After many years in a successful career, I am nearing retirement, and I have more time to pursue other activities. My goals last year were to learn Spanish and learn how to play the piano, but I never learned either skill. I'm frustrated at myself for not making any progress toward my goals in the last year. How can I move beyond this place of being stuck?

Answer From Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Not making progress toward a goal of learning a new skill can be frustrating. And it can happen to everyone. You may have had the best of intentions and been initially motivated. But life can get in the way. A year or two can go by, and you may have made little progress. So, what can you do?

Here are some suggestions for making progress toward your goals, which can apply to goals for learning a variety of new skills.

  1. Make a rock-solid commitment to get better at your skill. You may need to make a conscious decision to devote a certain amount of time on the subject, such as one year, before making a final long-term commitment. There isn't usually a shortcut or quick fix.
  2. When learning any new skill — such as a language, a musical instrument, a sport such as golf or tennis, or a culinary skill such as cooking — it can be difficult to learn the skill alone. A coach, a mentor or an adviser can be crucial to maximize your talent.
  3. Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University, has popularized the concept of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice means getting out of your comfort zone and working with a coach or a mentor who can give you real-time feedback.
  4. Keep in mind the 10,000-hour rule. This rule, as described by Malcolm Gladwell in the book "Outliers: The Story of Success," states that if you can commit to 10,000 hours of diligent practice, you'll gain expertise in that skill. You might not become perfect, but you'll likely improve. However, to practice this much can require a commitment of many years, which everyone may not be willing to do.
  5. You may need to have consistent practice patterns that you can follow no matter the challenges and the issues that life throws at you. One example is the five-hour rule, which means to commit to a specific activity for five hours a week and have clear milestones for progress. Committing an hour a day to your skill can be a good general guideline.
  6. It can also be important to identify a specific goal. An upcoming piano recital, a dance performance or a cooking contest can be real motivators to get better.

So, you may need to make a commitment, practice, have a coach or mentor, and have specific goals to learn skills and make progress toward your goals.

With

Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Nov. 14, 2020 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. 3 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  2. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  3. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  4. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  5. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  6. Bone health tips
  7. Cancer-prevention strategies
  8. Cellphones and cancer
  9. Colon cancer screening
  10. COVID-19: How can I protect myself?
  11. Plastic surgery
  12. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  13. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  14. COVID-19 travel advice
  15. Different COVID-19 vaccines
  16. Do adults need shots
  17. Don't save leftover pain pills
  18. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  19. Fight coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission at home
  20. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  21. Hand drying
  22. Hand-washing tips
  23. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  24. Home Health Hazards
  25. Brown fat
  26. How social support spurs you
  27. How to take your pulse
  28. How to take your temperature
  29. How well do face masks protect against COVID-19?
  30. How well do you wash your hands?
  31. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  32. Investing in yourself
  33. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  34. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  35. Lost in Space
  36. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  37. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  38. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  39. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  40. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  41. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  42. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  43. Personal health records
  44. Personalize your wellness journey
  45. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  46. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  47. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  48. Good posture tips
  49. Back exercises
  50. Proper lifting techniques
  51. Travel Safety
  52. Using if-then statements
  53. Vaccines for adults
  54. What are superbugs?
  55. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  56. What is thirdhand smoke, and why is it a concern?
  57. Air purifiers and smoke