Conscious Competence

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. Proverbs 9:9

Often when I am talking with clients, we are identifying some new behaviors which I suggest that they try out in order to deal with the concerns they brought to counseling. The problem might be depression, anxiety, relationship problems, social anxiety- whatever. As a believer in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), I think that behavior changes will change our mood and outlook on the world. As I have often said, it is “Do, then feel”.  

When I suggest some particular behavioral change, (and it usually a small, measurable change, nothing gigantic), I walk them through the process. I tell them that there is a learning process with new behaviors with stages that look like this:

Unconscious Incompetence– “I don’t know what I don’t know”

Conscious Incompetence– “I become aware that there is something amiss that I need to work on”

Conscious Competence– “I intentionally work on a new behavior, practicing it, even though it feels new and awkward sometimes”

Unconscious Competence-“Having practiced that new behavior, after a while, it starts to feel quite normal and comfortable.” “I begin to like the changes because they work”

The most uncomfortable stage, for many people is the Conscious Competence stage. They are doing things that they do not yet feel comfortable with, and it takes persistence and patience to keep intentionally doing those new behaviors.

In the stages where the word “Conscious” is involved, there is a place for discomfort. That is perfectly fine, because they are at the stage where they are in active working mode, and it does not feel totally comfortable.

Again, the “doing” part is going to bring on the good “feeling part”. The client is actively working a program which will lead to feeling better.  

This model works for learning most things. Sometimes it helps clients when I can lay out the theory. Hope it is helpful for my readers!

Prayer: Lord, you have made us curious learners. Give us the patience and endurance to move through the hard parts of learning, Amen

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