8 Tips for Doing Hard ThingsOct 03, 2022
When you’re starting something new, whether it’s coding, a new career path, or a new hobby. It can be challenging and frustrating. Here are eight tips I try to keep in mind when I’m doing something new (and even when the thing I’m doing isn’t new, it’s just kind of hard or uncomfortable).
“Be patient, really?” Is what you might be saying to yourself right now. But yes, really, be patient.
Building a skill takes practice. You’re learning something, and it takes a little bit of time for new pathways in your brain to develop so you can retain and apply the new information. Also, you don't have to figure it all out at once. Learn enough to accomplish the task at hand and take it step by step as you develop your skills.
Let it be bad
You might not like the sound of this one, but when you’re starting something new, sometimes it’s going to be bad. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s amazing. Let me tell you why.
You need to practice the new thing you’re learning, and the first few times you do it, it’s not going to go so great. But, you’re doing it! AND as you keep practicing and make mistakes, you’re learning. It can be easy to give up the first time it gets hard or comes out badly, but if you can let it be bad and keep going, you’ll improve and progress over time.
Avoiding comparison is tricky, regardless of whether you’re doing a new thing or not. But try to remember that no one can do the thing the way you do, even when you’re starting out.
If you’re looking at other people’s work or success for inspiration, that’s great! There’s a lot we can learn from people who are a little bit ahead of us. But if you’re doing it and feeling bad about yourself or wondering why you’re not as good - that’s comparison. And (even though this is hard) we should really only compare ourselves to earlier versions of ourselves.
No one else is going on the same journey as you, and no one else is going to bring the same perspective you do, so there’s no one to compare to (plus none of us have it all figured out AND the life we present online is not reflective of everything going on behind the scenes).
Reflect and celebrate progress
Taking time to pause in your learning journey and reflect on your progress is a great way to remember how far you’ve come.
Think back to a couple of years ago or even a couple of weeks or days ago. How much have you learned since then? How much have you grown? What is there to celebrate?
With Schilling Data Studio, I post a business update to Instagram every month to celebrate another month of my business and help me reflect on the progress I’ve made. It’s hard running my own business, and while I really enjoy it, I don’t always take the time to reflect on the progress I’ve made. So these monthly updates help me do that and celebrate my accomplishments.
Take it step by step
It can be daunting to start something new, so as much as possible, break it into smaller and smaller pieces and then work on one step at a time.
When I participate in National Novel Writing Month, I break the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month into 1,667 per day and write every single day during the month of November. I’ve participated twice and both times I met my goal and written my 50,000+ word novel!
When you’re working on a large goal or task, break it up into steps and work on a small step each day (or each week, whatever works for you but try to keep a regular schedule so it becomes more of a habit).
Ask for help
It’s okay to ask for help. None of us know everything! It can be difficult to reach out for help sometimes, but it might help to remember that all of us were beginners at one time.
When children are learning to walk, one of the early steps is pulling themselves up on something. They ask for help from an object or a person in order to stand. If they didn’t have that support, it would take them much longer to be successful.
Asking for help and support means you can make progress faster.
Remember to rest and take breaks. I’m very good at focusing on a task, to the point that I don’t get up and take a break. But when I do step away, I come back with better ideas - suddenly I can figure out that bug in my code.
Taking a break supports rest and recharging, so you can come back to a task with new energy. That time away can also help you return with more creativity and new ideas. Especially if you’re feeling stuck (and hopefully before you get there), take a break - go for a walk, drink some water, snuggle your pet, read a book, take a bath, do something that feels nourishing and restful to you.
Doing something new is even harder when you're doing it all alone. Find a support community to cheer you on.
That could be a group of people who are also doing to new thing, or it could be friends or family members who you talk to about the new thing you're doing. In addition to this group supporting you when it gets hard and being a place where you can share your progress, it's also a form of accountability. When you tell someone else your goal, it makes you more accountable and therefore more likely to achieve it.
So there you have it - my eight tips for starting something new (or doing anything that’s kind of hard or uncomfortable). I’m still working on doing all these things regularly. What one will you try this week?
You’ve got this! As one of my favorite podcasts reminds us, We Can Do Hard Things.
If you'd like some support as you do a hard thing like learn to do data processing, analysis, and visualization in R, check out my online program Learn R With Me.
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