Often when we have opportunities in life we’ll say, “Awwww I should apply for this job but I’m not ready yet”. Or, “I should join this soccer team but I don’t think I’m good enough yet”. Or, “I should do X experience but I’m not ready”.
Visualize this. Someone is learning to ski. They go down the little hill again and again and again. At first the little hill is a bit scary, but they quickly become accustomed to it. Yet, they keep repeating this now easy task over and over again.
They’re intimidated by the challenge the big hill has waiting for them. They want to keep doing the little hill again and again to avoid the big hill. At the very least, they think repeatedly practicing the small hill will eventually make the bigger hill less scary.
This may work on some small level, but it’s important to recognize that repeating easy tasks has diminishing returns. While skiing down the little hill may continue to be fun, the pace at which you’re learning slows the longer you attempt the same task and expose yourself to the same repeating stimuli. This is an important realization, but one you probably don’t want to acknowledge.
We like doing things we’re good at. We don’t want to hear that the best way to improve is to do the things we’re not fully comfortable with. It means we have to face our fears.
It means doing things that may feel awkward or uncomfortable to us. We may have to change our perspective or attempt to expand our minds in ways that are mentally exhausting or frustrating.
Put simply, reaching your potential is impossible if you only repeat a small number of tasks you’re already comfortable with. Of course, there’s a balance too. If you stretch yourself too far you’ll learn inefficiently.
You shouldn’t be studying CSS if you don’t know basic HTML yet. If you’re learning English you shouldn’t study words like ‘Abolish’ or ‘Accumulation’ before you’re comfortable with more basic vocabulary like ‘fast’ or ‘smile’.
Inefficient learning is the best case scenario of this approach as well. More likely, you’ll just give up. You’ll claim learning to code or learning English “just wasn’t for me”. Dangerous.
The best way to learn things, and the best way to expand your comfort zone is to do something one step or level beyond your current abilities.
If you’ve become comfortable with HTML, learn CSS. If traveling across the country doesn’t feel challenging to you, travel to another country. When giving a speech to 10 people stops being scary, give a presentation to 20 people.
Do the things that challenge you. Do the things that scare you. Before long, they’ll cease to be challenging or scary. Your abilities and comfort zone will have expanded. When this happens, you’ll know it’s time to move on to life’s next challenge for you 🙂