How to Be a Beginner: Again, and Again, and Again…
Photo courtesy of lethaargic.

How to Be a Beginner: Again, and Again, and Again…

Written by Emilie

Topics: Education

This post was written by Hannah Braime.

On my journey into multipotentiality, I’ve discovered that having multiple interests is both a gift and a challenge. The gift is clear: we get to live authentically, in a world full of possibilities and time spent doing what we truly love. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. The challenging side of having those possibilities, however, is that through exploring them, we’re repeatedly thrown back into the vulnerable, somewhat uncomfortable ‘beginner’ phase, over and over again.

This has been one of my biggest struggles as a multipotentialite. I want to gain experience in so many things, but find myself hampered at one stage or another by ‘beginnersitis’ – frustration at my (lack of) progress, temptation to give up, and a desire to skip the hard part and be magically transported to the stage when I can experience the fruits of my labor.

Learning to identify and accept my beginnersitis has helped me focus more on the positive aspects of learning a new skill. When I’m not distracted by how far along I should be, I’m a lot more in touch with the excitement, the challenge, and the satisfaction that comes with finally mastering that one tricky part.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful for easing myself into being a beginner:

1. Focus on doing little and often

Doing a little every day can help us transition away from the beginner phase in three ways. Firstly, it’s a more helpful way of learning. Instead of cramming in a huge session once a week, taking the ‘drip drip drip’ approach and doing a little practice or learning here and there each day helps us move from the “consciously incompetent” to “conscious competence” far quicker.

Secondly, doing little and often prevents ‘brain overload’. Learning a new skill is incredibly energy-intensive, and it’s easy to get burned out. For example, one of my current projects is learning Spanish. Right now I can talk to someone else for about 30 minutes before my mind starts going blank, I make rookie mistakes and I start wondering if I’ll ever get the hang of this language malarky. Recognizing I’ve hit my limit helps prevent self-doubt and frustration and makes for a much more fulfilling experience.

On a related note, doing little and often is a great antidote to resistance. When we push ourselves too hard, experience brain overload, or set unrealistic goals and expectations, being a beginner stops being fun and starts being frustrating. With every new challenge, we need to strike a balance so that our experience is weighted mostly on the ‘fun’ side. Otherwise, we’re less likely to feel motivated to continue, and more likely to experience beginner’s resistance.

2. Be gentle

However fast we get to grips with or improve a new skill is absolutely fine, because that’s how fast we’re doing it. We can’t change reality and we can’t expect to move mountains in the first few days. Like we talked about in the last paragraph, setting harsh or unrealistic expectations for ourselves is a motivation killer.

Being a beginner is a fantastic chance to exercise our self-compassion muscle and practise being gentle with ourselves. This kind of compassion is invaluable: it doesn’t just apply to new skills, but translates to all other areas of our lives too. The key is to make sure we’re working with ourselves, rather than against ourselves.

3. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal throughout the learning process is a great way to keep track of positive progress. Not only does it help you see how far you’ve come, but it also gives you an outlet for self-encouragement. If and when that critical voice pops up saying “Shouldn’t you really be better at this by now?” or “This is pointless, you’re never going to get it”, your journal will contain reams of proof as to how much you have achieved, and how capable you are at going further.

4. Share the experience

Several of my friends were interested in starting businesses at the same time, so one of them set up a Facebook group. We have monthly calls where we give updates on our businesses and ask for feedback. Even though we’re all doing very different things, it’s been invaluable.

Community is a powerful motivating factor. Not only does sharing your goals with others leave you publicly accountable, but it also enables you to get any support and encouragement you need from people who understand what you’re experiencing.

Try finding others who are also a beginner in your particular skill, or embarking on a different project of their own (the Puttytribe is a great place to start). Sharing your experiences, frustrations, wins and knowledge with other people can keep you motivated and speed up the learning process. Sharing your goals and desires with the people closest to you is also helpful. Public accountability alone is a great motivator, and the right people will admire your courage in stating your goals openly.

5. Celebrate the small wins

One of my biggest challenges in being a beginner is accepting and celebrating the small wins; for example, the first time I managed to hold a certain yoga pose for three seconds, the first time I learned about the Spanish preterit tense, selling a certain number of ebooks per month, or completing the first draft of my new book. These small wins might be far removed from where I eventually want to be with each of these projects, but they’re important milestones and deserve a mini-celebration.

Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the eventual goal that we overlook the small successes along the way. Taking time to acknowledge these will not only help you appreciate how much progress you’re making, but also keep you motivated to continue further.

Your Turn

What are your tips for overcoming the struggles associated with being a beginner? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

hannahHannah runs Becoming Who You Are, the guide to authentic living. She is passionate about helping people create the lives they want from the inside out using a rational approach to personal development. The author of two published books, she coaches and offers resources on authentic living through www.becomingwhoyouare.net. Connect with her via her website, on Facebook and Twitter @becomewhour.

12 Comments

  1. Arne says:

    Great posting, Hannah. It reminds me of a lot of struggle I had. Doing little steps and not complaining about not going fast enough is a good advice. We tend to get the great stuff as fast as possible (at once?) instead of setting small steps.
    I know it from dancing where my beginner students asking me “do we learn this funny things of volcadas and saccadas today?” and I have to say “No, today I try to teach you how to WALK. And in the advanced course AFTER the intermediate course you’ll learn those fancy stuff.” They are a little disappointed after I said this.
    And for a multipotenialite as we are we will be in this beginner phase again and again and …

    For learning a language, dancing or an instrument you can take the 1-5-15 approach. Record the first attempt to s.th., the 5th and the 15th. When you watch or listen to it you will find the advancement pretty easy. The difference between the 8th and the 9th is almost impossible for us to messure. But it is clear between the 1. and the 5., and comparing the 1. with the 15. you’ll get excited “Wow, I AM a LOT better”.

    @Emilie: I love your site. Makes me feel like not being alone with how I am, and getting motivated every time I read an article of you.

    Thanks to both of you :)

    • Hannah says:

      Hey Arne,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it and I love your dancing analogy – I think it’s true that a lot of us go into something thinking “Next week, I’m going to be doing it just like that woman on TV” and get frustrated by the reality that it takes years to get to that point! I also really like your 1-5-15 approach; I’m going to remember that next time I start something new!

  2. Andy says:

    Slow and steady wins the race. Thanks for this post. I am very prone to brain overload – I get myself very carried away when I find a new thing to start and totally immerse myself in it morning, noon and dusk. Thanks for the encouragements and reassuring words. Really needed at the moment as I’m juggling lots of balls, each of which I could spend days getting lost in. I’m getting better.

    • Hannah says:

      Hello Andy,

      I can definitely relate to what you said about immersing yourself in something, and how tricky that can be when you’re juggling multiple balls at once. I’ve found that while immersion can be helpful sometimes, at others it’s actually more helpful to use the drip-drip-drip method and take regular breaks from learning the skill. Some things need a chance to sink in before we can move to the next level, especially when we’re learning several things at once. It can be a challenge to balance the passion and enthusiasm for a new skill with a sustainable approach :)

  3. Steve says:

    Thanks for the post Hannah,
    I like your style keeping it to 5 short points :)
    It makes it a lot easier to process and keep moving forward!

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks Steve! I’m glad the short and to-the-point style is useful, I definitely find it a lot easier to remember the main take-aways from a post when it’s in that kind of format.

  4. Wonderful post Hannah. I am in a similar position myself. And you are right, it does help to celebrate wins, no matter how small. For example, every time I can recognize a new Chinese character I get a little giddy inside haha.

  5. George Cassini says:

    Sure Hannah is very frustrating start again and again, between mines 25 and 35 years old I studied all I could find about Karl Jung and today every morning my dreams are part of my breakfast. I think ( jung confirm ) that we are a kind of Peter Pan jumping and jumping from one site to another but in my 56 I’m glad resuming every little thing learned and even I have more projects in view after living 12 years in Canada ( born in Argentina) heading to Brazil as beginner in permaculture and Bamboo house construction. To all multipotentialites peoples I wanna said don’t worry if you give up again and again the most important will be with you, your experience of live.

  6. Wolf says:

    1. Get comfortable with errors and mistakes. If you are expecting to make a lot of mistakes, and you only make a few, you will be pleasantly surprised when, from time to time, you make fewer mistakes.
    2. When you make a mistake, say “Isn’t that interesting? I wonder what happened, and how to fix it?” This as opposed to what most people seem to do – “Well I made a mistake, I guess [whatever you are trying to learn or do] isn’t for me,” or getting all heated up and emotional about the agony of failing.
    3. Keep notes – as complete as you can, because you will NOT remember everything that is important.

    • George Cassini says:

      when every thing go with the wind nobody ask nothing , when something is wrong the questions come up and the learning start.

  7. bright barry says:

    VERY helpful tips. I only recently saw the need to acquire some skills to help me be the better me that i have craved for the most part of my life. Learning a new skill comes easy when your desire pull you. Its never a smooth sailing for a beginner..

Leave a Comment