“The darkest hour is just before the dawn” – Unknown
This morning I was able to lead the morning walking group for the Running Room through the beautiful Pacific Spirit Park. It gave me some much needed time away from distractions to contemplate. I was reflecting on how I was feeling discouraged by the rut I have been in recently.
Then the quote above popped into my head. Is it just a nice platitude? When I reflected on previous times in my life I realized that my greatest breakthroughs followed my greatest struggles.
One example of this was during my junior track season at Boston University. I had been struggling the last two weeks during jumps practice and my body felt banged up after a long indoor season. We had one more meet left to qualify for New England’s and IC4A’s. This was make it or break it for me.
While I was warming up, my body felt very stiff and sore. I was worried. It did not go away during the warm-up. However, once I stepped on the runway I entered the “zone”. I completed my jump, and heard the official report my mark: “14.05 meters.” A personal best!
I was astonished I had jumped so far because the jump had felt effortless. It was if someone else was moving my body. But then I started to wonder why did all my learning follow this trend?
It is based on the neuroscience. For any skill, as long as you have the baseline physical capacity to complete it, learning is limited by your brain’s processing capacity. Learning can be simplified into four stages:
- Unconscious uncompetence
- Conscious uncompotence
- Conscious compotence
- Unconscious competence
When you begin learning anything, you will see dramatic improvement as you move from stages 1 to 3. However, suddenly all your progress stops. Does that mean you should give up? Absolutely not! What is happening is that your brain is laying down and strengthening the neural networks that will allow you to move from stage 3 to stage 4. This is what results in the dramatic improvement in performance. To be great in any field it requires unconscious competence. So do not get discouraged by plateaus; just realize that your brain is laying down the foundation to allow your performance to take a quantum leap.
Be Happy and Chase your Dreams,
PS Here are a couple of ways to connect with me if you have any questions or have any specific topics you would like me to address.