This week, I become a mature student.
The front of the class, question asking, staying late type of mature student. It terrifies me.
In CliftonStrengths language, I am not a Learner. In the English language, I am also not a learner.
I love collecting information, interesting facts, small nuggets of joy (Input) – but learning something new again, from scratch with the expectation of progression is daunting.
When we were kids, we took up everything! Sports, playing instruments, singing, drama, dance and everything in between. Then we grew up. As adults we shy away from starting new things – mostly because we don’t want to be bad at things, embarrass ourselves or god forbid fail! There are a few things that compound this feeling:
Comparing ourselves to others, and then feel guilty when we are not as good as them.
We hide poor attempts – at drawing, painting, singing etc then give up all together.
When testing language skills, we chicken out of a conversation with a native speaker.
We judge ourselves by external validation, seeking others approval or praise.
However, I have decided to embrace my inner beginner.
Being a beginner is nothing to be ashamed of! Thanks to Tom Vanderbilt and his book, Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning, I am going to focus on the joys of learning and being a beginner by directing my attention to the following things.
Harness the power of the beginner’s mind.
There is a term called, expert blindness. The more you learn, the more closed your mind becomes. Your knowledge and assumptions keep you from seeing new connections. Trying something new, means you are unburdened by expectation, those fresh eyes means you can push past rote expertise and enjoy the opportunities.
If you know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.
Think about it like the discipline of science. Great scientists don’t keep working on things that have already been proven. They move onto the next experiment. Investing your time into the same thing over and over again is not learning.
Learn from the ultimate beginners.
Babies. Watching them learn to crawl, learn to walk, learn to talk – they aren’t afraid to fail. They don’t stop just because they failed once, twice or 100 times. They persist. Failing over and over again isn’t easy, but if it was – you wouldn’t be learning. The more you test yourself the faster you will learn.
Know the pattern.
If you have ever come across the Situational Leadership model, you will know the term Enthusiastic Beginner. This is when you are super excited about your new pursuit, low competence but high commitment.
Unfortunately, the next stage is Disillusioned Learner, this is when you realise things are actually hard and your awareness of your low competence now means you have low commitment.
For example: Think about taking up Tennis for the first time, super excited head off to your first coaching lesson full of beans.
Only to realise at the end of the lesson, that you are actually terrible and it's going to be a long and expensive summer of lessons before you can actually bear to play a game with your friends.
Enthusiastic Beginner followed by Disillusioned Learner.
Knowing the pattern, means knowing and expecting those feelings to arrive. Then managing them when they get there.
These are the things I am working on over the next month – embracing my inner learner. I'm curious, what would you try if you knew you wouldn’t fail? Maybe give it a go?
No matter what stage you are at, embrace it.
If you are a beginner, good for you.
Instead of feeling behind, own the beginner stage and take advantage of it.