April 5 – Gaining new skills through discipline

“Discipline is the habit of taking consistent action until one can perform with unconscious competence. Discipline weighs ounces but regret weighs tons.” (Jhoon Rhee)

Usually I try to have my two blogs’ subjects be individual. But today they will be identical.

Today’s quote is about building unconscious competence. It follows from the adult learning model, which many of us have seen. We go from not knowing what we don’t know, to having a new skill.

development cycle

In this model, a person progresses from the discovery state of not knowing what they don’t know, to the skilled state where they perform without even considering what they are doing.

Think of the progression in learning how to drive a car. At first the person doesn’t know much at all about how a car is controlled, how much pressure to apply to the throttle or brake, when to signal a turn, how much to turn the wheel, and so on. Throw in a manual transmission, and the number of things to consider goes up dramatically. In this part they are unconsciously incompetent, they don’t even really know what they don’t know.

In the learning phase, the new driver begins to understand what the various controls mean, what traffic laws apply in which circumstances, and how to basically navigate around. This might be a classroom session, or handled in a parking lot for safety. Here they are consciously incompetent. They know what they are supposed to do, but have no skill built yet to execute.

Next the new driver may hit the road. They have an idea of what to do, but every maneuver requires thought, and conscious effort. They are up on the wheel, radio off, focused completely on their actions. Mistakes are frequent, which is why they make those special cars with the extra brake. As they progress through this phase they become consciously competent.

The final state is where most drivers spend their time at the wheel. The control of the vehicle becomes second nature. The driver can handle the control of the vehicle and carry on conversation with a passenger, or even listen to the radio. (There is a lot to be said about some of the dangers of being in this state in terms of distraction at the wheel, but that’s another discussion for another day).

In the past 5 weeks of my journey to better health, I have had many areas in my life where I have been progressing through this model. In some cases I started in the conscious incompetence phase – I knew what I needed to do, but didn’t have the skills to do it. Others, like how to properly work out in the gym, I was in the unconscious incompetence phase – I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.

I am growing in my skill set to be a healthier person. In most areas I am in the phase of conscious competence. I know what to do, and even how to do it, but I have to constantly still think about it. For instance, I know that in a restaurant I should cut the food in half to save points, but I sometimes still attack the plate as though it were a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

Today’s quote reminds me that the key to mastering these new skills is discipline. It is through disciplined actions, with proper thought and diligence, that I will become skilled at living the healthy lifestyle that I seek. Documenting my food, measuring my blood sugar, and tracking my exercise are the keys to building those disciplines within. At some point, most of what I do will become second nature. There will still be mistakes (even the best make their share), but I will unconsciously know how to recover from them to go on and thrive.

I know that I can make this progression, because I have gained other skills in my life. I know that it will take effort, and that the road will not always be straight or easy. But, I also know that the results are worth every drop of effort to get there, and more!

This entry was posted in Personal Reflections, Reflection 365 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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