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The Top 5 Common Mistakes When Learning Something New

The Top 5 Common Mistakes When Learning Something New

All of us have tried learning something new: a photo editing software, a foreign language, or a brand new industry that you’re about to enter into.

If you’re like most people, then you’ve probably given up learning this skill before you reached mastery. For whatever reason, you weren’t picking up the skill as fast as you expected, got bored of the subject, or maybe you just didn’t have enough time.

There’s dozens of mistakes that all of us make when we’re learning something for the first time. In this post, we’re going to share with you the top 5 mistakes that you should avoid when learning something new.

1. No clear end goal

Put an average joe next to a person with impressive achievements, and it’s likely that the latter had clear, specific goals that they reviewed on a regular basis.

Without a clear end goal of what you want to achieve, it’s easy to lose motivation or give up when the difficult times inevitably arises.

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Let’s review the difference between a bad goal, good goal, and a great goal.

Bad goal: I want to become learn a new language so I can travel to Europe by next year.

Good goal: I want to learn how to speak Spanish so I can travel to Spain by next summer.

Great goal: I will have a 15-minute conversation in Spanish with a native Spanish person over coffee in a cafe in Madrid on July 2016.

Notice the difference between the first and last goal? The great goal had certainty, specificity, and a measurable deadline for when the goal will be completed. Too many of us set general, broad goals which makes it impossible for us to visualize and focus on.

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2. Putting the cart before the horse

This is a mistake that I’m sure we can all admit to. When we’re not aware of all the steps involved in learning a new skill, it’s easy to underestimate the complexity of the process involved. How many times have you judged a skill or task from the outside, only to realize how difficult it is once you’ve tried it yourself?

While there are shortcuts and ways to shorten the learning curve in anything, there is a progression that we need to follow if we want to have lasting results. For example, you can’t go from knowing zero Spanish to becoming a fluent speaker, without reaching conversation fluency first. And you can’t reach conversation fluency without understanding the basics of grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structures. Nor can you build a $100M business, if you haven’t even built a $100K business yet.

3. Having unrealistic expectations

As an avid optimist, I’m certainly guilty of this. As Tony Robbins says, “Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year— and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”

In the rapidly changing world we live in, it’s easy to be impatient. It seems like if we’re not making 10x progress all the time, then we’re going backwards. Everywhere we look, there are “5 steps to do X”, or “how to do X in 30 days” when the truth is, all great things take time.

While having big goals is important, such as I’m going to learn Spanish in 1 month, it can actually do us harm if we don’t truly believe that we can get there.

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The rule of thumb is: the size of our goals should make us uncomfortable, and slightly out of reach.

4. Using the wrong strategy

The right strategy can save 100’s of hours of hard work.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln

Learning smart is just as important as the repetitions you put in, and we should make it a habit to take a step back to observe what the most effective strategy is moving forward.

You can also apply the Pareto’s Law to understand if you’re using the right strategy, by asking: “Is this the best 20% of my time, energy, and method I can use that will deliver 80% of my desired results?

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For example, if you want to improve your public speaking skills, you may want to focus on just attending your local Toastmasters community and getting real-life practice. Or if you want to learn how to speak a foreign language, you may want to just work with a professional native speaking teacher online, instead of learning from Duolingo or books.

5. Trying to do it alone

When we’re learning something new, all of us experience what’s called a training curve.

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    The training curve is the upward and downward slope of emotions that we face, from excitement to depression. When we decide to learn everything alone, without seeking outside help of a professional, we’re making it that much harder on ourselves. People that don’t have an accountability partner, mentor, or coach, are much more likely to quit at moments of difficulty versus someone that has support and pathway to follow.

    In almost any aspect of our lives, we should have a coach that we work with, whether it’s a fitness trainer, financial advisor, business mentor, or sports coach. This is the best kept secret amongst the best performers and the fastest learners in the world.

    If you want to get your finances in shape, hire an accountant or financial advisor. If you want to get in shape, hire a personal trainer. If you want to learn a new language, find a professional language teacher.

    Life is too short to go at it alone. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much help there is in the world, as long as you know where to look.

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    Last Updated on December 16, 2018

    12 Simple Ways You Can Build A Positive Attitude

    12 Simple Ways You Can Build A Positive Attitude

    We all look for a better and happier life, but somehow we realize it’s our attitude that makes it hard to lead the life we want. How can we build a positive attitude? Grant Mathews has listed out the things (from the easiest to the hardest) we can do to cultivate this attitude on Quora:

    1. Listen to good music.

    Music definitely improves your mood, and it’s a really simple thing to do.

    2. Don’t watch television passively.

    Studies have shown that people who watch TV less are happier, which leads me to my next point…

    3. Don’t do anything passively.

    Whenever I do something, I like to ask myself if, at the end of the day, I would be content saying that I had spent time doing it. (This is why I block sites I find myself wasting too much time on. I enjoy them, but they’re just not worth it when I could be learning something new, or working on projects I care about.)

    Time is incredibly valuable.

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    4. Be aware of negativity

    A community that considers itself intelligent tends to be negativity because criticizing is seen as a signaling mechanism to indicate that you’re more intelligent than the person you corrected. This was irrationally frustrating for me – it’s one of those things you’ll stay up all night to think about.

    5. Make time to be alone.

    I initially said “take time just to be alone.” I changed it because if you don’t ensure you can take a break, you’ll surely be interrupted.

    Being with other people is something you can do to make you happy, but I don’t include it in this list because nearly everyone finds time to talk with friends. On the other hand, spending time just with yourself is almost considered a taboo.

    Take some time to figure out who you are.

    6. Exercise.

    This is the best way to improve your immediate happiness.

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    Exercise probably makes you happy. Try and go on a run. You’ll hate yourself while doing it, but the gratification that you get towards the end vastly outweighs the frustration of the first few attempts. I can’t say enough good things about exercise.

    Exercising is also fantastic because it gives you time alone.

    7. Have projects.

    Having a goal, and moving towards it, is a key to happiness.

    You have to realize though that achieving the goal is not necessarily what makes you happy – it’s the process. When I write music, I write it because writing is inherently enjoyable, not because I want to get popular (as if!).

    8. Take time to do the things you enjoy.

    That’s very general, so let me give you a good example.

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    One of the things that has really changed my life was finding small communities centered around activities I enjoy. For instance, I like writing music, so I’m part of a community that meets up to write a song for an hour every week. I love the community. I’ve also written a song every week, 37 weeks in a row, which has gradually moved me towards larger goals and makes me feel very satisfied.

    9. Change your definition of happiness.

    Another reason I think I’m more happy than other people is because my definition of happiness is a lot more relaxed than most people’s. I don’t seek for some sort of constant euphoria; I don’t think it’s possible to live like that. My happiness is closer to stability.

    10. Ignore things that don’t make you happy.

    I get varying reactions to this one.

    The argument goes “if something is making you unhappy, then you should find out why and improve it, not ignore it.” If you can do that, great. But on the other hand, there’s no reason to mope about a bad score on a test.

    There’s another counterargument: perhaps you’re moping because your brain is trying to work out how to improve. In fact, this is the key purpose of depression: Depression’s Upside – NYTimes.com

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    I can think of examples that go both ways. I remember, for instance, when I was debating a year or two ago and my partner and I would lose a round, I would mull over what we had done wrong for a long time. In that way, I got immensely better at debate (and public speaking in general – did you know debate has amazing effects on your public speaking ability? But now I really digress).

    On the other hand, there’s no way that mulling over how dumb you were for missing that +x term on the left hand side will make you better at math. So stop worrying about it, and go practice math instead.

    11. Find a way to measure your progress, and then measure it.

    Video games are addictive for a reason: filling up an experience bar and making it to the next level is immensely satisfying. I think that it would be really cool if we could apply this concept to the real world.

    I put this near the bottom of the list because, unfortunately, this hasn’t been done too often in the real world – startup idea, anyone? So you would have to do it yourself, which is difficult when you don’t even know how much you’ve progressed.

    For a while, I kept a log of the runs I had taken, and my average speed. It was really cool to see my improvement over the weeks. (Also, I was exercising. Combining the two was fantastic for boosting happiness.)

    12. Realize that happiness is an evolutionary reward, not an objective truth.

    It’s easy to see that this is correct, but this is at the bottom of the list for a reason.

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