Go to any bookstore and browse the shelves and you are sure to find an abundance of self-help books. One good way to improve our lives and minds is by learning a new skill. However, change and commitment can be difficult to fit into our routines.  How can we help ourselves improve?

Learning a new skill is like exercising the brain and can help improve focus and memory retention. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Learning a new skill is like exercising the brain and can help improve focus and memory retention. (Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Think like a child

Adults are just as capable as children at learning a new skill, but children still seem more successful at it. Children don’t necessarily learn faster, but they are much less self-conscious than adults. When adults make a mistake, they are quick to call it quits for fear of failure. However, you won’t see a toddler stop trying to walk because they are embarrassed about falling. Find your child-like state of mind where you don’t worry if other people are watching, and you’ll be more willing to learn.

Don’t dwell on perfection

Focusing too much on exactness is discouraging. It will spotlight your faults when you need to be highlighting your progress. So lighten up and focus on what you are doing right rather than fixating on what may be wrong.

Commit yourself

Yes, you do need to practice! Be honest with yourself about how much time you can devote. Keep in mind that smaller increments of time will protect you from exhaustion or burnout. Once you have established your commitment, set aside a small chunk of each day or week where you focus on nothing but improving your performance.

Break it up

Author Josh Kaufman explains how you can pick up a new skill quickly in his book, “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast.” Kaufman suggests deconstructing your chosen skill into about three sub-skills. By focusing on these smaller goals, learning will become more manageable.

Define your goal

Figure out exactly what it is that you want to do. Be as specific as possible. Kaufman calls this setting a performance level. For example, instead of trying to attain something broad like learning a new language, set a performance level of having a simple conversation in French.

Break out of your routine and learn a new skill.  You can go big and try things like mastering yoga, a foreign language or a new musical instrument.  You can go small and start with testing out one new recipe, seeing a movie with foreign subtitles or learning the words to the perfect song. Whatever you choose, let it challenge your mind and allow yourself to learn from your successes and failures.

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