or complainer (whether you realise it or not). You condition your brain if you like to see everything that is wrong (versus what is actually going right). Notice the same principle applies when you buy a new red car e.g. you suddenly see all the red cars driving around.

So how does this apply to these eight words?

 I believe that many of us don’t recognise our own incompetence (i.e. UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE). We continue to generate unconscious patterns in the way we think, how we communicate, in our relationships, in our daily habits. And then we wonder why we might feel anxious, stressed, or depressed, face conflictual situations, have failed relationships, or struggle with addictive behaviours (whether food, gambling, pornography, drugs etc etc).

I tend to see a lot of people at this point, whereby they know things aren’t working well for them, but can’t figure out exactly what it is they are doing wrong. Or they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong at all; it’s just everyone else that’s treating them badly. This is where therapy is incredibly helpful. It helps to bring to conscious awareness any of the patterns that may not be serving you well, that is, you become CONSCIOUS of your INCOMPETENCE.

Once you become conscious or aware of something, you can then work at changing it. As you do, you become aware i.e. CONSCIOUS of your own COMPETENCE, or ability to do something that has a positive effect on your life.

Then as neurons begin to fire and wire together, BINGO…… you start to create new patterns that sink very deeply into your unconscious as you do things differently, so much better, such that you are then UNCONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT. What a brilliant turn-around.

The caveat however, is that this takes some work. Changing habits is not easy. We know from neuroscience that the brain has the amazing ability to rewire itself (read Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain that changes itself”), and this is where I love to help people. Recognise the patterns that are not working, whether it’s in the way you think, how you communicate, or the daily behavioural habits that may be creating stress in your life. And then work on changing them.


REMEMBER: Tiny tweaks lead to BIG CHANGES!

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