It’s always exciting to learn something new, whether it’s a foreign language, an instrument, or some kind of art.
But don’t let the excitement overtake you just yet. When most people learn something new, they make mistakes that cost them time, energy, and money. Maybe you decide that you want to start painting and, when you don’t manage to create something that rivals Monet in the first week, you give up, frustrated. Or you decide that you want to play the saxophone and your learning strategy consists of poking around on the Internet for teaching clues — and that leaves you feeling hopelessly lost. Or maybe you want to learn how to speak Spanish and you attempt to do it all by yourself at home, without any help or guidance, and that results in you grasping for the right words.
Sidestep these pitfalls by creating a strategy for how you will learn something new. The first step is to avoid these 5 costly mistakes, so you can set yourself up for long-term learning success.
Mistake 1: Not setting a specific goal
Without a specific goal to work towards, it’s easy to lose motivation. Goals help you identify what you want to achieve, keep you focused on what is and isn’t important, and help you measure your progress. If you need some inspiration on what your goals should be, start by asking yourself these questions: What would you like to get out of this? How will you do that? And who can help you reach that point?
Mistake 2: Not immersing yourself
Think about how you learned how to ride a bicycle or swim You spent hours and days on a bike or in the water. Yet, most people rely heavily on video courses or tutorials to learn something new. That might be a good starting point, but you often need to dive deeper.
A Georgetown University Medical Center researcher conducted a study where subjects were divided into two groups and were observed using a technique called electroencephalography.
The two groups were both asked to study an artificial language. One group studied the language in a formal classroom setting while the other was trained through immersion.
After five months, the results clearly showed that the immersed group displayed the full brain patterns of a native speaker.
Nothing beats learning by doing. Jump into the trenches and get your hands dirty.
Mistake 3: Going at it alone
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
While you do have to carve out alone time so that you can study on your own, you need a support system to grow. There are multiple ways to do this. Find a friend, colleague, or a family member that can keep you accountable on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You want someone that has a similar, if not the same, goal as you do, where you can add value to each other. If you don’t have a single person who can be there for you, join or build a group that serves the same function but with more people, ensuring that someone will always be available. Or make a bigger investment by hiring a coach. This person can provide one-on-one guidance and attention, because they are sharing their expertise solely with you and specifically addressing any of your weaknesses.
Mistake 4: Aiming for perfection
Perfection is a momentum killer.
When you’re starting to learn something for the first time, you’re going to face failure. It’s inevitable. This is why it’s much more important to focus on process versus progress. That means that if you want to paint, relish filling a canvas with colors of your choosing and don’t worry about the final product in the early stages. And don’t compare yourself to the masters or those who have been practicing the activity for years. Instead, refocus on your goals and what you wanted to get from tackling a new endeavor.
Mistake 5: Giving up too early
According to bestselling author Seth Godin, there are five reasons why someone will quit:
- You run out of time (and quit)
- You run out of money (and quit)
- You get scared (and quit)
- You’re not serious about it (and quit)
- You lose interest (and quit)
If you’re like 99% of people who have quit before, it’s probably because of the reasons Godin listed — lack of drive, interest, or guidance.
This “dip” due to lack of motivation is something all of us go through several times in the process of mastery — even the best performers in the world.
We all experience a high of energy and excitement when we first start to learn something new because this is the natural feeling of the “honeymoon” phase.
The best things always take more time than you originally expect. If you’re truly passionate about achieving your goals, you need to see the long-term vision instead of expecting short-term results overnight.
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