Friday, August 23, 2013

The Four Stages of Learning, Or, The Most Obnoxious Thing to Type Repeatedly Ever

I'm having lots of fun designing my first ever newsletter, and spending time at the front of the room at Om Factory showing people the ropes...well, the silks actually.  I feel like I'm embarking on a whole new frontier.  Teaching aerial yoga is definitely putting me back in my beginner frame of mind, complete with nervousness, the inability to keep track of lights and music as well as students, and over-self-criticalness.

I'm getting positive feedback from my students though, and in that, I've learned something important: it takes a lot longer to feel like a great yoga teacher than to be one.   Looking back at my early days teaching vinyasa, I'm realizing this is a lesson I already should have learned, but somehow it went right over my head.  I spent months buzzing around the room trying to keep everything in control, trying to understand what the hell 'holding the space' for my students even meant, and then, after class, feeling exhausted and inadequate, students would thank me, and tell me what an amazing class I had just taught.  This disconnect confused the hell out of me.  I just never got it.

It comes down to the four stages of learning:

Unconscious incompetence
Conscious incompetence
Conscious competence
Unconscious competence.

When you learn a new skill, or try to advance to a higher level at a skill, the first thing you have to learn is that you don't currently have that skill.  You go from thinking you're pretty ok, to realizing you're awful!  It's not that you're getting worse as you begin to practice, is that you're beginning to understand what being skilled really means, and it's becoming apparent to you that you don't yet measure up.  That's going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence.  It's not a fun place to be, but it's a necessary stage of growth.

Once you realize that you're actually pretty bad at what your'e trying to do, hopefully you'll be motivated to work that much harder at getting better.  You'll be super cognizant of your progress, noticing every right move, and every mistake.  Through your hard work and hyper vigilance, you'll seriously improve, until you can handle this new skill pretty well.  That's the transition between conscious incompetence, and conscious competence.  Because of your hyper awareness, and the human tendency to focus on the negative, and be too hard on ourselves, you'll likely think you're in the conscious incompetence end of the spectrum for much longer than you actually are.  That's where I'm pretty sure I am.

With continued practice, you start to trust yourself more. The skills you're practicing start to feel more natural and automatic. Eventually, your guard comes down. You don't need to be hyper vigilant or critical of yourself to do a good job, or even to keep improving. That's the transition between conscious competence and unconscious competence. That's where I'm at with vinyasa. I know I can walk into a room full of yoga students, or with just one or two, and without any pre-thought out lesson plan, work with the bodies in front of me to craft a beautiful, fun, challenging class. Of course, I've been teaching yoga for nearly four years, so getting to this point did not happen over night, and I know that over the years I'll continue to get better and better.

If you're getting ready to do a yoga teacher training, or gain any kind of new skill really, look for these stages of learning, and when you notice them, remind yourself that they're normal, and inevitable, and that everyone goes through them.

Of course, writing fun content is something I'm definitely at the unconscious competence stage with, so writing my newsletter has just been super fun.  There's still time to sign up, and receive the  first one ever!  Just scroll to the top of the page, and look for the link on the right that says, "Get Omily E-mails!".  Click it, fill out the sign-up sheet, and you're in!

I'm really excited about being in touch with my readers/yogis/fellow tarot geeks/etc. via e-mail.  Not only will I be able to keep you guys constantly up to date on whats going on with me, but you'll have an easy way to get in touch with me, too: just hit 'reply'!  The more I hear from you, the better content and services I can provide, which is something else I've been learning recently!

Live Omily,
~em

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