We’re All Beginners
Learning new skills is essential to grow and develop — it’s part of the whole human experience. But we are often thrust into the unknown without much of a guide to help us along. How do you approach a brand-new skill for the first time? How do you keep growing through the difficult phases, and how do you know when you’ve finally figured it out?
No one really teaches us how to be a beginner, but it’s a vital skill to get to mastery. As someone who’s been a beginner again and again to varying degrees of success, I have picked up some practical wisdom to help you along this journey. In this article, I’ll give you my best advice for tackling any new skill, no matter the skill.
Step One: Curiosity
You’re minding your own business when something catches your eye. Maybe you see something out in the world while running errands, or you hear a coworker talking about their weekend, or you stumble upon a cool social media post.
You know the feeling — your brain starts whirring, trying to figure out this shiny new puzzle. Over time, your interest grows and slowly intrudes into your day-to-day life.
This curiosity is key to learning new skills. Before you can effectively learn any new thing, you must be curious and interested in uncovering the workings of this new thing. That’s why school can be such a hit or miss for each individual — some subjects are horribly boring and difficult to learn, while others are endlessly interesting, making learning a pleasant challenge.
Step Two: Research
Now your curiosity is piqued, and you want to know more. At this stage, you could just jump right in and try learning from doing. However, I personally prefer adding in an extra stage: research. Not only does research tell you some of the basics of this new hobby, but it can also help you set realistic expectations for yourself as you learn more.
Once something snags my attention, I look it up online. I try to find visual inspiration, experts from social media or blogs, and watch some videos to get a better idea of this new interest. Sometimes my intrigue dies after the research stage because I realize this subject might not be for me. But usually, research gives me a taste for more, and my curiosity continues to grow.
Step Three: Begin
You’re interested in a new skill, and you’ve done the essential homework — now what?
At this point, there’s nothing to do but jump in. You might be feeling like you’re not ready, or you need to do more research, or something else needs to be done before you put the proverbial pen to paper…. but nope. There comes a point where the only way to move forward is to take those first shaky steps and figure it out along the way.
Accept that the first attempts at any new skill will likely be rough — after all, you are a beginner. Just relax and jump in. You’ll be fine, I promise!
Step Four: Make Mistakes
Once you’ve overcome the fear of starting, a new fear moves into its place — the fear of making mistakes. While this fear is completely normal, that does not mean you should let the fear dictate your decisions. Fear of making mistakes can slow you down or even halt you in your tracks if you let it cling to you. So how do you shake this fear?
My method is a simple but powerful mantra: Done Not Perfect.
It’s not a question of whether you’ll make mistakes but when and how many. Take a deep breath and repeat “Done Not Perfect” when you find yourself frozen in fear. I promise you that most mistakes will be no big deal. In fact, these mistakes will give you essential experience that guides you as you move forward. If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not learning new skills.
Think of mistakes as the blows of a chisel carving marble — chip by chip, they shape you into something truly remarkable.
Step Five: Keep Chasing Your Curiosity
At this point, you’re successfully on your way toward learning a new skill. Congratulations! You’ve learned how to be a beginner and take on a new hobby.
From here, the only way forward is to keep listening to your curiosity. Fear will regularly pester you with unhelpful questions like “what if things go wrong?” You’ll be tempted to give in to that fear occasionally, and you might even allow fear to hit the brakes.
But when you hear your curiosity whisper, “what if things go right?” it’s your job to listen and bravely push onwards.
5 Tips for All Beginners
From here, you can just keep truckin’ along and see what happens. But I have a few bonus tips for folks like myself who need a little extra structure or guidance to get where you’re going when learning new skills.
Set Goals for Yourself
Give yourself a goal to work towards and a reward when you succeed. This goal should be attainable and realistic for your status as a beginner, but it should be something of a challenge as well. On top of that, set a reward for yourself to help spur you into action as you work on your new skill.
Create a Vision Board
If you’re a visual creature, you might get a big boost with a vision board. Gather up images, quotes, and anything else that makes you feel inspired to add to a display. You might do this with a bulletin board, some cardboard, or a canvas. If you’d prefer a digital display, you can start a new Pinterest board, build a presentation, or set your screensaver as a digital collage.
Find a Buddy
Every hobby or skill can be made better with good friends. See if you can find others to be a beginner with you, such as a friend or family member. This helps you form positive connections around your new skill and develop an accountability partner to help you stay on track.
If no one in your life seems like a good fit, look for forums online or in-person events where you can meet like-minded folks. We’re social creatures, so finding a way to make a new skill social is a great way to make it stick!
Make a New Habit
Once the initial rush of a new hobby wears off, it can be tough to find that burst of motivation to get us moving. Instead of relying on this unsteady rhythm, set yourself up for success by working your new skill into your routine as a habit or regularly scheduled activity. You can do this with a 100-day challenge (there’s a free printable for this in the Fox Den!) or with a habit tracker. However you decide to do it, developing a routine is a solid way to keep building skills.
Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously
As you dig further into a new skill, you might find yourself setting higher expectations for yourself and getting more intense. There’s no problem with taking yourself seriously, but don’t lose that childlike curiosity and intrigue that got you here in the first place. Relax and be okay with laughing at yourself as you continue your journey.
A New Beginning
As long as you keep an open mind and follow these steps on how to be a beginner, you can tackle anything you set your mind to. Remember: everyone is a beginner at some point, even the people at the top of their game. We all must muddle through these first foggy steps to acquire knowledge and abilities, and we all must make blunders along the way.
As long as you approach this journey with curiosity, patience, and a little bit of bravery, you’ll do amazing. So the next time you hear the beckoning call of an exciting new hobby, remember these steps and you’ll be just fine.