Ever been frustrated with something you are unfamiliar with? Ever struggled to remember something or fumble a chord progression or muddy the proportions drawing a nose on a face? Anytime you are struggling with or frustrated by something unfamiliar, you are learning. Depending on how you react determines what you will learn. Some things you learn to avoid. Sticking one’s hand in a pot of boiling water is not something most people will likely do, intentionally, more than once. Some things you learn to enjoy. Ice cream is a tasty treat that people look forward to. There are a few things that fall into the category that require a accepting some pain in order to enjoy the gains that come from a longer term discomfort. Learning to skate, speak a new language, or learning to draw are all things that come from this place of putting up with the discomfort in order to enjoy the pleasure of that new skill. This is what is referred to as discipline.
Mastery of a discipline does not come easily. It requires practice, patience, and frustration. Yes, frustration. Sometimes, a thing can be so hard that it feels easier to give up. Sometimes, as we improve, we feel like we are actually getting worse not better at the skill we are pursuing. The reality is that as we improve, we also become more sensitive to our own place in the greater scheme of the discipline. This leads to something called “impostor syndrome.” The reality is you are much better at what you are working on, but you are more aware of how much better you could be, others who are equal or better than you, or you have an idea in your head about what you think you should be. Frustration results from expecting yourself to perform a skill or have knowledge about a thing and realizing you are not yet skilled or knowledgable.
Frustration can be one of the biggest killers of motivation. Yet, without it, you can not improve. This is where discipline really kicks in. I tell our potential students that anyone can be creative. What separates professionals from everyone else is that a professional will be creative even when they are not motivated to be. I tell my students, “work through the frustration. On the other side is a eureka moment waiting for you.”
Understanding how to manage your “learning pain” is a key to learning success. You have to concentrate more. You have to ignore the distractions that tempt you. You have to continually remind yourself that you can overcome this pain. Once you do this, you begin to grow, develop and master the skill or knowledge you want.
So, the next time you are feeling unmotivated, frustrated, or just plain ornery about something new, ask yourself, “is this learning pain?” You might realize that you have an untapped reservoir of newfound energy and focus if you tell yourself, “no learning pain means no learning gain!”