Trying new things and learning are almost always framed as a purely good thing, but here’s a dirty secret—sometimes it sucks.
Think back to when you were a kid. Everyone had the experience of being called upon to do something—like answer a math problem or read aloud—not getting it right and feeling pretty embarrassed. It’s easy to see why a kid in front of a classroom of their peers would feel bad, but many of us have carried an apprehension around learning into adulthood, even when we’re learning privately.
When we’re trying to learn something, let’s say a new piece of software, and it’s not going well, it feels bad. We know what the experience is supposed to be like, but we’re not currently having that experience, and there’s no one else to blame. If someone wants to give up on trying, they’re given ample opportunity to do so. The thing is, this is how learning always feels and we need to embrace it.
Remember, You’ve Been Here Before
Even the things we’re great at started this way, but along the path to proficiency, we’ve forgotten or discounted the difficulty we had at first. Once we’ve learned something that sticks with us we often say, it’s like riding a bike, but we never mention how hard it was to learn to ride the bike—a multiple step process involving teaching, encouragement and training wheels.
Benchmark Your Way to Success
Part of the pain of learning comes from when it doesn’t go well enough to provide an inherent reward. If you are struggling to get through something, set your own goals. Write down a plan for what you’d achieve in a session, whether that’s getting to a certain point or working for a certain duration. The important thing is that you set an achievable goal for every time you sit down. Hitting those per session will serve as their own motivation and before you know it you’ll have chipped your way through a massive boulder.
Having someone who’s already adept with the thing you’re trying to learn is invaluable—unfortunately that’s not always possible. Finding someone else who’s willing to try learning along with you can be a huge help. Since you’ll be learning together, you’ll likely be hitting similar roadblocks at the same time. You can talk through whatever your current hurdle is and hopefully find a way to think through the problem more quickly than if you had to tackle it alone. Or at least you’ll have someone to commiserate with.
Push Past the Feeling
No matter what lifehack you heard about, there’s no shortcut to learning. Being persistent is really the only way past that initial hump. If you don’t regularly challenge yourself, it can be harder to stick to something that’s causing you friction, when you know your more comfortable routine is waiting for you. Regularly confronting your knowledge and abilities with new pressures will help lessen the effect the discomfort of learning—some even find it enjoyable, like setting your eyes on a new jigsaw puzzle you just dumped out on the table.