Five Tips for Learning New Skills When It’s Uncomfortable

'Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open.' ~ Thomas DewarClick To Tweet

I’m on a course this week. Learning new skills. And that’s great. I’m looking forward to it…

And I’m not looking forward to it. I’m an introvert! I’m sure that I’ll be asked to do something weird… Role-play with someone I’ve never met before, share something with people I’ve never met before, play a silly game to get to know people I’ve never met before…

Learning New Skills

But I know this is good for me. Somewhere deep down… I know.

I’m keeping an open mind… but I know I will be uncomfortable. Often.

So today I’d like to share with you my five tips for embracing the opportunities that present themselves for learning new skills… even when it’s uncomfortable.

Remember why you’re there

'The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.' ~ Terry PratchettClick To Tweet

The course that I’m doing is part of my plan – it will make me a better leader at work, and it will help me to change people’s lives through the power of transformational coaching. I will learn new things, I will test myself, I will meet people who will enrich my professional life, and I may even make new friends.

Learning New Skills

I am here because I identified this as part of my annual planning. I did my research. Intellectually I know that this is exactly what I need to do. Besides, learning is really important – it’s a fundamental aspect of my worldview – I promote the benefits to others, it would be pretty hypocritical not to walk-the-talk!

What about if you didn’t choose the training? It was chosen for you by your boss?

That’s OK. Do you love your job? If you don’t, you’ll want to try and do something about that. But if you do, focus on that. You’re there because you love your job. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Don your superpower

'Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.' ~ James StephensClick To Tweet

I am an introvert. Unknown experiences that involve other people… especially if I have to talk to them, like, one-to-one, freak me out.

Learning New Skills

Not like cowering in the corner “freaked out”, but worrying about it for the days leading up to it “freaked out”.

Curiosity is my superpower. If I focus on being curious and asking questions I find that my anxiety eases.

  • What will I learn about my own limits?
  • What can I learn about how other people respond to these situations?
  • What can I learn from how I feel before the ‘interaction/game/ice-breaker’ and how I feel afterwards?
  • What can I learn about the way the facilitators run the sessions (rather than the content itself)?
  • How can I improve my ability to handle tricky situations that make the introvert in me scream?

I find this takes the sting out of the anxiety. My curiosity takes over and compels me to get in amongst it!

Gamify it

'You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.' ~ PlatoClick To Tweet

Whenever I’m looking down the barrel of something that I’m not entirely convinced I want to do, I look for ways to make a game out of it. It gives me something else to focus on.

  • How many people can I shake hands with before morning tea?
  • How many people’s names can I memorise?
  • Can I find someone who has visited my hometown?
  • Or better still, lived there or near there?

Learning New Skills

The hardest thing for me is the apparently pointless small talk, but making a mental game of it AND focusing on being present in the moment so that I can actually listen and engage with the person I’m talking to means my brain is so busy it doesn’t have time to feel uncomfortable!

Change your language

'The limits of my language means the limits of my world.' ~ Ludwig WittgensteinClick To Tweet

When I’m anxious about something, I find that my inner monologue starts including a whole bunch of seemingly rational reasons why I shouldn’t proceed. In the lead up to this current training course, it included:

  • I’m not going to learn anything, I may as well not go – I studied most of this material at university, or I’ve read the books
  • Maybe this isn’t the best programme… did I do enough research?
  • There won’t be anyone worth meeting on the course

These are horribly unhelpful things to think!

Learning New Skills

So I turned each one on its head…

  • I may know a lot already, but this will include practical application, and new insights… the uncomfortable interactive bits will help make it stick
  • This is the right programme and the right time. Relax. Enjoy it.
  • I found this course and I’m alright! There’s bound to be others taking the programme who I can relate to and learn from. Even if I don’t make new friends, I’ll be richer for their input and interaction.

Wow! That’s an entirely different story! Where do I sign up!

It’s worth noting that doing this requires the mindfulness to notice your self-talk in the first place. Make sure you get started with that meditation practice I’ve been recommending!

Focus on the end result

'All action results from thought, so it is thoughts that matter.' Sai BabaClick To Tweet

I know that at the end of the process I’ll be better – fuller, more whole, more rounded. That was the point of doing it in the first place. Learning new skills.

Learning New Skills

In fact, the course I’m doing results in a certification, that will ultimately lead to an international credential. So I choose to focus on that. I want that, because of what I’ll be able to do with it. I want that, because of who I’ll be able to help with it.

But most of all, I want that because I know that in order to grow, I have to get uncomfortable – and learning new skills is the best way I know to do that.

 

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