Mental health and three stages of learning

Mental health and the three stages of learning are interwoven. As we move from being a fresh graduate beaming with confident incompetence to a seasoned designer feeling competent confidence, our mental health waxes and wanes.

Years ago we attended How Magazine’s Mind Your Own Business design management seminar in New Orleans. One of the most valuable sessions I attended was presented by a designer who had come to the realisation, to market her studio well, she had to really understand herself.

So she went on a self-knowledge crusade (with her supreme yoga guru, but that’s another story).

It was a little new-age American for me, but the result is worth repeating.

The gist of her message was the three stages of learning.

The first stage of learning: confident incompetence.

Straight out of university,  we all exude confidence. We (and I use that term inclusively because it was certainly me) were supremely confident in everything we undertook. Unfortunately we’re not too good at a lot of it – hence the incompetence.

We don’t stop to think about mental health, it is just get in and do it. You are carried along by all the new experiences.

The second stage of learning: unconfident competence.

As we mature –  generally it happens in our early 30s – we come to realise that we don’t know as much as we thought we did. That’s when we move to the second stage of learning – unconfident competence. Truth be told we are actually quite good at our job but all we see are the bits that we aren’t good at, or what’s left to learn.

Many people get disillusioned at this time and change careers thinking that since they are never going to excel at their first choice, best they choose another. For some people this stage can repeat over and over as they continually change careers.

This is the mental health danger zone.

The third stage of learning: confident competence.

Once we get through that muddled second stage, it gets easier. We understand that we don’t know everything but that’s OK. There’s a confidence in our skill level and a maturity to feel comfortable to ask if we don’t know the answer.

Our mental health is usually more balanced at this stage, but here some designers suffer from the imposter syndrome.

The takeaway

By analysing and understanding where you are in your career, and where your staff are in theirs, mental health issues can be identified early, and that’s of great value. It can mean not losing a key staff member because they’ve lost confidence in their career choice.

Want to hear how others a managing mental health in a studio? Come to our November unseminar:

Designing your mental health

Monday 26th November 2018
Golden Gate Hotel
The Coventry Room
238 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne VIC
6pm for a 6.30 start.

Don’t know what an unseminar is, or want more info?

Got a question? Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.

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Carol Mackay

2018 is a big year for Carol. Thirty-three years after founding Mackay Branson design, she transitioned from client-focused projects to use her skills with the Design Business Council, and The Design Business School. Her design expertise is in making the complex simple. Her special skill is in packaging complicated content into bite-sized chunks of information that can be easily understood and digested.

Carol has just written a new program for the The Design Business School. The Design Studio Management Program is aimed at designers, design graduates and existing design studio managers to help them develop skills to fast track their career path. Contact Carol for more information.

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