Being a complete beginner at something is not easy for grown-ups. Children are much more used to this experience because there are so many things they face on a daily basis that they’ve never done before. As adults, we tend to avoid the uncomfortable experience of not having a clue about what we are doing. There is no doubt this holds us back. On a more personal note, I know it has held me back. I wanted to learn to speak French and decided to take a class. Learning a foreign language was always something that I just couldn’t get my head around and I had made a few attempts in my lifetime to learn, but always quit when it got too hard – i.e., when it felt like my head was about to explode. It was really hard for me; I would get to a point and think, “This is impossible!”
What made it so hard is my discomfort with being unsure and my inability to understand and speak words and sounds with any confidence. I felt so awkward having to speak out loud and my pronunciation and accent was always wrong. So I quit.
But what I know for certain now is that this period of discomfort and uncertainty is necessary in order to etch new pathways in the brain. As grown-ups, we want to think in the same ways and do the same things not because we are dull and boring (though this may become the consequence of doing that!) but because our brains have worked hard to develop a pattern (literally, a physical groove, or path in the grey matter of our brains). Our brains want to use the already established “path” to get things done. Learning a new skill requires laying a new path. It takes a lot more work to do this when one hasn’t learned something new in a while.
And also, our egos hate for us to “suck” at something. Newsflash: We are going to suck at something we are doing for the first time, particularly when we compare ourselves with someone who is accomplished at the thing we are trying to learn to do. Perhaps we can change the way we think about this. For instance, start thinking….”so what?” “So what if I’m really bad at this in the beginning. How could I not be bad at it; I’ve never done it before.”
Think of something you’ve always wanted to learn to do…..cook, dance, play a musical instrument, sing, knit, skateboard, learn a language, paint or draw….let yourself be uninhibited and come up with one thing you want to try. I have started to learn to play guitar. I do not read music and I’ve never played a guitar or any musical instrument. Yes, I suck. It has been seven weeks already, and I still suck. “So what! Who cares?” I am giving this six months, and if I am not having fun then, maybe I will consider quitting and learning something else.
Let’s have fun laying some new pathways in our brain.