The process of changing patterns of living requires conscious (a.k.a. mindful) and conscientious awareness, along with extraordinary patience and persistent practice. This applies to moving from a life in active addiction and chronic pain to one in recovery from both. It also ties in to one’s evolution from the need to be right to remaining mindful of and practicing the value of being content and at peace. The most effective way to acquire new skills in any area—be it sports, reading, cooking, auto repair, using a computer, gardening, plumbing, meditating, or recovery—is to learn what works and practice what works with consistency and persistence. Progress is rarely a straight line. It can be slow and halting. Typically it’s two steps forward and one step back; sometimes it feels like one step forward and two steps back. But, if I stay this course, gradually and progressively, my performance in any area improves. Erickson’s four stages of learning—unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence—characterize virtually any skill development process. For instance, people who learn how to read well and who develop mastery in reading, progress through each of these stages. Unconscious incompetence is a state of obliviousness—not knowing something, but also not knowing that we don’t know it and therefore, not caring about it one way or another. Unconscious competence is also known as mastery. When athletes are described as being “in the zone,” they are in a state of unconscious competence. They are performing at such a high level that they seem unstoppable. Yet, every aspect of their performance may appear effortless, almost as if they were operating on autopilot. It is as if they are in sync with the universe and have tapped into its cadence. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).