Have you ever have passed on doing something new that interests you or could improve your life because you couldn't or fear you couldn't “get it right” right away?
We expect so much of ourselves.
An expectation I observe often is the belief that learning something new should be easy.
Underlying this belief is a judgment that not understanding something new right away means you are inadequate. This can show up in any context, from learning a new hobby or skill like tai chi or meditation, through to starting a new profession, a new position at work, or a new project, and even learning a new art form or language.
Often, this expectation reflects unexamined ideas we have of what it means to be worthy. These ideas shape our choices and limit our options. They also cause significant and unnecessary stress.
Have you ever considered what expectations you have of yourself that do not serve you?
Before you decide to pass on learning something new, or decide to walk away from an opportunity, here are a few tips:
1. Consider what your hesitation reflects
It may simply reflect a lack of knowledge. It feels daunting to be a beginner, thinking about the years of practice it might take to reach a level of proficiency.
It may reflect impatience – an unwillingness to put the time in to become comfortable with something new.
Or it may reflect a preference. For example, maybe you really aren't interested in engaging in something new that's going to take a lot of time and effort. It’s just not what you want at this time in your life.
But it could be something else – a fear that others will see you as incompetent and not so smart after all if you don’t keep up right away or know everything there is to know, a fear of exploring a new side of yourself, a fear of the unknown, and an automatic self-judgment about yourself and your experience. If so, it may be holding you back from an experience that could lead to real growth, friendship, and opportunity!
2. Think about the true range of benefits it can bring to you
The true value in the learning process is rarely limited to the information you learn or stature it may bring. The qualities in yourself that you cultivate through the learning process are often the greatest reward.
- What besides information will you learn by engaging in a new activity?
- To what extent will it cultivate qualities you seek, such as patience, empathy, resilience?
- To what extent will it develop other aspects of your life experience?
You may, for instance, feel like it is time to become less a competitor in the workplace and more a mentor. That promotion or project leader opportunity is a perfect vehicle but you hesitate to go for it.
3. Look for ways your overwhelm can be diminished or eliminated
If the idea of doing something new overwhelms you, reflect on ways that feeling of overwhelm can be diminished or eliminated.
If you do not want the responsibility and time commitment related to a promotion, for example, perhaps you can join a volunteer mentoring program. If you are intimidated by the idea of learning a traditional tai chi form, perhaps you can seek out a form of qigong or moving meditation that requires less training.
Be open to alternative ways to pursue your interests and goals without being disappointed that you are not pursuing the most aggressive approach.
An awareness of what is holding you back along with an understanding of why you are interested in the new endeavor and the full scope of benefits, both extrinsic and intrinsic, can help you decide which way to move forward.