Learning something new can trigger fear, feel awkward and disorient us. Here are 7 tips to help you through the early stage.
My New Trampoline Skill is Scary
Today in trampoline practice I started to learn a back pullover. In a back pullover, you do a back drop from your feet, then push off to fully rotate backward and land on your feet. It’s like a back drop into a back roll. At least, that’s the best way I can describe it.
Here’s what one looks like, in the early stages:
I don’t have a gymnastics background, and learning these skills as an adult can feel awkward. Also, it’s scary. Some of the skills I do pose a real risk of physical danger.
Of course, anytime we learn a new skill it can feel uncomfortable, even if you don’t put yourself at risk physically.
As I fumbled around with my new skill today, I came up with 7 mindset tips that apply when learning any new skill. Here they are.
(1) Fear is natural
I’ve been doing flying trapeze for almost 15 years, and trampoline for about 10 years. People often ask if I still feel fear. Of course, I do. Every time I learn a new skill. I was definitely scared today. This skill felt scarier to me than others I’ve done. But I reminded myself that it always feels like that at the beginning, especially when I don’t know what the trick or skill feels like. The uncertainty creates fear. Eventually, it becomes less scary. In fact, after a few repetitions today I was over the fear.
(2) Work with a coach you trust
As I start to work on back pullovers, I’m learning the preliminary moves in safety lines. If it looks like I’m going to land on my head or crush my neck, my coach can pull on the rope connected to the lines to keep me safe. I fully trust my coach in this regard. If I didn’t, I would not be able to surrender to the process. Trusting my coach allows me to release my fear and teach my body the new skill.
(3) It’s natural not to know where you are — laugh about it
I did several repetitions of the initial move today. After each one, I laughed that I had no idea where I was, spacially. This is natural. In the beginning of learning a new skill, everything moves fast. There’s a lot going on in a short amount of time, and a lot of sensation to process.
It really helps to laugh about it in the moment. It reminds me that this is all an experiment and that it’s ok to figure it out as I move ahead.
I will admit that I tend to find it easier to laugh about this in the context of trampoline and trapeze, as opposed to new skills I learn in other areas of my life. Somehow, in other areas, I create an expectation that I “should” know how to do something better even when I’m first learning. But that’s just a story. Every new skill entails a process of getting our bearings.
(4) Focus on the feeling
To help get your bearings, you must notice where you are; you must constantly be thinking about it. In the beginning stages, this can be hard because everything moves very fast. I focus on feeling the sensations and noticing what I feel. I try to look at where I am and what my body is doing by instinct.
For example, today I noticed I was putting my hands up as I rotated backward and upside down, instinctively trying to protect my head. Even though my head wasn’t going to touch the trampoline, because my coach would pull me up with the safety lines, this is a good instinct.
(5) Time Eventually Expands
Everything moves so quickly in the beginning stages that it can be hard to tell what’s going on. As you become more familiar with the skill, time expands. Everything seems to slow down and you can see more.
Remembering this helps you keep your expectations in check. Realize that you won’t be able to see everything. Focus on what you can see, and what you do notice.
(6)Focus on where you are
Learning is a progression. In the beginning, it looks different from how it will look eventually. To learn this skill, I’m doing a very short landing, dropping to the trampoline bed in a cannonball position. This allows the force of the trampoline to do the work of pulling me over. Eventually, I will evolve it to more of a back drop, where I push over to land on my feet.
There are many ways to learn a skill, and it’s important to remember that everyone follows a different progression. The best way to maintain progress is to focus on where I am in my process, not on what the process looks like for others or what the skill will look like in a few (or several) months.
(7) Learn by watching it back
To help me get my bearings now, and eventually to help me improve, I film video. Reviewing the video helps me see where I am. Eventually, watching the video will help me see where I need to make adjustments.
But reviewing the video alone won’t help me get my bearings or improve if I don’t know what I’m looking for. In the early stages, when I don’t know what I don’t know, I need my coach to review it with me and direct my focus to the right areas for change.
What would you add?
What do you like to keep in mind when you learn a new skill? I’d love to hear some of your best mindset tips. Please share in the comments.
Hear more lessons from today’s trampoline practice in Episode 62 of My Circus Life: The Progress of Learning a New Skill.