There are a lot of new skills out there to learn and you’ll hear a lot of different advice about how to master them. Some of it is good advice, some not so much. Here’s an effective guide for how to get better at anything.
Get a Mentor or Coach
Whether you want to improve at dating or at learning to code, getting a coach or mentor is one of the best things you can do. Somebody who has already mastered the skill will be able to teach you all the dos and don’ts from real world experience instead of just theory.
If you want to get better at lifting weights hire a personal trainer, if you want to improve your skill as a lawyer find a mentor who can help you out – maybe a retired attorney who you can meet up with and learn from. Nothing can replace a good coach or mentor on the skill-building journey.¹
Find the Balance Between Confident and Humble
When mastering a new skill it is vital to believe in yourself. But it’s equally important to remain humble. Even as you practice and work on a new skill – whether it’s cabinet-building or learning a new language – you need to remain open to improving and new information.
You want to be confident and not give up but you don’t want to make snap assumptions and assume you know everything and have plateaued when you actually have much more to learn. Being prematurely cocky will actually make it so you only partly master a skill and end up having an inflated view of your own talent level.²
Learn the Art of Patience
Wanting to see results is admirable and can be a good motivation as you learn new skills. But it’s very important to remain patient. Sometimes you will be learning a new skill and feeling like you’re getting nowhere. You might even be close to throwing in the towel.
Little did you know that if you’d stuck with trying for another week you would have had a breakthrough and become a talented pianist or a skilled gardener. It’s important to have patience and trust yourself to take the time you need to improve at a skill. With every drop of sweat you’re making a down payment on success: don’t just throw it away.¹
Understanding the Stages of Improving a Skill
Improving at a skill takes, time, focus and a knowledge of the big picture. Most skill improvement follows similar stages: improvement, challenges and frustration, further improvement and then reaching the apex of the skill.
As you begin improving a skill be prepared not to fall into the common mistake of only dabbling and giving up at the first setback, and also try not to become totally fixated and put tons of pressure on yourself and stressing and tiring yourself out at the expense of the rest of your life. Maintain a balanced approach to improving your skill and take it one step at a time, dealing as patiently as possible with challenges and not giving up.³
Track Your Progress – And Celebrate It
It’s a good idea to keep a journal or list of how you’re doing at improving your skill. If you could play five chords on the guitar last week and now you can play ten write that down. And buy yourself a treat next time you’re out. It’s important to set achievable goals for yourself and celebrate when you hit them. Good job!⁴
Give Yourself Time
This tip is linked to patience and understanding skill improvement. But it’s vital that you set aside enough time to learn a skill. If you wing it for five minutes a day you’re just not going to make much progress. Make a commitment to a chunk of time daily or weekly and stick to it.⁵