How To Master Any Skill

Over time, you will acquire new abilities that will help you reach new successes in your career. Learning and growing is something you want to continue beyond your internships and entry level jobs. When you develop a new skill, you shouldn’t utilize it half-assed. Practice the skill and perfect it. You always want to produce your best work to the best of your abilities.

According to best-selling author Greg Wingard (The Red Bucket Strategy and Guaranteed Success), your mind goes through six specific stages when mastering a skill–three in the “theory” segment, and three in the “practice” segment.

The Theory Segment

  • Unawareness: You are unaware that there is a skill to be learned.
  • Awareness: You realize you need to learn that skill.
  • Clarification: You understand what you need to do differently.

The Practice Segment

  • Awkwardness: You attempt the new behavior and find it difficult.
  • Familiarity: The new behavior is easier but still not automatic.
  • Automatic: You no longer think about the behavior but simply do it.

If you want to change a certain behavior, use these steps to make create a practice regimen that, over time, will make it automatic. With that in mind, here are five simple steps to carry you through all six stages:

1. Script the new behavior.  Write down exactly what you’d like your new behavior to be.  Be specific and make it quantifiable.  Example: I will make 10 cold calls every workday prior to 10am.

2. Practice it … perfectly. The homily “practice makes perfect” is itself imperfect.  In fact, “perfect practice makes perfect.”  To hard-wire a behavior, you must push yourself to repeat it religiously–and correctly.

3. Rebound and fix. You will probably stumble and forget at first.  Pick yourself up and keep going.  Don’t let a temporary setback turn into an excuse to fail.  Stick with it, despite setbacks.

4. Accelerate through mental rehearsal. The behavior will become automatic more quickly if you take extra time to imagine yourself doing the behavior, thus creating a positive outcome.

5. Make it part of your identity. Turn the behavior into a character attribute that’s part of who you are and what you value. Example: “I’m the cold-calling champion of the region.”

(via Inc.)