On Patience When Learning a New Skill
by Megan Sy, M.A. M.S.
I recently decided that I’d like very much to learn Spanish again, after studying the language in college. I unearthed an old textbook and downloaded an app with the hopes of brushing up on my skills. However, it’s not going quite a smoothly as I had hoped. In fact, it’s going pretty badly and I am finding myself more and more frustrated and angry to the point that I have avoided working on my goal of 15-minutes of daily practice.
My emotional disturbance is caused by a slew of demands that I SHOULD be better already and that learning Spanish MUST come easily. This is an odd (and irrational) way of thinking because it’s really very silly to expect that developing a new skill should be easy; yet, I am pressuring and upsetting myself because of these beliefs.
Ellis once wrote that humans have an innate tendency to perform well and achieve success. After all, mastering a skill provides evolutionary advantages and many cultures cultivate the drive for high achievement. Ellis further writes that we can avoid emotional disturbance by “rationally fighting against characteristics and attitudes that are deeply ingrained.” That these beliefs are so deeply rooted in our nature and culture makes them particularly challenging to dispel, but it’s certainly not impossible. So while it would be nice for me to learn Spanish, or any skill, quickly and easily, there is no reason why it must happen that way. If I thought more flexibly about this, then perhaps I would be able to go through the process more patiently and effectively.