“You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it!” – Jim Sharman

This one’s been brewing for a while and was originally going to focus on the adult learning theory about the conscious and unconscious stages of the learning process itself. It will still do so but with a disclosure about blind spots, which happened only this morning.

When it comes to learning, there are four principle stages which follow, after a quick caveat of advising you not to get hung up on the word “incompetence”. It simply means an inability to do something and in no way should feel like a personal judgement. So, the four stages:

  • ‘Unconscious Incompetence’ – we don’t know what we don’t know
  • ‘Conscious Incompetence’ – we discover what we didn’t know
  • ‘Conscious Competence’ – with awareness, we learn and practise what we know
  • ‘Unconscious Competence’ – without awareness, we practise what we know

The usual example is learning to drive. At Stage 1, we’re a kid, going on a trip in the car with mum and dad. It’s a tin can on wheels that takes us from A to B. We don’t know exactly how mum or dad makes the car work. Then, when we reach Stage 2, taking our driving lessons, we learn about brakes, steering, acceleration, torque, judging distances etc. We realise how much we didn’t know……and that’s a challenging space to be in.

After a few lessons, our instructor has opened our eyes to what we are learning – at Stage 3 we use the mirrors correctly, we signal and manoeuvre properly, we’re ‘Good Drivers’ with enough awareness and know-how to pass the test! Then Stage 4 comes, years later, as we’re driving to work, worrying about a meeting, or dreaming about a holiday, with our eyes, hands and feet working automatically; we arrive and then realise we didn’t realise how!

That’s also a challenging place to be in – because, after that, when situations change, we return to Stage 1 – we don’t know what we don’t know. When a bad habit has kicked in, it becomes a blind spot until we progress to Stages 2 and 3 again. And this morning, I was made aware of a blind spot in my communication, about giving information in a way that maintains my desire for privacy yet still affords respect to the person I’m talking with.

I learned a new way to answer a question I don’t feel comfortable hearing and that new learning enables me to satisfy both the need for the answer as well as giving the right reassurance to others involved in the situation. Awareness is a great space to be in – because that’s where our best learning can happen! There’s gratitude in me today for that.

Who around you can you trust to show you your blind spots and help you to learn and grow?

Love and light,

Jim Sharman


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