The Four Stages of Success

The Four Stages of Success

The Four Stages Of Success

By Mark Wager

I'm honoured to be able to coach people to achieve success in their lives. While everyone has different goals and ambitions I've seen a similarity in what stages people progress through when they start their journey to success. There are four crucial stages known as the hierarchy of competence designed by Noel Burch in the 1970's. Each stage has their own challenges for the individual to overcome. In this article I want to explore each of these stages and what you can expect to face on your journey.

Unconscious incompetence

The biggest obstacle to success is people not knowing what they don't know. The vast majority of people do not live a life that is all it could be, each of us have the potential to live a great inspirational life but people rarely do. The reason for this is that people don't know what's possible so they settle for what they know and what they know is the ordinary. This is the challenge of the first stage of success, the stage of unconscious incompetence.

It's difficult to know what you don't know. We view the world based on the frame of reference that we create ourselves, this includes the boundaries that limit our ambitions. These self imposed boundaries stay in place until we challenge them ourselves or we are forced to reevaluate them because of someone else's achievements.

Don't wait until someone else achieves the success that you seek yourself by challenging your limitations. Once you do you find how far away your goal is and most importantly what the goal will cost you. By cost I don't necessarily mean money but more the extent and nature of sacrifice that you will have to make in order to become successful. Success is never an easy path and requires a level of sacrifice that is due every day. Once you accept this then you will be ready for the second stage.

Conscious incompetence

The second stage is conscious incompetence. You are aware of the areas that you need to improve. This is a difficult stage as many times you realise you are not as close to success as you thought you were but instead of seeing this as a negative it's a huge positive as now you will truly be able to start your journey to your goals. This has the potential to be the longest stage of the four and you will be tempted many times to give up. This feeling will be a regular visitor to your conscious mind. The only thing that separates the people who give up and the people who don't is belief.

You will never consistently achieve beyond your limit of self belief. You need to believe you can be a success before you can be a success. While a certain level of self belief is natural it is something that can be worked on and improved. I won't be able to go into the mental performance techniques that I use with my clients but I will provide you with an overview of how to become a highly confident version of yourself.

The two key ingredients of confidence are planning and preparation. The more you plan and the more you prepare the more confidence you will have to achieve your goals. The thought of climbing a mountain may seem daunting, so daunting in fact that you may never start but once you see it as a series of single steps then it becomes realistic and then once you map out every step and then visualise what will happen with every step including the challenges and risks that may arise, this will provide you with the opportunity to minimise risk and to be prepared for the unexpected.

Conscious competence

The stage of conscious competence is the third stage of success and this is when you now reach the stage of your development that you have developed the necessary skills and you are implementing them on a daily basis. The long hard days of training have paid off and your goals are within reach. It's easy to think that your development has ended because you are starting to see success but in fact your journey has only just begun.

Unconscious competence

The final stage of success is unconscious competence. This is when you are implementing the skills required for success without knowing you are doing so. The habits that success requires are now instinctual. Even if you haven't heard the terminology you would certainly have already encountered this stage. The most common example I have encountered is driving. Imagine when you first learned to drive, you were cautious and you had to think about every action yet several years later you are now a confident driver and you instinctively know what you do when you get into your car, in fact when you drive to work the journey doesn't feel like it takes so long and time passes more quickly even if your car is slow.

In this stage when we are performing a task and time melts away, minutes feel like seconds and seconds are nothing but a blink of an eye. You feel full immersion in a task to such a degree that the task is no longer a separate entity you are the task. You do not notice the world around you and distractions don't exist. All we feel is the marriage of excitement and energy. This feeling is known by many names. In the United States it's commonly called "flow state" while in Japan it's referred to as "Mushin". Technically it's when your actions move from the conscious part of your brain into the non-conscious part of your brain. This is where success exists

Everyone's journey to success is different but what ever your end goal, the journey goes through these four stages. Knowing this doesn't guarantee that you will reach your end goal but it will put you in the right direction. The success you seek is there waiting for you and you just need to know how to get there.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at

Posted: Monday 2 May 2016

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