How to build any skill joyfully

50 week consistency challange

A new insight and learning every week
for 50 weeks.

Learning #11 - 5 ways to increase curiosity

December 24, 2022

Curiosity is our strong desire to know or learn something.
This is one of the most important ingredients of ‘building skills’.

But why bother being curious? Because it:
- Activates the mind
- Increases creativity by catching new ideas
- Makes you experience world from different perspectives
- Motivates in going deeper into a domain with joy

Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat in this age of information; it only makes the cat sleeker and stronger.

Here are 5 ways to increase curiosity.

#1 Listen without judgment
Don’t categorise people into ‘types’ and make assumptions. Listen intently to grasp their worldview.

#2 Learn how to think critically
Dig deeper. Reduce things down to reality. See similar patterns with other things. Learn the skill of thinking. It’s fun!

#3 Don’t label something as boring
Whenever you label something as boring, you close one more door of possibilities. See it as a door to an exciting new world.

#4 Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
If you have an attitude to learn something than to look smart you will always be engaged in your mind.

#5 Make time for curiosity
Be intentionally curious. Take a day in a month to question your goals, beliefs and assumptions. Are you doing things you shouldn’t be doing?

Learning #10 - Intelligent Resting

December 14, 2022

I always thought rest is idleness, unproductive and a waste of time. I was absolutely WRONG!
Intense automated learning happens during REST.

Just like our bodies, our brains need to rest, too.
Deep rest is when most of our new learning is cemented into our brains; strengthening the neural connections necessary for the formation of long-term memories.

What counts as Rest?
Combination of 4 factors: relaxation, control, mastery experiences and mental detachment from work.

Relaxation is a state of low activation and increased positive emotion and is personal to each one of us.
It doesn’t have to be totally passive. It just shouldn’t require much conscious effort.

An activity counts as rest if you get a feeling of control… where you have the power to decide how to spend your time, energy, and attention.
Going shopping when you hate it won’t qualify as rest for you.

A restful activity is one where you at least have a partial sense of mastery over it.
The challenge level of the activity shouldn’t be to the point where it’s agonizing. Like solving a crossword puzzle might be rest while cooking a 7 course dinner might not.

You are at rest when you are completely detached from your regular work and responsibilities.
This may mean disengaging from your phone, including texts and social media.

To get more rest you have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.

Learning #9 - Practicing Patience

December 07, 2022

The biggest ingredient of building a skill is Patience.
Patience, as I understand, is the capacity to accept delay, difficulty or irritation without getting angry or upset.

Patience is crucial because
- It makes you treat yourself with compassion and love and
- calms the mind for you to take actions objectively.

Here is my 5 STEP TOOLKIT to practice patience:

Step 1: Realise that impatience is internal
When things aren’t going our way we tend to think that the cause of our impatience is external to us.
But in reality, impatience is our own response to circumstances we’re facing.

#3 Give yourself challenging memory targets
Try it out!
The more you indulge in remembering something challenging, the more attentive awareness your mind would need and the more focused your mind will be.

Step 2: Recognise the presence of impatience
Become aware of how impatience feels.
- Is your mind calm or agitated?
- Is your body relaxed or tensed?
- Do you feel comfortable or uncomfortable?

Step 3: Become comfortable being uncomfortable
Things will not conform to your expectations, plans and desires all the time. This will make you uncomfortable.
Accepting this transforms your relationship with discomfort.

Step 4: Practice patience
Start building the ‘patience muscle’.

Deliberately indulge in activities that make you impatient:
- practice the same music over and over,
- wait in a long queue,
- resist checking social media and so.

Step 5: Stop fuelling impatience
Stop concentrating on how wrong it all is, how difficult the situation is, how touch the practice schedule is.
Ignore this narrative.

Patience is solid power.
It is the power to have the control of of waiting, watching and knowing when to act.

Learning #8 - 7 Ways to build massive focus

December 03, 2022

Focus designates a state quality of the mental state, a quality of active alertness.
Only a mind that is focused can build and master a skill.

Here are my 7 ways to build massive focus.

#1 Be aware of your goal every moment. Focus means the state of a goal-directed mind committed to attaining full awareness of reality. A focused mind is aware of its goal in the moment.
So if the goal is forgotten then it means that focus has vanished in that moment.

#2 Resolve mental conflicts
A preoccupied mind absorbs nothing really.
Resolve mental contradictions and resistance instead of ignoring them. This relieves stress, frees up the mental space, ignites clarity and thereby increases focus.

#3 Give yourself challenging memory targets
Try it out!
The more you indulge in remembering something challenging, the more attentive awareness your mind would need and the more focused your mind will be.

#4 Avoid multi-thinking
And a mind without a clear purpose is a mind that is not focused.

#5 Write things down
Writing brings mental order as it frees the limited mental space. Write your goals, your doubts, your conflicts, your resolutions.
Writing is one of our biggest privileges. Use it to increase focus.

#6 Increase the stakes of failure
This is not my best option to build focus but it works…almost every time.
Make yourself publicly accountable or commit to give away hard cash if you fail to remain on track. This will force you to get focused.

#7 Stick with your interest
Interest is the most underrated and misunderstood emotion.
Doing things which interest you increases curiosity, enthusiasm and will to go deeper in the domain. Focus really is a natural byproduct then.

Learning #7 - 6 ways to use imagination for skill building

November 30, 2022

Imagination is one of our most unique ability allowing us to explore ideas that are not in our present environment or sometimes not even real.
Imagination can be used to build skills in these 6 ways.

#1 Creates new neural connections
Research confirms that imagining an act activates same brain regions as are involved when the act is done in real life.
So imagining playing guitar boosts specific neuronal connections and helps in grasping the skill quicker.

#2 Increases motivation
Positive future thinking increases expectation of achieving a goal and hence increases motivation to work towards it.

#3 Normalises delayed gratification
Our tendency is to choose short term awards over long term ones.
Scrolling instagram now is more tempting, as the reward is instant than practicing a skill as the award accrues in distant future.
Imagining being skilful connects you with your future version, hence, strengthens the mind in avoiding short term awards.

#4 Reduces stress
As per research, individuals who have vivid imaginations and are optimistic tend to manage life's stress better.
And a stress free mind learns new things more effectively.

#5 Increases focus
Imagination helps in shutting the external environment, moving the attention to positive, long-term goals.

#6 Increases creativity
The more you picture new ways of learning things, the bolder and clearer you become in expanding curiosity, creativity and action.

So imagination is a powerful tool for effective skill building as it:
- creates new neural connections
- increases motivation
- normalises delayed gratification
- reduces stress
- increases focus
- increases creativity

Learning #6 - 5 secrets of ‘Hope’

November 15, 2022

Massive scientific research concludes that hope is one of the single best drivers of pursuing a goal or building a skill.
As I progress in my skill building journey (week 6 of 50), I share 5 secrets of increasing and nourishing hope.

Secret 1
Hope is not a feeling or an emotion but a way of thinking.

Hope is a belief that your future will be better than today.

Secret 2
But hope goes one step further:
- Hope is a belief that your future will be better AND
- that you have the power to make it so
This is how hope is different from optimism or wishing.

Secret 3
Since hope is a way of thinking, hence it can be taught and learnt.
Once the science of hope is understood, it can be built intentionally.

Secret 4
Hope is about 3 simple ideas:
- goals,
- routes and
- will-power

From the moment you wake to the moment you sleep, you are pursuing goals in your lives. Goals are the future states we desire to achieve But there are two real questions to answer:
- Do you have the ability to identify routes of how to get to these goals? Do you have the control to problem solve and meet obstacles?
- And do you have the mental energy, the motivation, the will power to pursue that pathway?

Secret 5
There is a way to increase hope intentionally. If we build on these 3 ingredients, we enhance hope: - imagination - tiny successes - social encouragement

Imagination is an instrument of hope – we have to imagine ourselves in that future context.
Tiny successes of moving towards goals show us that the goal is achievable. Hence we start to transition from ‘I can not’ to ‘I can’ Hope is a social gift and grows faster when we receive encouragement from others.

Learning #5 - Finding Meaning

November 08, 2022

If you find meaning, a purpose, in the skill you are trying to develop then a lot of persistent joy can be experienced along the way. But what is meaning really? Here is my take at it.

I think meaning and purpose are the most misunderstood terms. They get confused with passion. Meaning is not passion really.

Meaning signifies a direction, a goal that provides a feeling of worth. And worth comes from achieving our values.

Values are ideas and convictions of what is important to us. These serve as guiding principles to our actions. Simply put values are what we want to gain or keep in our life.

Like you may value the idea of security and hence developing a skill that will give you the ability to hold a steady job will be meaningful for you and eventually give you joy. Similarly if you value creativity then honing a skill that fulfils that value will be the right way to move ahead.

While building a skill or an expertise we are bound to experience uncertainty, self-doubt, stress, dispair. If we define our ‘why’ clearly for each task we take up, we will get the reason and the motivation to remain on track.

Meaning helps in coping with these challenges. When we believe our actions, goals and struggles matter, when we have clarity of what we are deriving from a pursuit of a goal, we get a reason to regulate our behaviour in ways that helps keep us persisting and thriving.

To pick a skill that will give us joy, we must be consciously aware of what we deeply and really value. This requires total awareness towards our experiences in life, the consequent emotions felt from those experiences and the wisdom to classify and store all such information attentively in our mind.

Learning #4 - Harsh reality of Flow

November 02, 2022

Building and mastering any skill requires a lot of dedication and discipline. If one can get into a state of flow then the process can seem shorter and joyous.

So what is flow, how can we achieve it and what is its harsh reality? Here is my take.

If you have experienced a state where you were immersed in the situation or the task at hand, your mind did not wander and time became inconsequential you were in a ‘state of flow’ or ‘in the zone’.

There are 3 key elements to the state of flow.

#1: Flow is achieved when you are in complete focus, i.e. purposefully aware and directed towards the intended goal.

#2: Flow is achieved if there is a balance between challenge and skills. A task too difficult will overwhelm you while a task to easy will bore you.

#3: Flow would be long lived if you are intrinsically motivated to do something. It is the love of the activity that is motivating you rather than any extrinsic factor like appreciation or validation.

While it is ideal to be in flow, the reality is that to be in this state is rare, unpredictable and often not in our control.

So how can you remain motivated in times of despair, self-doubt, exhaustion when things get tougher or monotonous?

By clearly defining the meaning you derive from achieving your goal. As Friedrich Nietzsche said – he who has a ‘why’ can bear any ‘how’.

Clearly understanding why you are doing what you are doing will keep you inspired and if you experience flow every now and then, it will make the journey only sweeter.

Learning #3 - Understanding what joy really is!

October 14 , 2022

Building a skill is one thing and building it with joy and happiness, another. We may master many skills but this doesn’t imply that the pursuit was or will be joyous.

To understand how to build skills joyfully, it is crucial first to understand what joy really is. Happiness is much more than simply maximizing pleasure and positive emotions or minimizing pain and negative emotions.

‘Happiness is experienced when we achieve or are in pursuit of achieving our deepest values’

This really is the essence of life. This statement is so profound that it requires extensive introspection.

Joy is not succumbing to whims, urges, fears and impulses but pursuing excellence and the best within us. It involves a persistent pursuit of purpose.

Joy is motivation by love…love to enjoy that we value and not motivation by fear to escape a disvalue. For eg, happiness is achieved when we work hard to create something new despite facing obstacles instead of just surviving the day at office trying to escape getting fired.

We experience happiness by not avoiding or evading our mind, but from using our its fullest power.

We also feel motivated to act on the new insight.

Hence, it is not any random skill that will lead to joy but only that which matches our deepest values and brings the best within us.

The key to joy lies in a clear, correct understanding of our deepest core values.

Learning #2 - Understanding Inspiration

October 10 , 2022

Seeing the guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel play on Youtube filled me with a strong desire to play like him. I enjoyed the melody and his visible excitement. I felt inspired. But why? The question I want to delve deeper into is 'why do we get inspired at all?'

Here is my take on it.

The reason of such a state of awe lies in what one deeply values already. I, for example, value joy and expertise and fingerstyle guitar is an activity that I am interested in. When I saw a real person experiencing all that I value, it matched my core and aroused a feeling of inspiration.

So inspiration is an emotion that is evoked and aroused by something or someone and not initiated wilfully by us. Inspiration cannot be forced but it can be predicted if we get the logic of it. Let me explain.

You can get inspired by a magnificent sunrise or by a new idea. Thereafter, you might be motivated to paint the sunrise or undertake a new project based on your new idea.

That sunrise is just an event but what it signifies to you is what inspires you. Maybe it signifies peace or beauty or hope or strength. These are the ideas that you value already and when something or someone evokes those values, you feel inspired.

When inspired we get into a state of flow, as if time has stopped, at least in that moment.

We also feel motivated to act on the new insight.

When inspiration strikes it feels sudden, rare and mysterious. But if you dig deeper and recall other instances where you experienced such inspiration, you will see the similarities and will be able to draw generic conclusions about the logic of inspiration. The clearer you get about your values; the more predictable and logical inspiration will become.

So if you experience these 3 things all at the same time, you can call it inspiration: - you get an insight; - it takes you in a state of flow; and - motivates you to act This is when you are inspired.

To learn any skill joyfully, you must be mindful of the activities that inspire you. If you choose to build on those skills then the process of building the skills will be nothing but joyful. It will require a lot of effort and discipline though, but still will be joyous.

Learning #1 - It all starts with an 'aspiration'

October 10 , 2022

The journey of mastering any skill starts first in the mind with an aspiration. This is the genesis of any voluntary goal pursuit.

Aspiration is the desire, longing, ambition or aim of achieving something that is of value to a person. It is an optimisticfeeling that 'my life will be better than what it currently is upon achievement of the aspiration'.

We may not always make it to the finish line, at least in the way we imagined. But the desire of moving towards an aspiration enriches our daily lives.

In the process of reaching for the stars, we progress forward.

Aspiration is an emotional necessity that gives the motivation to aim higher. Our aspirations keep us going.

However, having an aspiration does not mean that it will lead to action or progress compulsorily. Reality, circumstances and our beliefs can often stall us into inaction.

Whether we act towards building a skill and achieving our goals will depend on the intensity of the aspiration. A weak aspiration is,at best, a fantasy.

Building and mastering a skill demands effort which is often uncomfortable. The only way to get started and then make progress is by having a strong aspiration.

If you are confused about which skill to master or whether you will move the needle in any significant way, then ask yourself this question: What do you aspire for and why? That is the start point.

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