What Science Says About Learning New Skills
Science proves this theory of skills learning, but with a slight twist. A study conducted by a team of post-doctorate neuroscientists at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Lost Angeles revealed that “variable practice improves the brain's memory of most skills better than practice focused on a single task.”
Variable practice, which asked participants of this study to practice the movements and related tasks of using their arms, challenged the nervous systems and brains and produced more retention and perfection of the skill.
Interestingly enough, participants who did the same singular and repetitive motion showed marked decrease in retention of the skill. This left scientists with the conclusion that when a new skill is learnt, the special prefrontal cortex of the human brain needs the added stimulation of approaching it in different ways.
What all this means is that you may be better off trying to perfect a new skill or task simply by trying it every day and using several different ways of doing it. Practicing a new skill over and over again makes the best sense.
How to Get Adept at a New Skill
Learning a new skill takes courage. This means stepping outside of your comfort zone and being vulnerable to mistakes. The good news is that the human brain picks up on new skills amazingly fast, enabling you to become good at a new endeavor in very little time. Here are some ways to become even better at a new skill.
- Make a commitment to succeed. The first step in being good at a new skill is overcoming the fear of failure. You can quickly move past this by making an honest commitment to yourself and others that you will prevail. Eliminate obstacles and think creatively about ways to move past any learning curve you may face. Never give up.
- Get a mentor to show you the ropes. Many people learn better by example. Therefore a mentor can put you in the right frame of mind and give you the support to learn a new skill. Lean on this person when you lose confidence, and seek encouragement when needed. But don’t take shortcuts; learn how to do things the right way the first time.
- Use a buddy system to learn. Peer pressure can help even the most stubborn of learners to succeed. Make a pact with another colleague to learn a new skill or take a class together. Use this as a way to boost each other’s confidence and be accountable to each other.
- Be consistent in your pursuit. While it’s OK to try several different ways of completing a new skill, the key to success is being consistent in your efforts. Take time out of each day to work on the skill or learn a new concept. Practice at staying focused on this skill until you become better at it.
To get good, really good at a new skill takes time. Be patient with yourself and give it enough time for your mind to grow accustomed to. Fairly soon you’ll be cruising along without even thinking about how hard it has been to learn. And you will look a lot better to employers who are looking for motivated people who enjoy learning.
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