How To Learn a New Skill


Have you ever wondered why people never learn? I mean to say that they continue to struggle with the same people and business issues and they never, ever learn the required skills to do something about it? Then there are people who ooze skill, confidence and excellence. Why is this so? Why can some people learn the skills required and others don’t?

There is a very good reason for this and it isn’t that they are ignorant of their shortcomings. It is that they don’t persist with the required behaviours long enough to make them a part of their daily routine.

The 20-Day Rule

Research has shown that we need to continually reinforce behaviour over 20 days to make it a routine. Things such as breaking a bad habit would come into this category. If you can stop doing something for 20 days, you have a good chance of quitting that habit for good. Even if you regress, after 20 days, the habit will have diminished to a point where you can easily pick up again and remember to stop doing that bad habit. (Drug taking is a separate issue, too complex to discuss here)

The same applies to new behaviours. When you have learned a new technique, say a time management tool like “To-Do Lists”. You will need to keep reminding yourself to do them for 20 days until it becomes automatic and you do them without having to remind yourself.

The Awkward Stage

Doing it, but you have to think about it. This is The Awkward Stage. When we take on a new skill, it just doesn’t feel right. We have to think about every single detail and worry that we have missed something important. When we are using the new skill, everything is magnified for us as we focus on it and slow everything down to ensure we get it right. This feels awkward, unsafe and insecure. These are feelings we don’t really like and so, when we don’t do them well, we give up on the new skill, quietly leaving it to one side thinking no one will notice.

If you can persist with your new skill until you can perfect your actions and thoughts to a point where you no longer need to focus on the detail so much, then you will have progressed beyond the awkward stage to the skill stage.

The Skill Stage

Doing it without conscious thought. You have arrived at The Skill Stage. You are now in the flow. Effortlessness takes over from grappling. Energy is being saved, not used up in anguished struggle. Everything just comes together, well planned, in order and at the right time and place.

This is Skill.

You don’t get to The Skill Stage by accident, nor do you arrive there just wishing you could be better at something. It takes commitment and the courage to persist. Those that seek out feedback on their new skill and act on that feedback will enter the skill stage quicker and more effectively than those who don’t.

Question: What’s the difference between a professional musician and an amateur musician?

Answer: 8 hours a day practice

What should you be practicing right now?

Have your best week ever

Mervyn Murray

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