How Happy Is...How To Be A Beginner Again (5 Tips)

08/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

It is never too late to start something new, whether you're 75 and want to take up the piano, 55 and are beginning a new profession or 27 and think that you should know it all by now. Being a beginner takes enormous courage, as so often it leaves you vulnerable. But we all could do with having the guts to be a novice in at least one endeavor, as that means that we are constantly expanding our minds and becoming a more multifaceted person. Being a beginner isn't necessarily easy, as it means that you have to be prepared to take risks, which can be scary. But one thing is for sure, if you risk nothing, then you get nothing!

So here are some tips in how to do it.

1. Suck Up Your Pride.
Don't be afraid to be embarrassed that you don't know how to do something or are clumsy at it. These inadequate feelings can easily regress you back to school when you may have felt that you were not particularly brilliant at learning a subject. Whether it was a sport, which you may have had little ability for, or the French class, whereby languages weren't your forte. Decide that it doesn't matter that you don't know and keep your mind focused on the task ahead. If it makes you feel better, every now and then, you can remind yourself that your teacher is probably not great at the things you are already great at.

2. Your Gifts. Keep in mind all the things that you do know how to do extremely well and remember that, at one point, you were a beginner at those as well. Think of the most positive learning experience you have had in the past, whereby you picked up the skill really easily and enjoyed learning it. Whether it was that you loved learning how to cook, play tennis or do yoga. What was it about your attitude that made it easy for you to learn? Keep the same positive thoughts in your mind as you learn this new task.

3. The Second Stage of Learning
There are four stages of learning which you have to go through in order to learn anything, and it can be very helpful to know what they are, so that when you reach the challenging second stage you can essentially be aware of what is going on and persevere anyway. Even when you learnt to crawl, walk or read, you went through these stages and there is no way you can skip any steps.

The first one is when you're unconsciously incompetent. This is when you don't know how to do a task; you haven't even attempted to do it, or, in many cases, haven't even thought about doing it.

The second stage is the hardest and requires a lot of effort to push through to the other side, it is when you are consciously incompetent. At this point you will be most tempted to quit and most people do. You begin the task and recognize that you are not very good at it, i.e. you have your first driving lesson. This stage is like an emotional roller coaster ride, as it brings up all sorts of feelings, embarrassment, anger, vulnerability, you name it. But if you get through this time, then you will reach conscious competence. Now you can do the task, but you have to stay really focused on it, i.e. you have learnt to drive, but you can't have the radio on and no one can speak to you.

Then the glorious final stage is unconscious competence whereby you drive from A to B without even thinking about it, in fact you don't even know how you got there, but your time effort and dedication has paid off.

4. One Step at a Time. Always hold your vision up of what you want to achieve and, as you keep that in mind, put one foot in front of the other and do what you need to do in order to get there. I like to use the analogy of going from A to Z. A is your starting point and Z is your vision. In order to get to Z you have to go through B, C, D, E F, G, and all the way through the alphabet without skipping steps. It takes time to get proficient at anything, so be patient.

5. 10 Years From Now.
The last thing to remember is that most likely you will be on the planet in 10 years time, and at that point, you will be 10 years older than you are now. So you can choose to be extremely proficient by that time at the task that you are learning now, or you can choose to give it up and be ten years older anyway. So why not push through the difficult consciously incompetent stage and go for it, without letting your feelings of inadequacy nip you in the bud. Pass through this time elegantly and with grace.


That's it for this week and if you want to make contact with me please do so at sophie@howhappyis.com.