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 get closer to achieving your goals
  2. Make healthy habits stick
  3. 5 do's and don'ts for staying motivated
  4. 3 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  5. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  6. Energy management
  7. After COVID-19 vaccination: Is it OK to visit with friends and loved ones?
  8. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  9. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  10. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  11. Bone health tips
  12. Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread through food, water, surfaces and pets?
  13. Cancer-prevention strategies
  14. Cellphones and cancer
  15. Colon cancer screening
  16. Coronavirus safety tips for going out
  17. COVID-19: How can I protect myself?
  18. Plastic surgery
  19. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  20. COVID-19 and holidays
  21. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  22. COVID-19 (coronavirus) travel advice
  23. How well do face masks protect against coronavirus?
  24. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing
  25. Different COVID-19 vaccines
  26. Do adults need shots?
  27. Don't save leftover pain pills
  28. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  29. Find meaning in the small things
  30. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  31. Functional fitness training
  32. Overcome obstacles to your goals
  33. Healthy holiday habits: How to get back on track
  34. Hand drying
  35. Hand-washing tips
  36. Healthy habits that boost happiness
  37. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  38. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  39. Home Health Hazards
  40. Brown fat
  41. How social support spurs you
  42. Break the busy cycle
  43. How to take your pulse
  44. How to safely go to your doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic
  45. How to take your temperature
  46. How well do you wash your hands?
  47. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  48. Investing in yourself
  49. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  50. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  51. Liposuction alternatives
  52. Lost in Space
  53. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  54. Make over your mindset to make time for your health
  55. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  56. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  57. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  58. Medical family tree
  59. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  60. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  61. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  62. Personal health records
  63. Personalize your wellness journey
  64. Stick to healthy-eating goals at social gatherings
  65. Posture: Align yourself for good health
  66. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  67. New Year's resolutions
  68. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  69. Secondhand smoke
  70. Creating a wellness vision
  71. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  72. Good posture tips
  73. Back exercises
  74. Proper lifting techniques
  75. Stay healthy during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
  76. Stop multitasking and focus
  77. Telemedicine online doctor visits
  78. Thirdhand smoke: What are the dangers?
  79. Want good health? Build a solid base
  80. The benefits of gratitude
  81. Video: Travel safely for medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  82. Travel Safety
  83. Triclosan
  84. Using if-then statements
  85. Vaccines for adults
  86. Fight coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission at home
  87. What are superbugs?
  88. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  89. Air purifiers and smoke