Many people get to a point where they are very uncomfortable at the thought of learning something new, while others are outright petrified at the thought. Too many people become trapped in their comfort zones, while at the same time wondering why their lives have become stale and boring, or why they can’t advance in their jobs.
Think back to when you were much younger. Remember how excited you were to learn to ride a bike. Sure, you may have been a little scared of falling, but you did it anyway. Then there was the excitement at learning to drive a car. You may have been a bit nervous, but you really wanted to learn this new skill. Try to remember all of the new skills you learned over the years. Remember the satisfaction when you finally mastered this new skill.
It is easy to let fear and frustration get in the way of learning something new – a new skill. Many give up far too easily, only to regret it years later. Being a public speaker, people seem to think that the skill came naturally for me – it didn’t! I remember freezing in fear at the thought of speaking in front of a large crowd. There were times when I froze. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but I kept at it until I finally mastered the skill.
Here are a few tips that will help you when learning a new skill:

  • Be teachable: Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” No one knows anything until it is learned.
  • Ask for help: Have the courage to seek out help from those who are already experts at the skill you want to learn.
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes: Making mistakes is a natural part of the learning curve, you don’t have to do it perfectly the very first time, or even the first five times.
  • Practice your new skill: They say “practice make perfect” – I like to say “practice makes better.” Perfection may be unattainable, but the more you practice the better you become.

There are other good reasons to learn a new skill besides professional and personal reasons. Like the muscles in your legs and arms, the brain needs to be “exercised” in order to stay sharp. Remember, use it or lose it. Studies have proved that senior citizens who learn new skills have improved memories and cognitive function in comparison to those who remain mentally stagnant.
NPR reported on a study done by Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas. The study randomly assigned 200 older people tasks of learning new skills from digital photography to quilting. These people spent 15 hours per week for three months learning their new skill. At completion, the participants had a significant improvement in memory function in comparison to others in their age group who did not participate in the new skill learning. It was found that the more difficult the new skill (Digital Photography & Photoshop), the greater the improvement. Dr. Park’s research was published in the journal Psychological Science.
Why not make a commitment this month to learn a new skill. Don’t give up, be patient, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and all the work will be well worth it.
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