Be patient with yourself as you learn new things — The 4 Stages of Competence

Patrick Farrell
4 min readSep 26, 2023


The 4 Stages of Competence

There’s a process we all go through when we are going down a path to learn something new, and often it is a deeply emotional process that we resist.

We go through 4 stages of competence, they are:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

Any time we learn something new, there is a process that we go through to learn that new skill.

Quite often we have a lot of resistance to new skills because our brain doesn’t yet have the mental circuits to perform them.

Our body also has not yet been exposed to the idea so we feel scared or awkward when trying to do something we have never done before.

I would recommend the book “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle to learn more about how the brain learns and masters new skills.

1. Unconscious Incompetence

This is where you don’t know what you don’t know.

When you start something new, your brain and your body has never been exposed to an idea or a skill. You have never tried it so you are unaware of what you do not know.

I’ll use the example of driving a car, in this case you have never been behind the wheel so you are unaware of how to drive a car and don’t yet have that skill.

2. Conscious Incompetence

This is where you are aware of what you don’t know. It is when you are trying the skill for the first time and are getting your feet wet.

In this case, you are starting to have new circuits in your brain fire to create new pathways and your body is starting to get used to this new idea or skill.

This is when you first get behind the wheel of the car but you don’t yet leave the parking lot for a while.

3. Conscious Competence

You are now aware of the skill and you are able to do it, but it takes a lot of mental energy to perform the skill.

This is where you have now been exposed to the skill and have been practicing it for a while, but it still takes you a lot of effort to do it. meaning it is not yet second nature.

It’s where you are driving the car down the road but you are constantly checking everything around you.

4. Unconscious Competence

This is where you want to be. You are able to perform the skill without thinking about it.

You are now a master of this skill and your sub-conscious brain now performs the skill rather than your conscious mind. It is easy to perform and it now becomes part of who you are.

For driving, now you can drive the car for hours with barely thinking about it.

Be patient with yourself as you learn new things. It takes time.

Your body is essentially the most advanced computer on the planet, just a biological one.

Once you recognize that there is a process and an emotional resistance pattern of going through it, you can be patient with yourself.

We all go through this process anytime we learn something new, and often we get blocked in the first two stages because of the emotional resistance.

This is why hiring coaches and joining communities can help you achieve your goals and learn new things.

When you are surrounded by others that are learning something new or that have done it before, they give you clarity and certainty that you can do it too.

You also are able to leverage their experience rather than having to google and Youtube everything for days, months or even years to figure it out for yourself.

This reduces the resistance and moves your forward faster.

Whether you have heard of this before or it is your first time, it’s always good to remind ourselves that there is a process we go through when we learn new things, and that’s it’s not our fault that things are hard at first.

It’s also powerful to know that as we continue to practice and continue to learn, we will always arrive at unconscious competence as long as we don’t give up and keep going.

Save this post so that you can remind yourself that anytime you are feeling frustrated learning something new, it’s just your brain and your body going through it’s process to master a new skill.

Send me a message if you need support to understand more about this and break through any mental and emotional blocks that are holding you back from building the life you desire.



Patrick Farrell

Founder and Business Coach for Online Entrepreneurs and Coaches. I help people create more freedom in their life and connect to their purpose.