Copyright 2006 Vivian Banta
Weve all been told that one should never stop learning, but so many times this concept is placed in the framework of fear. Keep acquiring skills so youll remain marketable is a frequent refrain for this generations workers. Stop learning and you start dying is another example of selling the idea using a fear tactic.
What would it feel like if you acquired a new skill as a way of doing something positive for yourself with no fear factor involved? What if you did it for the sheer pleasure of something new and unknown and mastering it gave you a boost of self-confidence?
When my clients tell me that they feel stuck or feel like they arent accomplishing anything or are afraid to take chances in other aspects of their lives, I frequently encourage them to acquire a new skill. The skill doesnt even have to be justifiable or add another notch to their resume. I simply ask them if theres anything that theyve ever wanted to try or learn.
At one of my seminars, Sara shared that she had just moved to town two weeks previously and that one of the reasons she had attended was just to meet new people. Sara said that she had recently divorced after more than 20 years of marriage and had left all of her friends and family to move hundreds of miles away as a way of starting fresh.
Although she initially found it to be quite challenging, she said that she felt empowered when performing some household tasks that her ex-husband had routinely done. She was inspired to attend a workshop at a local hardware store on how to hang pictures and frames, which included learning how to find the stud in the wall, how to determine the right type of anchor to use and how to use the tools needed. Sara said that she was so excited about the lesson that she went home and ran around and hung things in almost every room of the house afterwards. Not only had she acquired a new skill, but also she felt more confident about tackling other things in her life.
Sometimes acquiring a hobby can lead to new opportunities as well. At another seminar, John shared his experience. A company had downsized him after working there for most of his life. He had started the process of looking for work but had a bit of a cushion in the form of a severance package, so he started spending time in his backyard garden as a way to stem the depression and rejection he was feeling.
John had always done things like mow the lawn, trim the bushes, and gather the fall leaves but had mostly left the decorative aspects to his wife. He decided to try his hand at a small vegetable garden and discovered that he had quite the green thumb. Always the type to thoroughly research topics that interested him, John developed a keen interest in organic produce farming. This skill, originally taken on as a way to deal with the stress of his downsizing, became a full-fledged business that John now runs with his wife and two sons and their families. Talk about a confidence builder!
New skills dont have to take the shape of power tools and farming, though. Clients have done things like take music, dance and language lessons, learned to swim, gone parasailing, joined book clubs, learned a craft, etc. And almost every time, the outcome has been the same: the feeling that if they can do this thing, they can do anything they set their minds to do. What thing have you ever wanted to try or learn? What would it take for you to start today?