Five critical skills you need to pivot: #2 Yearning for learning

By Jacqueline Allschwang
Raizcorp Guiding Quality Manager

Wow! What a steep learning curve the last week has been. I have been thrust into new and unchartered territory on so many levels including learning to set up meetings in Microsoft Teams (and not getting it quite right, I might add), live recording my first video for online content delivery (an epic fail that one was), and delivering my first learning session to a live audience on Adobe Connect (that one went much better). I even tried my hand at learning a new function I hadn’t previously used on a programme I already know pretty well.

So much information to absorb in one week – all this new learning not to mention various streams of information flowing in about lockdown, WhatsApp group messages, neighbourhood activities and decisions, feeding security guards, rules, restriction, updates, etc. I’m not sure how you’re doing but, for me, it’s been overwhelming and exhausting, and at one point my brain felt like it was going to explode!

But then I paused, took a step back and reminded myself, “Jacqui, you’re a personal guide with so many skills in your toolbox and years of practice in navigating difficult life circumstances. Surely you can find a way to lead yourself through this chaotic, turbulent and tumultuous time of deep challenge and rapid learning!” Then, after turning my attention inwards and taking a couple of deep breaths to calm my central nervous system, my heart rate slowed, my breathing deepened and I found myself coming back to centre.

This week has brought to mind a tool that has helped me to process the past week’s steep learning curve – a model of the four stages of competence – which I’d like to share with you.

Stage 1
At first, we find ourselves unconsciously incompetent. We don’t know what we have never known, and we are happily ignorant about the skills and knowledge we might need but didn’t know we needed or would need in the future. During this first stage, our eyes are opened to our own ignorance and we are now awake, which moves us into Stage 2.

Stage 2
In Stage 2, we realise that we are consciously incompetent when we become aware of everything we don’t know and acknowledge that we don’t know it. And then boy, oh boy, it’s panic stations! We feel overwhelmed by the little cup of chaos in the back of our minds, seasoned with a dollop of “I don’t know where to start” and perhaps even a large dose of sabotaging self-talk like “I’m such a [fill in self-berating and diminishing phrase of choice here]” or “What’s wrong with me?”

Hmm, I recognise this is the phase I’m in right now. My gentle inner guiding voice is reminding me not to be so hard on myself, and to rather adopt a softer, gentler voice because this is all new and I am still just learning. With that realisation, I lighten up the pressure on myself and choose to rather offer myself a touch of kindness and compassion during these particularly stressful and uncertain times.

After processing the shame that surfaced during my clumsy and non-perfect first attempts, my inner perfectionist was revealed to me in a big way. This is a part of myself that I really did not enjoy seeing so clearly but I reminded myself, “With a little bit of patience and practice, it shouldn’t be too long before you get to the next stage.” I am ready to move forward.

Stage 3
This stage of conscious competence is when you feel like you’re getting the hang of it. I keep saying to myself, “You are a quick learner.” I remind myself that I have survived much bigger challenges in my life than learning a new computer skill and reassure myself, “You have an awesome brain that naturally knows how to do this and you can trust the process.” With all of this self-love and a little dose of perspective, I find myself calming down and relaxing into a state of acceptance.

And then in that moment, it dawns on me. I am now standing face to face with one of my deepest fears – the fear of being visible, standing in front of an audience and not knowing what to say, going blank, grasping for the words . . . only to find a dark empty hole where my subject-matter expertise should be. And in that moment, I feel vulnerable, exposed, naked – like a total fraudster. This is “Imposter Syndrome” like I’ve never experienced it before. Whew! I just need just a moment to process this . . .

Okay, so now I realise there’s a gap between where others think I am, where I really am and where I would like to be.

Once again, I have to dig deep, reminding myself that I am an intelligent, resourceful, courageous and determined woman who always finds a way to achieve what I set my mind to. From this place I make a decision (actually, it’s more of a promise to myself) and commit to applying my mind to find the best ways of structuring and delivering online content to give my audience the most interesting, engaging and informative experience possible. I promise myself that no matter what it takes, I will master one new skill at a time until I have conquered the digital universe! This decision brings me to Stage 4.

Stage 4
Stage 4 is unconscious competence, a place of effortless flow and mastery. Having made my decision to conquer the digital universe, it’s only a matter of time before I am merrily doing all of the things that were at first so challenging, with a smile on my face, joy in my heart and a spring in my step. It’s no longer a matter of if, just a question of when. I know the more I practice and apply myself, the quicker I will reach a level of mastery that brings me back to equilibrium and keeps me growing.

As much as a yearning for learning is a critical skill to pivot quickly and effectively, no one said it would be easy, effortless or painless. But what it definitely is, is worth it.

Coming out of this learning cycle more digitally adept, with all of these great new online skills, is a tremendous gift. I am truly grateful for this uncomfortable, messy and less-than-perfectly-executed opportunity that continues to feed and nurture my yearning for learning.