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How to Overcome the Challenges of Learning Something New as an Adult

It’s so much easier to learn as a child but here are three ways you can get over the challenges


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Joshua Idegbere

3 years ago | 3 min read

Childhood remains the best time to learn any skill.

Children’s brains are relatively better at grasping new skills and far more adaptable to learning compared to those of adults.

Children are more patient with failed attempts compared to adults. While they see failure as an opportunity to try again, as demonstrated in babies who learn to walk and falling over several attempts till they can, most adults interpret failing as final and as an excuse to give up trying.

Finally, children being dependent on adults for most of their other needs are less exposed to stress. Whereas, an adult is relatively self-dependent and bears most of his burdens alone. This exposes the average adult to varying degrees of stressful situations with little or no external help.

These factors contribute favorably to children being better adapted to learning new skills compared to adults who are at a disadvantage.

1. The Obsession With Overnight Success

Adults are quite illogical in their expectations: we expect too much over too little time: the overnight success myth.

In reality, mastering a new skill follows the slow process of investing so much effort with little or no obvious improvement.

The slow progress of the learning process could be very disappointing to adults who unlike children are tuned towards having overnight success. And so when the success doesn't come as they expect, most likely tend to give up the pursuit with the excuse such as, "it was never for me", or "I have outgrown the stage of learning this."

And more often than not, most adults give up on skills they could otherwise learn and get better at if they had just given up the obsession with overnight success.

Taking things slowly without expecting so much over a short period can be helpful.

An effective way to do this is to make more time available for learning by intentionally cutting off from less relevant activities watching TV and hanging out with friends just for a few bottles over the weekend.

2. Fragmented Attention

Success at any skill requires a certain level of focused attention of time and energy. Below this benchmark, mediocrity is inevitable.

Attention is a requisite due you pay to get better at any skill during the practice or learning sessions. That's why people are usually asked to "pay attention" to something if they desire to become successful at it.

The level of mastery at any skill is directly proportional to the level of attention to the skill. Attention, therefore, is fundamental to building a new skill and getting better at it.

But the adult has a problem with attention. It is something we are very terrible at. Scientists have shown that our attention span is less than that of a goldfish.

The challenge with our poor attention span is traceable to demands from family, work, and social responsibilities that equally fight for our attention. But mostly because of social media use.

The internet is physically influencing our brains.

As a result, the ability to focus on learning new skills and getting better at them drops. This leads to poor performance and demoralizing outcomes, which negatively affects adults' willingness to learn the skill.

Training your attention is a must to gaining mastery. Without the ability to discipline your attention and keep it where it should be, it is almost impossible to attain mastery of any skill.

Practice mindfulness. Write things down using paper and pencil instead of typing in your phone devices. Try using your less dominant hand to write. These activities that require you to slow things down can significantly improve your attention span.

3. Feeling Too Old To Start Something New

Learning new skills as an adult could be difficult, but not impossible.

A few months ago, I thought about improving my attention span. Writing with my left dominant hand makes so much impression on me. I liked the idea of being able to use both my left and right hand to write.

At first, thought too old to record any improvements with this skill. But after a few weeks of writing with my left hand, I am more than impressed at the result.

I wake up each morning wanting to try my left hands on a few drafts. And sometimes compete with my right hand for speed. It motivating.

If you are reading this, you are not too old to learn a new skill.

In fact, learning is very beneficial to that depressing feeling of being old. The new skill ignites life into your physical body and causes you to boom with health and wellbeing.

You are as young as your mind, and every new skill you learn keeps the mind younger.

Always Remember

The best time to learn new skills is while you were much younger. The second best time is now.

You can help the situation by cutting down on irrelevant activities to have more time for skills building; slowing down your thoughts as a way to get firm control of your attention and finally remember, you are never too old to learn any new skill.

Cheers to a better you.

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Joshua Idegbere

I am Joshua Idegbere and this is my column. Stories with actionable tips to help you make the most of your life, career and relationships. Welcome!


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