How to keep going when you’re not good at something new
- Adopt a growth mind set
This is a crucial first step because you have to believe in your capacity to grow and improve, or you likely won’t allow yourself to keep going after your first imperfect attempt.
Psychology professor Carol Deck coined the terms “fixed mind-set” and “growth mind-set” over thirty years ago after studying thousands of kids and recognizing two opposing belief systems that influenced their efforts and their outcomes.
People with a “fixed mind-set” believe that success is based on innate ability—meaning you either have it or you don’t, and if you fail, it’s confirmation of the latter. It means you’re not talented enough, smart enough, or good enough, so there’s no point in trying any further because you’ll just make yourself look bad.
- Start small
When we feel a sense of accomplishment, it activates the reward centre of our brain, releasing the neurochemical dopamine. Because we feel good, we’re then driven to do more.
And the thing is, we don’t actually need to achieve massive success to feel a sense of accomplishment. Even a small win—like writing one section of a blog post or signing up for a class—can motivate us to keep moving forward.
This isn’t relevant only when pursuing passions and professional goals; the same principle applies with everything you might want to improve in your life.
If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, applying one lesson or tool from therapy or personal research can help you feel encouraged and inspire more healthy choices.
- Hold reasonable expectations
In order to start small, you have to be willing to let go of any unrealistic expectations about what you should be able to accomplish.
This isn’t always easy to do. We live in a culture that promotes extraordinary natural talent as an indicator of worth, and celebrates “overnight success” as the ultimate sign of accomplishment.
But the truth is, even people with natural talent need to work hard to excel at their craft, and “overnight success” usually happens after months and years of work that no one knew to recognize, because it wasn’t public.
So let go of the idea that you should be anywhere other than where you are. Release yourself from the burden of believing your current skill level says anything about who you are as a person, or what’s possible for you.
- Avoid comparisons
There’s a quote I love that reads, “Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twenty.” I’d extend this further to include, “Or someone else’s chapter one.”
It’s tempting to judge ourselves based on someone else’s capabilities or accomplishments, especially since they’re in our face all day, every day, on social media. But all this does is feed into our insecurities and doubts and leave us feeling inadequate and discouraged.
- Give yourself credit
A small win only has value if you acknowledge it, so stop and create some self-satisfaction by asking yourself the following questions:
- What did I do right or well?
- Why was this impressive or noteworthy for me specifically, based on my unique personality, past, and challenges?
- What fears did I have to push through to do this?
- In what way did this push me out of my comfort zone?
- Why is this small win actually a big win?
- What would I say to a friend or my child if they had a small win like this?
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