Many a times we start learning a new skill with a lot of gusto but don’t pursue it because we lose interest mid-way and all the enthusiasm wanes. In this article, I will discuss a few tips on how to make the process of acquiring new skills enjoyable and easy.
Why do we lose interest?
Our brains see anything ‘new’ as difficult and cumbersome and try to avoid it. So the tendency is to avoid any pain/discomfort and obviously lose out on any gain as well! Our brains get bored pretty easily and something that was once inspiring becomes boring when done routinely. Keeping it interesting enough is a challenge in itself.
So the key is to outwit your own brain 🙂
Here are some ways of pursuing your interest without losing interest!
1. Familiarity – The class you go to, maybe the music class or the arts class, do you know the people in it? It helps knowing them because being in a familiar and comfortable zone makes your brain feel more relaxed, secure and safe; and if it’s safe, the tendency for your brain to constantly scan for danger and seek out the negative, to feel safe, is much less. And since most classes have multiple participants, unless it’s a 1 to 1 training where you just need to feel comfortable with that one person, getting to know the people in your class helps. You feel comfortable and your brain has one less reason to avoid the class. Imagine if you disliked the people in your class or were ambivalent – how long would you persist in continuing the class? Not long in my opinion! Making an attempt at getting to know the people in the class really helps.
2. Making it Fun – Your brain gets bored by routine. Make it fun. For example, in the Krav Maga (self-defense) classes I go to, we have games that improve reflexes and are enjoyable as well. A music class or an arts class won’t have games but you can find ways to make it enjoyable – maybe make friends in the class, grab a cup of coffee with them, go out etc – so that you have more reasons to look forward to it instead of dragging yourself to it. I used to go to a music class as a kid and the only thing that made it interesting was going there with my best friend!
3. Deconstructing Limiting Beliefs – What are your beliefs about the skill that you are learning? Do you think you can learn it effectively? We often begin with, “I can” and go to “I can’t” or vice versa. I joined Krav Maga around one and a half years back and did it for a few months and couldn’t continue, then started it again and have been persistent since then. When I re-started the classes, my belief was (which has been a subconscious limiting belief all along) “Will it be possible for me to really learn this?” I logically knew that it requires technique and strength that can be built gradually over time – but did my emotional brain understand this? No it didn’t. So I worked on the blocks, deconstructed the beliefs about my strength and stamina and have felt much more at ease about learning Krav Maga.
Look for the beliefs that need an overhaul – we grow up with so many conflicting messages about ourselves that we don’t know which beliefs are our own and which ones are dumped on us and internalized without our knowledge. As we grow up, we analyze these beliefs only when specific triggers bring them to the forefront. So take the opportunity to work on these beliefs. You can use EFT or any other tool to deconstruct them.
4. Comfort Seeking – Our brains are always looking to avoid pain and seek comfort. So make it easier for your brain – give it comfort while learning a new skill. For example – find easier ways to get to your class. If you have to travel by changing 3 buses – (unless you like travelling a lot or in buses and enjoy it)- you will lose your enthusiasm on the way to the class and your brain will undoubtedly associate this discomfort with the skill you are learning and will bring it up every time you think of the class! The human brain is an expert in associating and generalizing! So if travelling is an issue for you, even if it costs more and you need to cut down on expenses in other areas, choose a comfortable mode of transport or choose a place that is nearer. After all, the key is to not get derailed mid way while learning. This aspect may look very insignificant but it is important. Convenience does matter.
Also, many a times you may find yourself making excuses with time and work – that you can’t continue it as you feel overloaded or you don’t have time – check if your brain has associated some discomfort with the skill you are learning and try to make practical changes in the routine to stay persistent in your learning process.
5. Wading through the Thoughts and Feelings – Since your brain is bombarded with millions of bits of sensory input in a second, out of which you can process only 7 to 9 bits at a time, naturally you will have constant automatic thoughts. All of us have a usual set of frequent and familiar thoughts that come up when we learn a new skill but the thoughts that come up when we face something challenging about the task are more derailing. You are learning music, getting all the notes right and then you find one raga very difficult and you get agitated about it. For example – for the life of me I still haven’t figured out how to punch with my fist properly even though my instructor explains it to me very patiently every time. Bless him! Thankfully there is an alternative to it in Krav Maga especially taught to women, while I still figure out how to punch effectively, called palm heel strikes. Naturally a few times I did feel the frustration towards myself, and mentally tapped on letting it go.
Work on these thoughts.
6. Discussing your Strengths and Limitations – Having a skilled instructor/ coach/teacher/trainer matters more than you think. An instructor, who doesn’t care about what you do or only keeps praising or critiquing you, isn’t really helping you. But if your instructor is someone who is patient as well as pushes you in the right direction, then it’s very beneficial. I am grateful that all my instructors in Krav Maga have been really good.
Besides, it’s a two-way street – you also need to show enthusiasm, gain more insight into the skill and talk to your instructor about your limitations and strengths. I ask questions about anything and everything, even if it sounds silly! But I remember that in my school days – I did struggle with this. So if you are struggling with anxiety and feeling self-conscious about discussing all this with your coach – tap! And release the anxiety, it will help tremendously. It will make the learning process less intimidating.
7. Not Getting Dragged down by Feedback and Constructive criticism – The skill that you learn is just one aspect of your’ Self’; it’s not your total self. The criticism is also for just that ‘specific’ area of the skill you are learning, not for your total self or the entire skill. Keeping these two separate is tough but achievable.
8. Visualizing the end goal – How will the skill benefit you?
I imagine beating the hell out of guys (any aggressor) if/when needed 🙂 it’s my motivation – Find yours and visualize it. Imagine yourself singing well, painting well and people appreciating it. Learning a new skill and visualising people appreciating it or your instructor appreciating it is a good way to persist at it. Internal validation is very important but appreciation from outside is also good for motivation.
I have Krav Maga classes on Sunday mornings. Sundays are imprinted as ‘lazy days’ in our brains – time to sleep longer and relax. Since I have to get up early, get some housework done and then go for class, sometimes I feel very lazy, and then I think of the class being fun and visualize the end goal – whatever motivates me – to get out of bed and get ready.
9. Working on Anxiety – If you feel anxious about joining a new class, tap on it before you go for the class. It is natural for some anxiety to come up; instead of suppressing it, accept it and tap.
10. Being kind to yourself – Last but not the least; be kind to yourself while learning a new skill. If you are self-critical all the time, you can’t acquire any skill.
You can find more information about EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) aka Tapping on my website: www.emofreetherapy.com