It is a new year and a good time to begin thinking about the possibility of learning a new skill to add to your resume or CV, but the idea of adding more to your daily work and home schedule may just push you over the edge of being motivated enough to take on something new to learn. I think more times than not when we think about learning a new skill we do not take into consideration all that we have on our plate now and figure out realistically how we can make the time to do what it is that we really would want to. The problem is not being realistic as far as time to accomplish learning our new skill and we jump in with unrealistic expectations, which usually leads to failure.
A few years ago I wanted to learn Italian because my family is from Italy and I have several relatives that still live there that I had been visiting, but had to rely on my Italian speaking family to translate for me. I took one seven week course and was very overwhelmed because I only picked up a few phrases by the end of the course and thought to myself that I must be too old to pick up a foreign language. After really thinking it through I realized that I had set unrealistic expectations for myself because of all of the other things I had to do, (work, organization commitments, lecturing, family) and my learning capacity with the time I really could devote to learning Italian. So I came up with these three key steps to help me accomplish what I wanted to learn and at the same time be realistic about how I could do it, because I certainly was not going to learn to speak fluent Italian in 7 weeks. The key here is “I” for each person it will be different depending on your time, personality, drive, motivation, and difficulty of skill of which you are trying to learn.
1. Define: You need to define what it is that you want to do in detail. For me it was learn Italian, but did I need to learn to a level of a college scholar? No, I needed to learn enough to be able to get by and communicate with my family and friends in Italy that did not speak English (and that was not college level for the most part). I needed to learn to converse on a basic level first and then I would be able to add to that as time permitted. So whatever the skill is that you want to learn you need to figure out how much time you have to devote to it and to what level you want to achieve.
2. What will it take to accomplish your skill? How much time to master the skill you are working on? What educational tools or classes will you need to take? How much money will it take? How devoted are you to accomplishing this skill? Once you have written down the answers to the questions above you will be ready to move onto the third step.
3. Break down your steps above into bite-size-pieces: First you need to be realistic about this because this is where most people bite off more than they can chew. Unless you are under a deadline from your job to accomplish your new skill you can take your time to complete it without pressure, and you are apt to learn more without pressure. Set goal dates and what you want to learn by each of them, I personally go with smaller goals because when I reach them I am more motivated and if I reach them early, I can exceed them, which really feels good.
The real key in accomplishing new skills or accomplishments it being realistic with yourself, don’t make it hard, make it easy and enjoyable. As for my Italian, I have been taking private lessons once a week for an hour for the last 1 1/2 years. Am I fluent in Italian? Not hardly, but when I went to visit my relatives last September, I was able to understand and communicate more than I had been able to the year before. I was happy and they were impressed. I then took a three-month break from my lessons and started up again with just two lessons a month because that is what worked for my schedule this year. When I return to Italy in the Spring I will still be further ahead than last fall and I have done it at a pace that works for me.
What skill would you like to start learning this year?