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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.

    More by this author

    Sean Kim

    Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

    Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

    But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

    Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

    But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

    Journal writing.

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    Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

    Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

    Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

    1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

    By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

    Consider this:

    Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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    But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

    The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

    2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

    If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

    How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

    Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

    You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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    3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

    As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

    Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

    All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

    4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

    Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

    Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

    The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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    5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

    The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

    It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

    Kickstart Journaling

    How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

    Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

    Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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