Treblemakers Music Blog

3 Nov 2017

What keeps us motivated when learning new skills

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I’ve learned a lot of things DIY where I didn’t have a class or structure that would keep me motivated artificially. Often times I need to learn things that I’m not DYING to learn in order to enable me to do other things I want or because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do the thing I needed. I’ve learned everything from bookkeeping/ Quickbooks, indesign, Photoshop, knitting, sound engineering, water color, etc. I work for myself so being self-motivated is a crucial skill. Don’t let anyone discourage you with unhelpful suggestions such as “you have to want it bad enough.” Your logical brain clearly wants it. Now you’ve got to get the other side of your brain (the amygdala ) that only cares about gratification on board. Btw, I recommend M.J. Ryan’s Book, ‘This Year I Will” for further reading on this phenomenon.

The best way to motivate yourself to learn a new skill is:

  1. Reframe the reason you want to learn the skill in a way that appeals to your basic instincts of pleasure and security. “This will be good for me.” Is not going to be enough to inspire you. You need a reason that this skill is going to give you something you want or feel good.

Example: Years ago, I knew that I really should learn some basic recording/engineering skills but it felt too overwhelming and not interesting enough so I kept putting off doing it. Finally, I realized that being able to record music whenever I felt inspired instead of when it was scheduled would feel amazing. I’ll never be a sound engineer for a living but once I got going I found I really loved the freedom and possibility it gave me to do the one thing I truly love, which is to be creative.

2. Make yourself accountable. Have a project you must complete using this skill or a place you have to show up regularly and work on it. Tell other people you’re doing it. Just knowing that other people will ask you about it will probably make you not want to have to admit you’ve done nothing.

3. Give yourself a project that you really want to do where you can use and practice this skill. Learning a skill and then using it to do something is an important part of learning. Having a project and a concrete use for your skill will also be more motivating.

4. Start with a small component. One of the biggest points of failure is feeling so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry if your first step is the wrong one. It’s better than taking no steps and will definitely lead you to finding out what you should do.

5. Schedule a regular time when you must drop everything else and work on it, preferably attached to another regular routine. Just putting in the time is an important part of being successful at learning something new and removing the decision to do it is crucial. It’s always easy to find a reason to keep putting it off if you have to make a choice every time whether you’re going to work on it or do something else.

6. Find a way to engage your interest. Your brain actually releases chemicals that help you focus and encode memories when your interest is engaged. For instance, I had to take a math credit for my degree but I don’t really enjoy math. I took an acoustics class to fill the requirement and aced it. I get to find out how sound works?!? Physics and Trig you have my attention!