The important thing with this stage is to listen to your inner voice during stage two, the tournament. It’s at tournaments that you receive the most reliable feedback on the state of your game, particularly when you contemplate your next game. Being fearful of your opponent’s opening moves, tactical play or endgame prowess gives a very good indication of where we are deficient.
On the other hand we get far less realistic in the comfort of our own homes, a brandy by our side and without an opponent trying to kill us. This is why a tournament diary can be a massive help, even if this amounts to nothing more than notes scribbled on the back of a score sheet.
When you have this feedback stage three becomes a simple matter of acting on it. If you were afraid of being ground down in an endgame then this indicates that your technique needs attention. Not knowing what to play in the opening can be more complex because often it relates to middle game understanding. Fear of tactics can be difficult to admit, but when you become aware of this then do something about it.
In this way many character traits are drawn into the process of chess improvement. There’s the self awareness to listen to your inner voice, the honesty not to deny its message and then the willingness to work to improve. Great champions have such traits in abundance whilst great talents may not.