Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill
Perhaps you can steal the base out from under the second baseman’s nose, but were not always the best hitter? Maybe you’ve decided that if you could catch fly balls with impunity, you’d be less of a nervous wreck in the outfield? Maybe you have no idea what kind of player you are and wonder if there’s any room for improvement? If you’re serious about learning new baseball skills, or any skills at all, it’s best to understand four stages for learning any new skill and approach the process in the most conscious way possible. In psychology, “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” is a well established theory about how a person moves forward in learning a new skill. It has to do with four different modes of awareness:
1) Unconscious Incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know. (That doesn’t sound redundant or anything, right?) This is the blissful time of unawareness, where you’re not even concerned about how fast you run around the bases, or how many balls you hit, or the strength of your throw. Nothing matters yet, you are ignorant of any shortcomings, no one is complaining, no one is offering pointers, it’s a carefree and happy time. You may not be very good at baseball, but you don’t know it, so you don’t mind!
2) Conscious Incompetence – You know that you don’t know. Aha, you do something that you notice is lacking, or you receive feedback, constructive criticism, or un-constructive criticism, and you now know that you don’t run bases as fast or as well as you thought you did. As a matter of fact, you’re not very good at it. Ouch! But this stage is crucial and it’s the stage where most people give up. Will you resign yourself to being that “slow base runner” or are you going to attempt to learn and master the skills required to do a better job? This stage is also difficult because you’ll make mistakes, but mistakes are the very best teachers, so try and make a lot of them. Also, try to treat yourself with kindness and try not to judge. You are learning, after all.
3) Conscious Competence – You know that you know. Okay so now you know that you’ve really got to hustle to get around those bases, and you have to put elbow grease into it. It makes you want to barf because you have to run really hard to do it and it’s difficult and uncomfortable. But you know how to do it, and you improve and do it better with each repeated attempt and completion. This is the second most difficult part of the 4 point method, because it requires hard work.
At this stage, people sometimes quit because they feel self conscious or because it’s not easy. Don’t give up! It doesn’t matter how slow your progress is, as long as you don’t stop now. Baseball has always been about dirt and grit and a special level of misery that makes suffering kind of special in a robust and sporty way. Baseball was never easy for anyone, another reason to love the greatest sport in America!
4) Unconscious Competence – You don’t know that you know. This is when you’ve got a skill down, and you don’t even have to think about it to run the bases like a champ. You’re comfortable, you’re on your game, you’re concentrating on many other things, but running the bases is not one of them, you’ve got this. When the coach runs drills, and another player asks for tips on running bases, the coach points you out to them and they come running to you with questions. The ease and grace with which you run bases at this point is practically awe-inspiring to team mates who also want to run bases better, and you can tell them that all it takes is a willingness to learn, plus tons of effort.
He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.
-Tao Te Ching