Some of you may be familiar with the Four Learning Stages of Competence—Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence, and Unconscious Competence. Developed at Gordon Training International, it provides a great model for learning. In order to cultivate new habits or learn new skills, we usually follow this sequence. Given that our lives are a product of our choices, wouldn’t it be great if we could become unconsciously competent in making wise choices—at least the everyday little ones, which usually take less than a minute. I do have a strong opinion on the importance and the role of these “little” everyday choices on the quality of our life as shared in my previous article a couple of months ago titled “Making Choices: Big Ones vs. Everyday Little Choices,” which attempts to illuminate certain blind spots that we all have and their impact on the quality of our decisions.
As I was writing this, a friend of mine forwarded a NY Times article by Thomas Friedman titled, “It’s a 401(k) World,” where the punch phrase was ‘more now rests on you.‘ I couldn’t agree more. This makes the need for making better choices even more vital.
The most important skill for the future will therefore be sound judgment, even more so than some of the hard skills. The hard skills are constantly being handed off to machines or lower rate labor. I truly enjoyed the quote “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment,” when I first heard it in a movie about the legendary golfer Bobby Jones—Stroke of Genius. Upon further research, I have seen it attributed to three people—Will Rogers, Rita Mae Brown and the Sufi sage, Mulla Nasrudin. The only issue with the above quote I have is that the times have changed and the tolerance level for many people in both professional and personal settings has gone down and they expect good results with few or no mistakes. If the room for making mistakes and learning from them is reduced, then there needs to be another avenue to learn how to make wise choices.
What can you do to learn the skill of making better choices? There are several books that cater to guiding people through big choices by walking them through rigorous and systematic models, but most people do not use or can engage in this style of choice-making when it comes to the everyday little choices, most of which require snap judgment. Many of you have heard the term analysis-paralysis. This occurs when the individual gets bogged down and gummed up for every decision, either because of their fear of failure, looking bad, or making a mountain of a mole hill.
In my opinion, the level of presence in an individual is becoming an even greater indicator of their ability to exercise good judgment when it comes to everyday choices. I recently coached an individual who was so consumed with the stressful events in her life that she was completely spent and really had no capacity to do much of anything. Here was a case of a perfectly bright and hard-working person, who did not seem to have any cycles to devote to making decisions. We sometimes give too much credit to smarts, attitude and drive; when really what is required is just presence. As the world moves faster and our lives get more complex, it is critical that we develop simple, memorable and easy to adopt awareness skills that can become second nature fairly quickly. This can enable and empower us to exercise better judgment in the moment.
Paradoxically, it is our ability to be keenly aware of the hidden drives that influence our everyday choice-making such as our fear, discomfort, greed, pleasure or even our ego that will help us become more unconsciously competent in improving our quality of life in this hyper-connected and fast-paced world.
Peace and be well,