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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Unconscious Competence

Enlightenment is earned in stages...

Nirvana is the ultimate state of enlightenment in Buddhism. It is attained by passing through 4 stages of realization. I am woefully inadequate to explain these stages. But I found it interesting that attaining the Nirvana of Buddhism correlates with attaining nirvana in pickleball. You will see what I mean when your read today's post from DJ Howard.  

Weekly tip: Understand your level of consciousness and competence.

There are four stages of development that everyone must go thru when learning an athletic skill. They are as follows:
1. Unconscious incompetence. Basically, you don't know what you don't know. There is so much to learn and you don't even know where or how to begin. This person often looks at pro athletes on tv and thinks, "that's not that difficult" simply because the pro athletes make it look so easy. He doesn't understand all that went into making it look that easy.

2. Conscious incompetence. You start to become aware of what you don't know and what you are incapable of. Getting out onto the court (if we use pickleball as the example) and trying to hit the ball with any accuracy seems more difficult than maybe you once thought. Hitting your targets is a foreign concept. You're having a hard enough time thinking about how to hold the paddle and make it connect with the ball. You may be able to hit some ok shots, but not with consistency.
P.S. Are you thinking Unconscious competence comes next?Nope. It doesn't. Next is...
3. Conscious competence. You are now able to perform certain skills as long as you are consciously thinking about them. Performing a well executed forehand drive or a soft backhand dink requires you to concentrate on the technique itself in order to perform it well. Any lack of concentration and the form breaks down. The focus is on the skill and not much else. This person generally has a good appreciation for high level athletes and sports performers.
4. Unconscious competence. At this level of development, the skills can be performed without consciously thinking about how to perform them. Much more emphasis is placed on strategy, ball placement, when to attack vs when to hold back, etc. This player can now not only see gaps on the other side of the court, they can create gaps and then hit those gaps. They don't think about how to move or hit, they perform! It's nearly automatic, even under pressure.
Do these players make mistakes? Of course. Human error is a reality in any endeavor. 
But how else can you explain how a bowler can score multiple 300 games, a basketball player making hundreds of free throws in a row, a gymnast or diver flipping and twisting multiple times thru the air and sticking their landing?
Unconscious competence. They are competent to the point of nearly flawless or automatic performance. Their skills have been practiced and their ability has been honed to the point most people only dream of. This person typically has a high level of respect for other athletes within their sport and other sports as well.

Levels cannot be skipped (though better athletes can get thru levels more quickly than lesser capable athletes), so if you're hoping to get to a 5.0 level, be aware that you'll have to progress thru each phase of competence.

Bottom line - appreciate those who play at a level of unconscious competence. You can be sure that in addition to raw natural ability, they have put the time and effort in to getting better. They are where they are for a reason.

Til next time, keep reppin', and maybe you'll also get to a level of unconscious competence if you haven't already.


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