Learning is living.
I can’t help but believe that when you stop learning, stop growing, and stop expanding, your life begins to decline. Things either expand or contract, but they don’t remain still.
Learning means you’re expanding. It promotes neural plasticity, causing your brain to create new nerve connections and pathways. It benefits your mental health by increasing feelings of confidence, accomplishment, and curiosity. It expands your social network as you meet new people and make new friends. It can lead to promotions at work or new streams of income.
“Learning never exhausts the mind.”-Leonardo Da Vinci
You can learn and succeed at any new skill.
Break learning down to a few basic steps, and the world is full of possibilities.
Sure, there are probably dozens of things you’d like to learn, but for now pick one. Make it clear, like, “I’m learning German”, or “I’m learning WordPress”, or “I’m learning to water ski.”
*Fun fact, I learned all three of these things successfully, and all after the age of 45. So no excuses, you can learn anything too. Pick your one thing, and stick with it long enough to give it an honest chance of success.
Check your mindset.
Are you excited? Do you feel determined? Can you visualize yourself learning the new skill, and even getting good at it? Are you a little nervous, but willing to do it anyway? Perfect, you have the right mindset to learn something new.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”-Helen Keller
Have a teacher.
One way or another, you’ll need someone to guide you. Others before you have learned what you’re trying to learn, and you’ll learn from them. Getting coaching early will help you avoid un-learning bad habits down the road.
You have lots of options for instruction, and most are accessible. Turn to books, internet forums, videos, podcasts, friends, schools, casual coaches, and professional coaches. Do some research on your own, and build your coaching circle as your skills grow.
Whether you’re struggling or excelling, if this is a skill you’re sticking with, get a coach, teacher, or mentor.
Focus on one thing at a time.
Break things down, and you’ll see that any skill has multiple components. Don’t try to change or improve them all at once, but instead, focus on one at a time. Get one solid before you move on to the next.
“Hips forward, stay on the angle of the ski, handle to the hip, knee over ankle, edge change before the turn, chest proud.” These are some of the commands a water ski coach might give me. I get one body command locked in with muscle memory before I move on to the next. I don’t try to focus on them all at the same time.
Practice when things are calm, so you’ll be ready for the storm.
Whether your new skill is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, practice during periods of calm. Without the din and confusion that come with the storm, you can focus on fundamentals. Get good at the basics when conditions are easier, so you’re not scrambling when stresses buffet you.
Dancers and musicians learn a new routine or song at half the pace. Precision is built first, then speed.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
You’re better off practicing your new skill for 15 minutes a day than for an hour once a week. Practice with regularity and your skill will quickly improve. The communication pathways between your brain and your body will get strong.
“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”-Thomas Huxley
Don’t compare yourself with others.
No matter what you’re learning, there are always going to be people ahead of you. The people who you look up to as experts will make it look easy, but they struggled at the beginning as well. Focus instead on your own progress and milestones. Give yourself credit for your progress. Be excited about it.
I get pretty competitive when I’m learning something new. Without fail, I’ll reach a point when my drive for improvement begins to take over. That’s when I take a step back and remind myself that I’m learning this new thing to have fun. I have a good laugh at myself for taking things too seriously yet again. It’s all about the fun and excitement after that turning point.
“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” -Golda Meir
To learn is to be alive. It’s never too late it introduce new things into your life. Pick your thing, be excited about it, model the experts, focus on the incremental steps, practice the fundamentals with regularity, celebrate your wins, and have fun!