Monday, 21 March 2016

A better way to learn

When learning something new, a simple change can make a big difference.

Try focussing on getting better rather than being good at it.

When we focus on being good at something we tend to notice our failure (“that’s not good enough yet”). This creates anxiety, which immediately reduces our ability to think clearly and to learn. So we are actually more likely to make mistakes. We also tend to struggle on alone, because we are comparing ourselves to others (usually people far more experienced than us) and feeling a failure, rather than seeing other people’s experience as a resource, and asking for help.

When we focus instead on getting better, we can recognise that when you learn something you WILL make mistakes (which baby ever learned to walk the first time it tried?). So when we do make mistakes, we see them as part of learning (useful feedback, instead of failure). Also, in thinking about getting better, we compare ourselves to ourselves previously, and so focus on our improvements and successes. As a result, we stay calm, focussed and motivated. We continue to be able to think clearly, and so we tend to learn more quickly.

So when you start something new, whether it is a new job, a leisure activity, study, or other goal, tell yourself, “I know I am not going to be good at this immediately, and that’s ok.” And as you go along, notice your small changes and improvements, praise yourself for them, ask for help where you need it, and keep your focus on getting better at your goal.

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