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Top tips for learning a new skill

Woman painting

It's never too late to learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby. From playing an instrument to acquiring a new language, learning a new skill can bring great joy to our lives and a sense of achievement. It doesn’t matter if you are well into retirement or are still working a day job, we can all continue to grow and develop. In this guide, we highlight a handful of top tips for learning a new skill, providing simple advice for making a success of your goals and learning a skill that will serve you well in the future. Whether you are looking for a challenge or just to pick up a new hobby, these tips will help you achieve what you desire.

Dedicate the time

If you don’t dedicate time to learning your chosen skill, you won’t be able to achieve your goal. The idea of learning how to do something can sound very attractive but we have to put in the time and effort. So, make a plan and space in your day to practice. Perhaps you could dedicate an hour or two each morning after breakfast or perhaps it could be your evening activity before bed. Maybe the weekend will be the best time for you to hone your skills. Whenever it is, consistency is key, so create a routine and keep at it until you have learnt the skill to your desired level of competency.

Arthur, from The Art of Living, shares this advice for learning a new skill: “Do something every day that moves you towards your goal. If possible, schedule a regular time(s) each day to focus on your skill. Earlier is always better. You are most well rested earlier in the day. There is also less opportunity for surprises to have deviated you from your best-laid plans. That said, everyone’s schedule is different. Make or find time in your day, every day, even if only in the unexpected moments of waiting.”

Push through the “fear zone”

Placing yourself in uncharted territory can be a scary concept but we have to pass through such fears in order to learn a new skill. This is the top tip from Zoe Thompson, a self-development coach from Phoenix Life and Wellbeing Coaching. Speaking to us, she shared the following advice:

“Learning a new skill takes us out of our comfort zone. This can be both exciting and uncomfortable all at the same time which can feel like very mixed and conflicting emotions. Outside of our comfort zone lies the fear zone, when we can push through the fear zone, we reach the growth and learning zone.

“When you have decided that you want to learn a new skill, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it your goal to achieve this skill – is it what you want for yourself?
  • Are you clear about why this is important to you?
  • Are you clear about what will be different when you have achieved this skill?
  • Have you considered what you need to do differently to make this happen?
  • What previous experience, or other skills and attributes can you draw upon to make this happen?
  • How much time do you need to commit to this?
  • What external support do you need to help make this happen?

“When we want to begin something new, we get caught up in the excitement of what is to come. Taking some time to reflect and plan can make all the difference in helping us to show up consistently and maintain that excitement when it becomes more challenging.

“When you hit a bump in the road, go back to the first two questions, why am I doing this, why is this important to me? That will help you to push through that feeling of fear into the zone of learning and growth.”

Set yourself goals

Sewing machine

Setting goals can provide a great incentive to learn your skill and make consistent progress. Without goals in mind, it can be easy to meander along, procrastinate, and not get much closer to learning your skill. Both short-term and long-term goals can make the process less daunting and easier to digest. So, your long-term goal, for example, can be to learn French to a degree that you can converse in the language, but your short-term goals can be to learn to describe yourself and understand simple directions. Each goal will get you a little bit closer to your ultimate destination and you can enjoy the satisfying feeling of ticking off little objectives as you progress.

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Make it fun

One of the best pieces of advice when it comes to learning a new skill is to make the process fun. If you are not enjoying it, you will find it far more difficult to learn. There are lots of ways to make learning fun and it will, of course, depend on the individual and the particular skill in question. You can make learning fun in many different ways, from utilising visuals like films and TV, to listening to music as you practise and rewarding yourself when progress is being made. Don’t make learning a chore, pick something you are excited by and make the process as enjoyable as possible.

Pace yourself

In an attempt to learn something new, it can be tempting to dedicate all your time to mastering it as quickly as possible, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to learn. Bonita, a transformational coach from Hypnotherapy Associates, has shared the following tip: “It is important to understand that whatever age we are, we have the capacity to learn something new, so do not ever tell yourself you are too old!

“Everyone has different ways of taking in new information and learning, we also take in information at different speeds, so do not compare yourself to others. Give yourself plenty of time to learn and make the process fun. Also, give yourself regular breaks so the mind can ‘recharge’ before continuing to take in new information if you are studying.

“Think of the learning process a bit like a ‘marathon’ and not a ‘sprint’, break it down into ‘chunks’ of information to take in without focusing too much on the ‘end goal’, as this can sometimes feel overwhelming and unachievable. Nevertheless, some people find it helpful to imagine themselves having learnt the new skill or passed the exam and see themselves achieving what they want. This is helpful because the ‘unconscious mind’ absorbs the image which helps to create confidence and focus, and that the outcome can be a reality.”

Learn something meaningful to you

Woman learning Mandarin

You may remember being at school and not learning a particular subject well, probably because you weren’t that interested in what was being taught. So, when it comes to learning a skill later in life, what you choose to learn makes all the difference.

Marelisa, from Daring to Live Fully – a blog dedicated to helping people live their best life – has shared some helpful advice for learning new skills quickly, including choosing a skill you are passionate about: “If learning a new skill is just an academic exercise for you or an ‘it would be nice to know how to do this’, it’s very likely that you won’t be able to find the motivation to persevere until you learn the skill. Therefore, it’s imperative that you start by picking the right skill to learn.”

Make things easier and more enjoyable for yourself by picking something that is meaningful to you, something that you are passionate about, or can really see yourself utilising once you have learned how to do it. Even if you are just looking to learn a new skill for the challenge of it, you can still pick something that you connect with. By doing so, you will learn the skill much faster and be far more likely to achieve success instead of getting bored and giving up as so many end up doing.

Learning for the right reasons is something Bonita from Hypnotherapy Associates shared as part of her advice: “Make sure that the skill you want to learn is for the right reasons! Are you just trying to ‘prove’ something to yourself or others? Or is the skill really of value to you personally as something useful to know and understand? If so, it will make it a lot easier to grasp the new skill if it is of personal value as well as fun!  Above all, whatever your reasons, know that new skills are always possible to learn at whatever age and that life is short, so make it enjoyable.”

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Focus on one new skill at a time

Learning a new skill is hard enough as it is without trying to pile up too many challenges at once. You may be tempted to try to master multiple hobbies, talents, or skills at once, but you will find that by focussing instead on one thing at a time you will make much better progress. It can be overwhelming trying to learn a new skill so instead of trying to achieve too much at once, concentrate on one area, achieve your goals and then move on to the next skill on your list. This way you can use your time and energy in the most effective way possible instead of spreading yourself too thin. It will be far more rewarding to learn one new skill well than to take ages to learn three or four poorly.

Learn the right way 

Person playing the guitar

Finding the right way to learn your chosen skill is very important as depending on the skill you are looking to master, there will be a specific way to learn it successfully. For example, you will make better progress at learning to play an instrument by actually playing it rather than by reading about it. Likewise, you can become much more efficient at speaking Spanish by talking with others in that language and watching Spanish films and TV. More often than not, getting hands-on with the activity and stepping away from the theoretical will be your best approach. Think about the skill and attempt to learn it in a way that feels the most intuitive.

Spend time on the things you find difficult

No matter what you are trying to learn, there will be parts that you find more difficult than others. Difficulties aren’t a sign to give up, however, only that more practice at this particular component of the skill is needed. In order to continue making progress, you will therefore need to spend lots of time on the things that you find most difficult, practising them time and time again, coming at it in different ways, until you make that breakthrough. You won’t be satisfied by just focusing on the easy bits but the reward you will find from mastering something you once found impossible will be well worth the effort.

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How to learn a new skill

  • Dedicate the time
  • Push through the “fear zone”
  • Set yourself goals
  • Make it fun
  • Learn something meaningful to you
  • Focus on one new skill at a time
  • Learn the right way
  • Spend time on the things you find difficult

Learning a new skill is a wonderful thing, bringing great levels of satisfaction and achievement to life and hopefully something you can enjoy or put to good use for many years to come.

Skills and hobbies are just one component of a well-rounded and fulfilled life; remaining independent is also something prized by many of us, particularly as we grow older. If you want to stay independent in your own home, our range of straight and curved stairlifts will help you to enjoy life at home long into the future.

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