How to Learn New Things in Adulthood


1. Pick something you fear but secretly wish you knew or could do.

2. Be sure the activity you pick has an enjoyable process for you. Don’t think about end goals. Since you will fail many times on the way to mastery, the activity should have something fundamental about it that you enjoy regardless of success or failure. If you’re miserable all the time, you should find something else to do.

For me, the timbre of individual guitar notes and the unique sensation of holding and playing a guitar trump everything else about this instrument. This keeps me going when I’m not playing as well as I’d like, or when I think about how far I have yet to go before I can consider myself a guitar master.


Likewise, drawing is satisfying on a deep, meditative level, while writing clarifies and organizes my thoughts.

3. Practice or learn every day. Stay focused on the process, not on end goals.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Being goal- and comparison-oriented is one of the fastest ways to quit anything.

4. Find a good teacher or coach to guide your efforts. Constantly improve your practice/learning sessions by staying attuned to the process and by seeking out instructional material.  As you master your chosen activity, you’ll learn so much about yourself, and about learning, that can be applied to the rest of your life.

5. Find like-minded, nonjudgmental others to learn, practice, or share with.  They will surround your chosen activity with context; they will breathe meaning into it.  Without this, it can be difficult to keep going.


2 thoughts on “How to Learn New Things in Adulthood

  1. it’s a joy to read your advice, each points hit some of my puzzles and put them onto the right place. Especially point 3: I classified myself as a goal oriented person and feel frustration from time to time if my goal is not met. Such negative feedback is usually out weight the positive feedback (i.e. I successfully beat my goal on time) so that I feel carrying tones of baggage when trying to move forward. I see the wisdom of focusing on the presence which free one from being dragged down by the past and being anxious about the future. Making the best of this moment seems to be the best thing to do at 80% of my time, leave 20% of time have some day dream or just being silly.


    1. Glad it helped, Paul! I used to be focused on end goals, too. It was difficult to achieve my goals with this mindset. I then became process-oriented and things became much, much easier.

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