Learning a New Skill: 5 Tips To Stay Motivated
Learning a new skill, from HTML to conversational Italian to Judo, is a challenge well within your reach, no matter how busy you are. Put the task in perspective: Many people just as intelligent and just as busy as you are launching into the learning process and gaining a stronger command of these skills with every passing day. And if they can do it, then so can you. When you're ready to start, begin by putting each of the following steps into motion and keeping a few considerations in mind.
1. Start now.
There's never a better time than now. Don't put off the first steps until a rainy day, an unscheduled weekend, warmer weather, your retirement, or after you've lost ten pounds. The time is now, and each day in front of you will provide at least a few precious minutes you can use to gain an inch of ground on your progress toward competence and eventual mastery.
2. Seek inspiration… but be reasonable.
If you'd like to play the mandolin, watch a few online videos of beautiful mandolin playing. Observe experts in your field as they effortlessly dazzle you with their proficiency. But as you watch video after eye-popping video or stand in the presence of a person (friend, cowoker, etc) who already has the skills you'd like to gain, be reasonable. Make sure their brilliant performance is serving to inspire, not overwhelm. If watching experts makes you want to give up, stop watching. Turn your attention back to your own progress and your own life story. Know the difference between seeking inspiration and indulging the destructive temptation to compare yourself to others.
3. Take the first step, then the second.
Slow and steady wins the race, and true mastery happens one small step at a time. Every acquired bit of knowledge and every minute of practice time will accumulate…eventually. Don't give up because you can only afford to focus on your craft for ten minutes a day. Just take those ten minutes and make the most of them. Tomorrow, take ten more.
4. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small.
You've been "playing" the mandolin for a week, and your family doesn't understand why you aren't spinning out beautiful Irish reels just yet. But know this: your progress is real. A brain scan (if you had one) would reveal that certain areas of your brain have been generating higher amounts of heat and energy for the past week, and new neural connections have been forming in areas that control the coordination and sensitivity that lead to the creation of music. Be patient with yourself, and stop now and then to marvel at how much you've learned and how far you've come.
5. Shrug off setbacks.
After a month of practice, you had to put your mandolin down for a few days. And as you pick it back up, you struggle to call upon information and skills you thought were well under your belt. New neural connections, new muscle movements, and new memories are fragile, but a few backward slides won't hurt your long term growth. Just recognize that this, too, is part of the process. Do your best to pick up where you left off.
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