Self Actualization and Affirmations

Self actualization is defined by The Random House Dictionary as:

“The achievement of one's full potential through creativity,
independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.”

So, how do we get from whatever state we are in to the realization of our full potential?


I recently came across the Conscious Competence Learning Matrix which was born out of research into learning methods done by US Gordon Training International. The conscious competence matrix suggests four learning stages:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know.

  2. Conscious Incompetence – You are aware of what you don’t know.

  3. Conscious Competence – You know a new skill, but to perform it you have to concentrate on it.

  4. Unconscious Competence – You can perform your new skill without actively thinking about it.

The chart below gives a visual demonstration of how the model works:

Conscious Competence Learning Model

A few weeks ago I experienced the learning model first hand. I began in stage 1: unaware that I needed a new kitchen trash can. I moved to stage 2: aware that the old can was not doing the trick and that I needed a new can. While shopping, I choose a can that was too large to fit under the kitchen sink where our original can was. The new can was placed at the edge of the kitchen a few feet from the placement of the original. I easily moved into stage 3: I knew how to get to the new can to deposit trash; however, if I was not consciously thinking about it, I reverted to old habits and opened the cabinet under the sink to throw trash away where the original can was. Eventually, after a few days of practicing the new task, moving to the placement of the new can became unconscious and I had arrived at step 4: unconscious competence.

I believe that self actualization follows the same learning model. Prior to our personal development journey, we are in unconscious incompetence, unaware of what our thought patterns are. In some cases this can be a blissful place to be. People can live their whole lives this way, moving where life and their thoughts take them, unaware that there is any other way to live.

However, since you are on this website, I conjecture that at some point you moved into conscious incompetence. Maybe you heard an inspirational story about the power of the mind and affirmations and became curious as to how you could enhance your experience of life. As you open your awareness, you moved into the state where you realize how much there is to learn. I tend to not be a fan of this state. I value feeling competent and this can be an uncomfortable place to be…aware of how far you have to go. It usually involves highs of being excited about what the future will bring as you learn more and lows that there are areas of your life that you want to change that you do not yet know how to. Voracious learning leads to step 3.

In step 3, you are more aware of your thoughts. You can hear your 'self talk' clearly and can consciously interrupt negative messages and replace them with positive affirmations. Step 3 involves tremendous effort and energy to begin shifting your patterns toward more positive habits and thoughts.

The practice and repetition of affirmations are what move you into step 4, aka - self actualization: unconsciously competent. Your have created new neural pathways and your thoughts are automatically more optimistic. You can see your life transforming; you are actualizing your potential through new subconscious habits and thoughts.

I have found that there is comfort in the learning model because it demonstrates that self actualization is a process, a journey that leads to a desired destination. You will find that certain aspects of your life travel through the model at different times and at different rates.

When you can recognize where you are at, you can take the steps to move yourself along. Become conscious of your thoughts and commit to practicing new patterns that will empower you to unconsciously, automatically, live a life you love.

Return from Self Actualization and Affirmations to All About Affirmations

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