Have you ever heard of this model of learning? And how does it apply to accelerated learning?
It’s often taught in NLP classes, and it’s a useful way to look at learning. The point is, when we learn something really well, our unconscious mind becomes responsible for it. If you type well, or play the guitar well, or speak, you know what I mean. When you type, you don’t think consciously about where every finger is going. The fingers just take care of themselves. The same goes for the guitar lick, or whatever it is you’re good at.
Stages Of Learning
Here is a brief, ‘stage of learning’ explanation.
Unconscious Incompetence — Where we start. We don’t know anything about a subject or skill.
Conscious Incompetence — We know some, but we can’t do.
Conscious Competence — We know how to do some, but have to think through every move.
Unconscious Competence — We can perform a skill with minimal thought.
The idea is that you go through the first three levels of learning, in order to get to unconscious competence — where you don’t have to think about it. But the inference is that these stages have to be completed in order, and each step has to be to be completed before you reach the next. And that’s not wholly accurate. Accelerated learning can involve a more interesting, less linear approach.
An Impoverished Map
And as usual, where a map doesn’t match the territory, we call the map ‘impoverished’, and it can get us into trouble. In short, we don’t have to consciously learn everything about a skill in order to do it well. And thinking that we have to “know” everything can slow us down. With the particular style of accelerated learning I advocate, we let that map go, and take on some different assumptions.
There are plenty of people who sing well (for instance) and have no idea how they do it. There are others for whom a particular sport (or typing for that matter) comes easily. They get to unconscious competence without as much time in the conscious competence realm. They have “talent”, or “instinct”, or “a nose for the game”. And prodigies just seem to go straight to unconscious competence.
Understanding a skill consciously, usually adds to your skill level. So, there are plenty of people who get good at something and then go back to study it consciously. You, for instance. You were probably unconsciously competent at grammar, well before you studied it in school.
Here’s the main point…
Doing And Dreaming
There is not a clear separation between knowing how to perform a physical skill and knowing how to do it mentally. When you imagine something well enough, you’re firing off many of the same neurons and nervous system pathways as when you are actually doing it. In other words, there is part of the mind that doesn’t know the difference between imagining and doing. And we can use that to our advantage, by imagining doing something really well.
On the other hand, just dreaming about doing something well, probably won’t be enough. It helps to have the physical experience and feedback.
For instance, you can imagine yourself singing really well and then start singing and be out of tune. That feedback helps you to match reality to your imagined skill. When you hit a note on the pitch, you can memorize everything your body is doing and use that memory to program yourself to do correctly, consistently.
Conscious & Unconscious Competence: Mix & Sequence
So, what mix between conscious (physically practicing a skill) and unconscious programming, should you use?
If the goal is unconscious competence, start by creating the goal in your mind. Build a mental representation of unconscious competence. Create vivid imaginations of you performing the skill, exactly as you want to. Tell your mind, “Go do this.”
There are a number of reasons to start this way. For one, it gives your mind a blueprint, or goal to shoot for. You don’t start building a house without a blueprint. Secondly, it will get you excited, which gives you the motivation to do the work. Thirdly, if there are any negative feelings associated with achieving the skill level you desire, you’ll uncover them here and can work them out.
Making Positive Assumptions
Don’t think you have to understand a skill completely to do it well. Once you do it well, you can go back and pick up more conscious knowledge. In a lot of cases, the fastest approach for accelerated learning, is to go for picking up a skill consciously and unconsciously at the same time.
How do we do that?
- Mix unconscious programming in with your conscious practice
- Use self-hypnosis, future pacing, etc., to instruct your unconscious mind to build unconscious competence
Mix Unconscious Programming With Conscious Practice For Accelerated Learning
Let’s suppose you want to learn to type. Well, you consciously study the keys and practice which finger goes where when you type a particular word. And part of your practice (about 20%) should just be relaxing, in trance, without much conscious thought, just letting your fingers fly. When deliberately practicing, 80/20 is a good mix of conscious/unconscious activity.
The other 80% should be deliberate, conscious practice, with focus on improving a specific aspect of the skill. You could spend 10 minutes typing, practicing having your fingers, hands and arms as relaxed as possible. Another 10 concentrating on accurate placement of your fingers. Do it as slowly and deliberately as you need in order to perform the aspect you’re working on perfectly, or near perfectly.
Direct, Unconscious Programming
And of course, set aside time for self-hypnosis and NLP techniques to build unconscious competence. How much? For an important skill, I’ll record suggestions, put myself into hypnosis and listen to them. The recordings are generally about 7 minutes long and consist mostly of present tense, direct suggestions. “You are a great singer. When you sing, your throat is open and relaxed. You hit high notes easily and convey powerful emotions…” I listen every day, consistently, until I get tired of it. Then I come back a few weeks later and repeat.
The same goes for any complex skill set. Want to be a better hypnotherapist or NLPer? Read about it, study it, imagine you are, step into someone who does it like you want to do it, give yourself suggestions that you are.
In short, a good accelerated learning model is…
- Start by building a representation of you doing the skill well, in your imagination.
- Mix your practice session 80/20, with 80% focusing on improving specific aspects of the skill and 20% just pretending you can already do it well and letting go.
- Continue to program yourself with self-hypnosis and NLP techniques as long as it feels good. Cycle back and repeat every so often.
Thank you for your helpful articles. I will use your formula to add a new skill.