How You Know a New Skill Is Worth Learning

The Takachiho gorge, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan

An unfair comparison

The biggest obstacle to feeling happy when learning a skill is when our motivation gets shattered because we compare ourselves to others.

There’s this strange idea among people learning new skills as adults that hours spent during childhood count less, or that those who struggled in the past are somehow lucky for not needing to struggle in the present.

If you haven’t sat through years of mandatory “dictées” and manually copying conjugation tables, you don’t get to tell me I’m “lucky” to “just know” French.

If the skill you’re learning involves you interacting with other people, then comparisons are probably in order. Just be reasonable in your criteria and adjust the expectations you set upon yourself.

Are you alright with not being mind-blowingly amazing, but just pretty good? Would you still enjoy your hobby if you’ll never be in the top 1% but can still make the top 10%? Look at the matter objectively, perhaps with the help of your friends and peers, and make a decision on what constitutes “good enough.” After doing all that, if you really know you can’t make it, giving up and looking for something else may indeed be the best way forward.

Setting the expectations that work for you

The other major obstacle to achieving long-term goals is the fear of not meeting our own internal expectations. I see this pattern all the time: A friend will set a super ambitious goal, convince themselves it’s doable, then lose motivation when things don’t go according to schedule.

Make the odds be forever in your favor

At the end of the day, investing time in a skill is basically a gamble. You set an expectation and bet hours of your existence on whether you’ll reach it. The riskier and more outlandish the bet, the bigger the satisfaction if you succeed.

Travel | Humor | Language | Society. Writing out of passion. Tokyo-based polyglot with a degree in human rights. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @alexstwrites.

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