In this how to improve in anything article you’ll learn how to lean into the learning to let your brain help you get better at everything!
It was springtime in Atlanta. Flowers were blooming and the air felt fresh. I had my hair tucked up under my baseball cap because I had the top down in my car. I was enjoying the fresh air and was excited that I was headed to a Pilates studio near my house for my very first Pilates lesson!
I decided to try Pilates after listening to a podcast about the science of Yoga and Pilates. True to my DISC Communication Style, which is almost 100% Dominance and Influence, I tend to embrace
change and make bold moves. So it's not all that surprising that even though I'd never done Pilates I felt pretty sure that I would be good at it. After all, I’d worked out
in some form or fashion for 25 years. I taught aerobics in college, I have a home gym that I use often and
I’ve read hundreds of books on fitness and nutrition. I felt sure that I would
be good at Pilates and that I would like it.
“Pilates training combats bad posture habits by teaching your body to naturally assume a
well-aligned, strong position. Pilates simultaneously strengthens
and lengthens your muscles uniformly, creating supple power.”
The Everything Pilates Book
Well, that would be a negative. I found out very quickly from my Pilates Instructor, Michelle, a former professional dancer who is very graceful and flexible person, that Pilates excellence is completely different from the kind of fitness I had been doing my entire life. In that first lesson, I felt like a fitness newbie. It was as though I had never lifted a weight or taken a tough fitness boot camp class in my life!
Pilates was very different. The subtle exercises, the breathing, the focus on body alignment and form, the unusual equipment and the varied movements - felt awkward. My instructor (who is a very good teacher) would demonstrate an exercise that looked easy and doable. She looked so graceful.
But when it was my turn, my attempts at the same movements, looked and felt goofy and stiff. While I liked the idea of learning something new, I hated feeling so unsure and looking so klutzy. After that first lesson, I thought about not going back. Why would I choose to put myself through this awkwardness?
“Regular Pilates practice energizes your body and increases its endurance by improving your
strength and flexibility, as well as your breathing, circulation and posture.”
The Everything Pilates Book
Then, I thought about all that I know about brain science and learning new skills. As a Professional Facilitator, I know that the best way to learn a new skill in the classroom or on the job is to work with how the brain learns. Ongoing practice, regular focus and incremental improvement, over time, is how to improve in anything. In fact my Wake Up Eager Daily Tips books are based upon the idea that taking small action steps, every day, leads to exponential (not linear) growth and improvement, what I call The Exponential Growth Principle.
How to Improve in Anything Tip: “Learning occurs best when information
incorporated gradually into the memory store than when it is jammed in all at once.” Brain Rules
My first attempts at Pilates felt difficult because it was a very different way of moving – my brain and therefore my body had not been trained in this way. If I wanted to get the benefits of Pilates, I needed to ‘get over’ my ego and my insecurity about how I looked.
Just like any other skill I’ve learned - I need to practice, practice and practice some more, until the new Pilates movements become ingrained in my brain and began to feel natural to me. I didn’t have to run away because I felt unsure and insecure, I just needed to Lean Into The Learning.
I went back to my graceful Pilates
Instructor Michelle and I kept at it. To make sure I stuck with it I signed up for workouts twelve weeks in advance. Months later, there were still a few awkward and klutzy moments
here and there, but sometimes I actually felt and looked a little
graceful! I noticed that I was stronger in my core, my posture improved (I felt
taller, really!) and I actually became very comfortable with some of the
'crazy' machines and tools we used!
What about you? Do you want or need to improve a skill or ability in your personal or professional life, but feel awkward? Do you just want to just quit sometimes?
We all have moments of awkwardness, frustration and insecurity when we’re learning a new skill or changing a habit. When you feel those feelings, don't quit. Just remember this powerful how to improve in anything tip: work with how your brain learns: Lean Into The Learning - practice, practice and practice some more - until the new skill becomes natural to you. Use this 'secret' for how to improve in anything and you'll be leading, selling or stretching like a yogi in no time!
This video demonstrates someone who Leaned into The Learning. This beautiful transformation represents
the power of regular practice and focus in fitness pursuits, in business
pursuits, in how to improve in anything!
Here's a little of the backstory: Arthur Boorman was a disabled veteran of the Gulf War for 15 years. He was told by his doctors that he would never be able to walk on his own, ever again. He stumbled upon an article about Yoga and decided to give it a try.
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