If you want to be successful in life and business you can’t avoid learning new skills on a regular basis. You might do this by participating in courses, by reading books or through a coach or teacher.
What is the best way to learn new skills? A proven way to learn new skills is by choosing the skills you can act on right now and start doing it. This allows you to instantly practice what you’ve learned. The keyword is practice. The best way to learn is to follow these steps:
- Acquire the knowledge
- Create a process
- Take the actions described in the process
- Review the result of your actions
- Depending on the outcome, adjust the process
- Repeat from step 3
This sounds very technical, and in its base it is. Of course, there are other factors that come into play.
Whenever you learn something new, taking action on what you’ve learned will take you out of your comfort zone. It is new and you’ve never done it before. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to figure out, how far you can take it.
Once you practiced something often enough, it will become part of your comfort zone and you won’t think twice about it. This is what practice does. It expands your comfort zone and adds the things you practiced.
Early on in our lives, all of us needed to learn how to walk. It’s part of growing up. Once you know how to do it and practiced it enough, you will just do it probably never think about it again.
As adults, we can continue the same way, but adding another stage to the process will bring much better results much quicker. I am talking about “reviewing” the result and “adjusting” the process.
Let’s have a look at each step:
Step 1: Acquiring the Knowledge
Babies don’t really acquire any knowledge about walking. They might see others walk and are trying to do the same. That is how far it goes for Babies. This is not necessarily bad. Babies don’t think about what could go wrong or right. They just want to do it and they keep on it until they do.
For adults, this is often different. We try to assess things before we act on it. We are scared we might get it wrong. So we investigate all the ins and outs, looking for the little cracks that might give us a reason not to go for it.
In reality, all this assessment happens in our head and without real physical proof, we will never really know. That’s where the action comes in. For most things, the only way to really know if it is worth it is by starting it.
But it makes sense to learn from others who have done it before. There is rarely a point in reinventing the wheel. But keep in mind, whatever the others do might not work as well for you. So don’t get hooked on one specific way. Instead, learn what others did and know that you will have to learn it your way.
The point of this step is to understand and see what is possible and it works for others. This will prepare you for the next step.
Step 2: Create a Process
In one part, creating a process is about defining the pre-conditions required to act on it. At the other end, we need to define the post-conditions as well. What do we expect to get out of it? The rest is pretty much trial and error.
Creating your process of learning could take many shapes. Let’s say you want to learn a new language. You now know that the only real way to learn a language is by combining it with action. This could be a person you can speak to or a trip to a country where they speak the language. This would be the pre-condition of your process.
There is no fixed set of pre-conditions. It depends very much on your circumstances. Maybe there is nobody around who can speak the language you want to learn. Or you can’t afford to travel to that country. You just need to find the pre-condition that works for you.
Just one thing to remember: As more action, you have to put in it, as more and quicker will you learn.
To stay with our example, you know you want to learn to give directions in that foreign language. That is your post-condition. You will be able to give proper directions to another person. That is your measuring point.
I know, just giving directions doesn’t mean you can speak the language. But you might be surprised how good you already are speaking the language at this stage. Everything that follows will be much, much easier.
Now comes the action part.
Step 3: Take the Actions described in your Process
Once you pre-conditions and post-conditions are set, you’re ready for action. It is so much easier now to purely concentrated on the expected outcome.
For example, you meet with a person who speaks the language you want to learn and explain your expected outcome (post-condition). Now you spend one hour talking to each other explaining how to get from a to b.
I can promise you this will bring you a huge step forward.
Once you feel comfortable enough, you travel to a country where they speak that language and start asking people for directions. If you get it and if you can reply correctly, you’ve learned a lot in a very short period of time.
Because your learning was based on action, it ingrains itself into your brain and as you keep practicing, it will become automatic.
The important part is to have small sections to practice. Don’t try to write a book in that new language right from the start. Take small steps with clearly defined results.
Step 4: Review the result of your actions
If you have your process defined and your post-conditions set, you can easily measure your progress. As nearer you are to your post-conditions as more you have learned.
As long as you’re not completely off-track, you should see a real step forward within a very short period of time. as you surely heard before, practice makes the master. So keeping at it is vital for your learning journey.
Because you clearly defined your expected outcome you can much better see how far you came and you will see very early on if you go wrong somewhere. Just keep measuring against your set path and outcome.
Step 5: Depending on the outcome, adjust the process
If you feel that you’re not getting anywhere near your expected result, you might have to review your process. Maybe your expected result was far too high and there are just too many ways to get there and go wrong.
It might also be that, while practicing, you learned new things and started to realize that your goal is not clear enough. If that is the case narrow it down to a smaller part and continue with that smaller part. You can always expand as your knowledge and ability grow.
Step 6: Repeat from step 3
If you do something often enough you will get used to it and you form new pathways in your brain which become stronger as more often you practice. There is nothing new there. We all know we need to practice if we want to get good at it. With being good at it, I mean being able to do it without too much thinking.
Remember when you went to driving school? In the beginning, it was hard and complex. But the more often you practiced, the better you became. You had to think less and that caused less stress. It became part of your routine while learning something new.
Keep repeating your actions over and over. The keyword is actions, not just thinking. Always combine thinking with actions if you want to really learn something for a long time to come.
How do you learn the things you read in a book and put them into practice?
This is were mindful learning comes into place.
We already know that you will have to practice all the new stuff you learn to get good at it and to make it part of you. That requires you to know what you actually want to practice. If you read a book about business models or mindfulness, the knowledge itself is not good enough. You will forget most of it in a very short period of time.
You need to pick the pieces you can put into practice and start using them. Be proactive about it and pick the pieces which speak to you most and test them. Play with it. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, try another way.
This goes for anything. If you want to learn about communication, practice communicating. If you want to learn sales techniques, start selling and practice what you learned. Over time you will get better at it and you will find your own way, the one that works for you best.
Personally, books or teachings are merely guides to follow to find the way that works best for me. I would advise you to look at all of this the same way. A coach will never teach you what to do, but help you design your own way and method and help you practice until it is a proven skill and within your comfort zone.
Your comfort zone is the sum of your learning!
This is the easiest way to measure your learning success. In its essence, stepping out of your comfort zone is the process of bringing the knowledge home and through that expanding your comfort zone.
The answer to the question about how to really learn skills lies in the gathering of knowledge and making it yours through practice.
Next time when you read an interesting book with lots of advice and information, pick one piece and look for ways to put it in practice. You will quickly find out which way works for you best. Then keep practicing until you feel comfortable with it – and you really will have learned something new.
What are you going to learn next?