A large part, if not the most part, of our behavior is guided by our unconsciousness. Who we are attracted to, when we get mad, what we think about something — we don’t get to *choose* to do any of those things. Even though we have some control over our thoughts, our default mode is an unconscious autopilot mode.
If I could impart on you one thing only, it would be the concept of awareness. Awareness, consciousness, mindfulness are all related terms and together form the paradigm that allows us to become self-correcting in our thoughts and behaviors.
If we want to self-correct, we need to know what it is that we want to correct. We need to be able to label our emotions, and for that, we need consciousness. We need to become *aware* of our emotions.
In the field of psychology a model that is widely used to characterize the states one must go through to learn a new behavior is referred to as the four stages of competence. This model is useful for us as well as it shows us where awareness becomes valuable. The stages are:
1. Unconscious incompetence: You don’t know how to do something, and you don’t recognize the deficit.
2. Conscious incompetence: You don’t know how to do something, but you are able to recognize the deficit.
3. Conscious competence: You know how to do something, but there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
4. Unconscious competence: You know how to do something and it has become second nature.
On the path to learning any new skill or behavior we start as Unconsciously Incompetent. We are unaware of what we could be doing better and do not recognize the benefit of acquiring the skill to do so.
It is only by becoming aware of what you are doing and recognizing that you could be doing something differently, that you are able to make the step from unconscious incompetence to Conscious Incompetence. You still don’t know how to do something, but now you are aware that there is room for improvement.
This awareness allows you to focus on improving and self-correcting which can lead you to becoming more competent at the skill or behavior. In order to reach this level of competency, however, it is requires you to consciously think through every step as you take them. You have become Consciously Competent.
After enough practice the skill or behavior will slowly become second nature and you will be able to perform it without actively thinking about what you are doing. It is at this stage that you’ve become Unconsciously Competetent.
As long as you remain unconscious of an emotion or behavior, you will be powerless to change it. It is through awareness that we can change our behavior and grow.