Learning a New Skill



Learning a new skill can be an incredibly exciting prospect, but it can also be very daunting and indeed will inevitably be frustrating at times. As a child we are constantly learning new skills and challenging ourselves without hesitation, as we gradually get older we tend to slow down our propensity to try new things. This is probably because instead of viewing things as challenging and exciting, we may start to see things as threatening to our confidence. We have probably learned through growing up that not being able to do something is not fun. We generally will keep practicing something that we are already good at or have shown an aptitude or natural ability towards, but the thing is that anyone can learn something new; the rate at which we become competent at it can be different.


When we are adults it is very rare for people to attempt something new and often the reason why is because we might not be good at it. However, taking the pressure off yourself that you need to be good at it straight away can help you enjoy the process of learning a new skill. In terms of learning a new skill (or skill acquisition) there are usually a few steps that each person goes through and they are the following:



 Cognitive Stage


This is the first stage of learning any skill. You become aware of what the skill involves and you learn or are taught the breakdown of the skill. There is more than likely to be a lot of awkwardness, errors and confusion during this phase. You know what the skill should look like when executing it, you just don’t know how to put those things together.


Get lots of feedback in this phase, whether from a coach or from videoing your own practice. Often what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing are two very different things. Start small; make things achievable, after all, we feel better about ourselves when we can do something. Breaking the skill down into parts can help here. Let your body practice one thing at a time and most importantly don’t be too hard on yourself. You are allowed to make mistakes.


Associative Stage


In this stage, you have started to become used to what is required to complete the skill. Your body and the wiring in your brain is beginning to form a memory of what needs to go where and when. You will inevitably still make mistakes and may even find if you start thinking too much about it, you’ll get it wrong. You almost have to start trusting that your body and brain will take over and do it for you. Again, don’t set yourself up to fail. Challenge yourself but be realistic about it. This is a great time to remind yourself why you are trying to learn the new skill, if you really enjoy it, the challenge or the ability to learn something new, keep going. The most important person to “impress” here is yourself. Give yourself a big pat on the back too. You have definitely earned it.


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