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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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    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 September 18, 2020

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

    For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

    But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

    It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

    And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

    The Importance of Saying No

    When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

    In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

    Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

    Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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    Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

    “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

    When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

    How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

    It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

    From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

    We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

    And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

    At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

    The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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    How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

    Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

    But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

    3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

    1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

    If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

    2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

    When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

    Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

    3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

    When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

    6 Ways to Start Saying No

    Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

    1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

    One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

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    Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

    2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

    Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

    Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

    3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

    Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

    Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

    You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

    4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

    Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

    Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

    5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

    When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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    How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

      Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

      Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

      6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

      If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

      Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

      Final Thoughts

      Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

      Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

      Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

      More Tips on How to Say No

      Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
      [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
      [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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