‘Cause You Can Get Better at Anything You Want

“Every man has in himself a continent of undiscovered ability. Happy is he who acts as the Columbus to his own soul.” - Sir J. Stephen

There is great life to be found in the realization that you can get better at anything you want.

Three years ago, I wanted to improve my writing… I started a blog. This past fall, one of my good friends wanted to learn how to shoot photography… she began asking questions of her photographer. This past Christmas, my sister wanted to learn how to sew… she sat down and received a starting tutorial from my wife. This past week, my 9-year old son said he wanted to learn how to cook… I showed him how to make a pizza.

Each of these examples had three things in common: 1) They wanted to learn something new. 2) They took an intentional step in their life to learn it. 3) And they discovered a new skill because of it.

Our lives are made up of desires – things we wish to accomplish. We desire to become better parents, better spouses, better painters, better speakers, better cooks, or better graphic designers. We wish we were better at reading, writing, cleaning, organizing, leading, counseling, golfing, swimming, interviewing, entertaining, or fixing automobiles. There are countless good things that we can add to our lives… and breathe new life because of it.

It can be helpful to be reminded that learning any new skill is a simple three-step process that holds true every single time.

1. We make a conscience decision to pursue it. This involves moving an idea from the back of our mind to the front. It includes a thoughtful, decision-making process (i.e., Is this new skill worth the effort? Will it improve my life?). It requires confidence, motivation, and intentionality. And it requires a breakthrough moment where we sit down and decide, “Yes, I’m finally going to do this!”

2. We remove competing distractions. Our lives are full. Learning a new skill should be fun, but it will always require time. And the more we wish to improve (or based on the complexity of the new skill), the more time and mental energy is going to be required. As a result, we must purposefully remove competing distractions. We seek to remove the correct distractions (television, video games, mindless Internet browsing, staying up too late, sleeping in too long, etc.) and leave the important ones untouched in our lives (work, our kids, our spouses, community service, etc.). And we carefully select the right seasons in life to add them.

3. We plan our next step and take it. If you are reading this blog post today, there are countless resources available to you online in almost every imaginable field. If you are in a community, there are likely numerous educational opportunities available to you through your local Parks and Rec. department. If you have friends, they have countless hours of training/experience in some very desired skills. And your local library likely holds at least one book relevant to any skill you’d like to learn. There is virtually no limit to the number of “next steps” available to us… we just need to select one.

So what new skill would you like to pursue in your life? And what is the next step you need to take to discover it?

Let me encourage you today to develop it. ‘Cause you can get better at anything you want.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve been telling myself for years that I want to learn Spanish. I already have the language programs to do it I just keep getting stuck at step #2 of removing enough distractions to actually do it. I’ve finally decided to make it part of my children’s homeschool lessons so I’ll be forced to learn it as well. I’m afraid of not being good enough at it, but if I don’t pursue it then I’ve already doomed myself to failure.

    • Vanessa says

      @Faith,

      I saw your post about teaching your children Spanish on the Becoming Minimalist site, and how you worry that you aren’t good enough at it yourself. I used to think that way too – don’t! I’ve studied a few languages on my own from books/CDs, and would like to someday teach my children as well. I used to think to myself, “–but what if I teach them to say things too formally?” “–but what if I teach them the wrong word for something?” Big deal! You are helping your children to practice thinking in another language – a skill well beyond vocabulary and pronunciation. Teaching your children to have fun learning a language is much more important than a couple wrong words here and there. Think of all the children who grow up knowing only one–would your children be at a disadvantage for knowing some “broken” Spanish? They’ll eventually learn that “caro” is actually pronounced “car-ro”, and perhaps every time they make the pronunciation mistake it will fondly remind them of their childhood Spanish time with mum. Good for you for taking the initiative to learn and teach it. I’m sure your children will thank you when they’re older, and be proud of their mum! :)

      - Vanessa

  2. says

    I hear people say “I am going to go back to school” all the time, and even at times when they just got done finishing a degree in something. What I really want to say to them is if you want to go do something, just go do it!

    I understand if you want to be a doctor or a teacher you will need an special requirements for that. If you want to be a writer just write! If you want to work with the public go do it. I think the education institute has made us believe we are not capable of learning unless we are at school.

    • Vanessa says

      I completely agree – there seems to be a widespread belief that if you want to be *anything*, you must go to post-secondary school. Too many people think that once high school is done, learning is done. It’s a shame that we are failing to teach people that learning is lifelong. I’ve recently decided I should be a writer, and all I hear is “What degree do you get for that? Where are you going to go to school? Writers don’t make any money!” I hope to write my first book about it: 1) universities are a business first, and an educational institution second. 2) students can do it themselves without starting their lives with massive debt. Stay tuned! lol :)

  3. says

    Very nice. It seems to me that people tend towards doing repetitive things. Some people do repetitive things that aren’t very nourishing, such as watching TV or checking email. If you can just replace the bad habits with some good ones, like practicing a new skill repeatedly, you can gradually change your life.

  4. says

    I read a quote the other day (I paraphrase)… “Everything we are able to do today, we’ve had to learn. It’s within our abilities to learn any skill. Determination and persistence are the key.”

    I’ve recently taken up running, with the plan to run a half-marathon later this year. Running is something I (literally) dream of, desperately wanting to do it, but fearful of sucking. Turns out all my “reasons” for not taking up running earlier were excuses, and indicative of the fact that I just didn’t give it high enough priority.

    My mindless time-wasting is at a minimum and my health is reaping the benefits. It’s awesome!

    • says

      Hey Brooke! Good Luck! You can do it. There’s only one sure way to learn how to run distance and that’s to run. It’s a perfect example of what can be achieved by building up gradually and sticking to something. It’s most certainly within your reach. I’ve ran a couple and have another in March. Last year I initiated an informal running group and a friend closer to 50 than 40 trained from scratch for a half in 3 months and completed it. She now runs with me 3 times a week and is the motivator behind the next one we are doing! Keep at it – just make sure you’ve got some decent running shoes! I’m not a spender but they are worth it!

      • says

        Thanks, Jo!! I actually thought of you as I started my running program, remembering you had done some half-marathons. Thanks for the inspiration!

        I can’t tell you how much better I feel already. Physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally. I’m more even and chilled and I have pride in the fact that I decided I “wanted” to do something and have now undertaken steps to actually learn how to do it. It’s really empowering!

        And I hear you on the shoes – mine are old and a little bit crap – just saving for a good pair.

        Thanks again for the inspiration. xx

  5. says

    I think my problem is I over analyze the things. For example, I love ceramics and took classes in high school. As much as I love that creative outlet, I hate knowing that I am adding to the “stuff” in the world. Granted some pieces can be useful like a bowl or plate, but even if I just donate that which I’ve created, I’m adding towards the consumption issue. It’s not like there is a shortage of bowls or plates. Yet, I still have a desire to create. It’s a conundrum!

  6. Hannah says

    - Megyn, why not consider that you are adding ‘stuff’ to the world that has been made with love and great effort rather than being churned out by a plastics factory. Someone will love what you make and it will also be unique. We should be protesting against badly mass-produced goods, surely, and not skilled crafts?

    I started longboarding in the last 3 months, I’ve never skated before. Most fun ever, you just learn not to care if people think you are rubbish while you are learning, because you’re doing it for you not them. In the past I’d have probably put it in a cupboard the first time I tripped up on my face – but I enjoy those moments because it means I’m learning something new.

    Also, I wouldn’t necessarily say that video games are a bad distraction… they can be a tool for learning and exploring in themselves and I also like to share game-playing with my siblings, so it’s time well spent for me.

  7. Teri says

    Awesome post! Last year I finally learned to swim… at age 39! Been wanting to do it all my life. I took 16 weeks of lessons at the YMCA. Now I can swim! Simple as that. And Kourtney is correct in her comment that you don’t need a formal school to learn something new. With the internet, books, and friends and family with knowledge to share, skills can be learned anywhere, anytime, and many times completely free. Always be learning!

  8. says

    Absolutely. It’s possible to learn to do anything you want. I don’t believe that it’s too hard to learn a language in adulthood or that some people aren’t cut out for playing a musical instrument. Devotion to the cause is all that’s required to do anything you want.

    Another great post.
    Gip

  9. says

    I love your Freudian slip, “a conscience decision.”

    A conscious decision is often based on our conscience, meaning we know it is the right thing to do. It may not be a morality issue, but it is a growth issue. We can’t keep expanding and growing in spirit unless we follow the prompts as to what we should learn!

  10. says

    Good post. I am finally reading many of the “great books” I had never read by making them part of my daughter’s homeschool curriculum. I still have a desire to write and have a blod started, but have not yet got into the habit of writing on a daily basis? Any ideas on how to get in the habit of writing?

  11. says

    Your post really hit home. It seems that the Lord gave me an “editing” gene that helps me to see mistakes in other people’s writing and I’ve often wondered how I could use this ability to please Him and serve others. Recently I cleared my schedule so that I could take an editing/proofreading course. It’s been so much fun to grow in this area, but I had to take step two to discover that.

  12. says

    On my hit list is to become a good photographer and write my first e-cookbook. Both go hand in hand. What I need to do to take the next step is to not just remove distractions but complete or abandon unfinished business. I also need better daylight in the UK but that’s something out of my control!

  13. says

    Two of my favorite piano students are “older” ones who have decided that they want to take the time to learn something new now that they are retired. Will they ever be well known accomplished performers? No, but they are both having the time of their lives getting up and playing at the recitals with the children and making music. I tend to get so caught up in life that I forget to make time to grow as a person, these two women keep me inspired!

    Thanks for another encouraging post.

  14. Kevin says

    Great post, Joshua! And very timely as well. These are excellent steps to remember. My number one goal for this year is to get my Instrument Rating and become a better pilot because of it. I never thought I would get my pilot’s license, much less be working on the instrument rating. But I got my license last year and am continuing the learning process! It’s a wonderful feeling to set a goal and achieve it. Thanks for writing like you do.

  15. says

    So many people (my husband is really bad about it!) talk a lot about what they’d like to do, yet never do anything about it. I think that on one hand, in reality they are just saying ” Wouldn’t it be cool to learn to fly a plane?” and they’re not really saying “I want to get my pilot’s license.”
    I think there is a big difference in admiring the awesomeness of something and actually wanting to DO that thing. I have had to learn with my husband that he doesn’t actually MEAN that he wants to do that thing. I used to get so frustrated because he was always saying these things and then never ever taking any steps to do them. Only when I realized what his language truly meant was I able to understand him.
    If there is something he seems truly interested in, I will encourage him. For instance, he got a fly-fishing lesson certificate for Christmas!
    On the other hand, Joshua, you are right. It is within our capability to learn to do almost anything we want to!
    Bernice
    Do your actions match your values?

  16. says

    That’s not too hard, now is it.

    Seriously, you did a great job at breaking down a journey towards something new. It really is as simple as following a few steps.

    What’s more, amazing things can happen when we follow through everyday. If you told me 8 years ago I’d have the business I have today and the kind of life that allows me to invest myself in what matters most…I’d tend to think it was impossible. But the truth is, it wasn’t all that difficult because I followed the steps you outlined above.

    Good job, Joshua!

  17. says

    Great post. I just have a hard time narrowing my interests down to a manageable amount. Then, I need to work hard on focusing on follow through. I think the important part for me is the “decision-making process (i.e., Is this new skill worth the effort? Will it improve my life?).” I need to focus more on that.

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