You don’t know what you don’t know

I am trying my best to learn Italian at the moment. Its not easy and I can literally feel my brain cells straining at the effort, despite the fact that it is allegedly one of the easiest languages to learn in the world.  Unless you count first year high school French (and I don’t) I have never delved into the world of foreign language.  I have always known that I couldn’t speak any language other than English but I was blissfully unaware of the depth of that ignorance until I started lessons. This is a classic example of “You don’t know that you don’t know” or  Level 1 – Unconscious Incompetence on the Conscious Competence Ladder.  This ladder (attributed to many possible originators) is a popular approach to managing your feelings and behaviour during any type of learning process, sometimes dispiriting like mine right now. When you are attempting to acquire any new skill it is fairly important to be aware of what you don’t know.  Discovering this can be incredibly depressing because you are not very good at what you are trying to do.  Of course this is understandable when you first start to learn something. If you look at acquiring new skills in managing your health like losing weight, improving energy levels, beginning an exercise program, reducing stress levels or managing a disease,  you may discover that you have been lolling about in the “You don’t know that you don’t know” pool for a while. Unfortunately it often takes a negative health epiphany or ‘event’ like a heart attack, fatigue, collapse, continued low immunity or even no clothes that fit, to rocket us into this stage with a bang. Once you determine what you do and don’t know, you move into Level 2 on the ladder – “You know that you don’t know” or Conscious Incompetence. Although usually it would exciting to move up a ladder of any description, I am not feeling the love with my journey of foreign language, because quite frankly it can be a shock to discover how much better or competent other people are. When you realise that your skills are limited, like I did in approximately 1 nanosecond, confidence levels can drop to an all time low and this is where you may have to don the Superman suit and sail forth. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol levels or body fat and you don’t know where excess fat and saturated fats are lurking, it makes it pretty tough to reduce them in your diet.  This is one of the toughest stages to wrangle and many warriors are lost in the battle.  Hang in there, your body will thank you. I strive each day for Level 3 –  “You know that you know’ or Conscious Competence.  For me that would mean having a real life conversation in Italian with the verbs and nouns conjugated correctly and although at the moment I could get myself a caffe or find out the day of the week (in the event I had amnesia), my conversation skills suitable for rapid fire pace are not developed enough.  For you this stage might mean nailing four exercise sessions in a week without rolling over when the alarm goes off. The nirvana, Level 4 – “You don’t know that you know”or Unconscious Competence  is the lovely place where this new skill of yours is just plain easy. Your new skill has become a habit and stealthed onto you so much that you don’t need to think about it anymore plus you perform it without conscious effort.  If you are an ex-smoker and your main trigger was alcohol, this last stage would mean that you could go to a bar and  have a drink without the slightest thought about how you were going to stop yourself from having a cigarette. I will continue to strive for this Mt Everest of skill development and behaviour change, what about you?  Do you know or don’t know?