You always did love to learn. Do you remember those swimming, painting, violin, knitting, crochet and sewing classes you took as a child? While your young mind was excited at the prospect of starting new things, you never managed to learn any of those things because you were quick to give them up after only a handful of classes each.
You did become much more determined in your teens and early twenties though and completed several courses. You took up a Desktop Publishing course, driving classes, the Arabic language, college, an IATA course a beginner’s salsa class and managed to complete all of them. But still, you were no master.
In your mid-to-late twenties, you took up several more things – two writing courses, a very short filmmaking course and university. Again, your determination (and the exorbitant prices you paid) led you to successfully complete all of them. Your knowledge increased but sadly, your mastery did not.
This year alone, you started several things with a hope to see them through. You took up the 2015 Reading Challenge, you joined the 5AM Club, you decided to teach yourself a basic conversational level of French and you even started a C25K running program. Even though you really did want to achieve these goals, they took a backseat and found themselves stuffed behind the closet where they haven’t seen the light of day. Do you see a pattern here, T?
It’s important to conduct a self-analysis of your failures at this point. The intention is not to make you feel terrible about your weaknesses, rather it is to get you to the root of the problem. Why are you so keen to learn new skills but not self-motivated enough to follow them through to mastery? In my personal opinion, your reasons for failure could be any or all of the following:
- Your ‘WHYs’ or the reasons for pursuing your chosen skills are unclear. Why do you want to learn French? Why do you want to wake up at 5AM? Why do you want to become a runner? It’s far more important to figure out the WHYs before you can get down to business. Write down the objective of all your goals first to cement them permanently in your mind. The ways to tackle it can follow later.
- You lack vision to see yourself using your skills confidently. Can you visualize yourself conversing with your French colleagues without faltering? Can you see yourself running non-stop for an hour? Keep the end result in your mind’s eye and see your skills become second nature to you before you even set out to accomplish them.
- You lack focus and determination. Do you remember your eccentric (but really funny and cool) Armenian Economics professor in college? He used to come to class with sunglasses and a hangover every Saturday morning screaming, “FOKUUUUS people, FOKUUUUS!”. His words make more sense now that you realize you seem to have a little bit of a problem focusing on the task at hand and lack the determination to follow it through. Not everyone focuses in the same way and with the same intensity and I feel the best way for you is to practice in short bursts at set intervals instead of at long stretches.
- You lack the confidence to immerse yourself immediately in your new skills. It’s okay to make mistakes T. Sometimes you take things too hard on yourself or feel embarrassed and shy away from learning because of a few mistakes and setbacks along the way. You feel like you want to learn everything first and then practice it later. But you need to keep reminding yourself that the best experience is gathered on the job and not in the classroom.
- Your interests are too varied. I think this reason is what best describes you. You feel like life is too short, the world is your oyster and you want to dip your feet in everything that excites you. Your right brain is like a child in a toy shop, excited at the prospect of learning creative things. Unfortunately, this is what often leads to what they call ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ where you get excited by the next thing even before you have completed the first one. Narrow down your interests to only a couple of things and focus on them with dogged persistence. Becoming a master at one thing is more valuable than becoming a Jack-of-all-trades.
- You’re easily intimidated by the size of your goal. Definitely true. You haven’t learned how to break down your goals effectively and follow deadlines which is one of the main problems. You have planned to fail because you have failed to plan. Again, this is very much linked to all of the above.
- You don’t know how to go about achieving it on your own. Outside the classroom, you don’t know how you will be able to do any of it. But remember just learning skills is not enough, applying them is more important. Once you have narrowed down your goals, try to read as much as possible about people who have done what you want to do or better yet, find a mentor.
- You’re a master procrastinator. Nope, this kind of mastery doesn’t count! You procrastinate because you lose sight of the goal. You procrastinate because you do not have a clear plan. You procrastinate because you get intimidated. You procrastinate because your old lazy patterns still rear their ugly heads. Sorry, but I had to get this out in the open!
Now that we have established and you have (hopefully!) accepted the reasons for your failures, the next step is to re-programme yourself to develop the mindset of a professional. Luckily, you already are determined at one thing which is continuing to blog and making it a success. Somehow, this blog is helping you in a conscious and subconscious way to overwrite all your old patterns and develop new ones. You’re no longer afraid to share your thoughts here, make mistakes and learn on the job. I think this is a great improvement.
I hope this note serves you as a good reminder and help you evolve into someone you can be proud of in the near future.
T, YOU CAN DO THIS!
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One thought on “Note to Self #6 – Be a Practitioner, Not a Giver-Upper”
Allow me to supplement the argument by proposing that there are 3 Ps to it: Passion, Perseverance and Possibility. The last one here is not in a restrictive sense, but a reminder of the fact that the first two help one to create the third one!