How People Learn

“The longest journey on earth begins with a single step.”
(Anonymous)

Can you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? Before you learned how, you were in theIgnorancestage. You didn’t know how to drive the car and you didn’t even know why you didn’t know how to drive it.

When you first went out with an instructor to learn how to drive, you arrived at the Phase 2:Awareness. You still couldn’t drive, but because of your new awareness of the automobile and its parts, you were consciously aware of why you couldn’t drive. You may have felt overwhelmed by the tasks before you, but when these tasks were broken down one by one, they weren’t so awesome after all. They became attainable. Step by step, familiarity replaced fear.

With some additional practice and guidance, you were able to become competent in driving the car through recognition of what you had to do. However, you had to be consciously aware of what you were doing with all of the mechanical aspects of the car as well as with your body. You had to be consciously aware of turning on your blinker signals well before you executed a turn. You had to remember to monitor the traffic behind you in your rearview mirror. You kept both hands on the wheel and noted your car’s position relative to the centerline road divider. You were consciously aware of all of these things as you competently drove. This third phase is the hardest stage – the one in which your people may want to give up. This is thePracticestage. People tend to feel uncomfortable when they goof, but this is an integral part of Phase 3. Human beings experience stress when they implement new behaviors, especially when they perform them imperfectly.

In Phase 3, you must realize that you’ll want to revert to the older, more comfortable behaviors, even if those behaviors are less productive. At this phase, you must realize it’s alright to make mistakes. In fact, it’s┬ánecessary┬áso you can improve through practice, practice and more practice.

Returning to the car example, think of the last time that you drove. Were you consciously aware of all of the actions that I just mentioned above? Of course not! Most of us, after driving awhile, progress to a level ofHabitual Performance. This is the level where we can do something well and don’t even have to think about the steps. They come “naturally” because they’ve been so well-practiced that they’ve shifted to automatic pilot. This final stage, Phase 4, is when practice results in assimilation and habitual performance; where your productivity increases beyond its previous level and reaches a new and higher plateau.

This four-phase model for success can help you break out of the rut most of us dig for ourselves. By experiencing success and encouragement at each level, change can be exciting instead of intimidating. The bottom line is this: skills and attitudes will both improve by taking one step at a time.