Have you ever like you aren’t improving at all? When despite your efforts and study, your skills remain stagnant? Let’s get you out of this rut and back on the path to improving.
First, we need to figure out if your perception of your improvement is accurate or if it could be clouded. Then we need to consider the methods you are using to try to improve. There are often some tweaks you can make to your methods that will get you moving in the right direction again.
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I never improve at anything… Is this really the case?
Your perception is never 100% accurate. What you perceive is subjective and tainted by many factors. Is it possible that you actually are improving but you just can’t see it? Do you have a good way to objectively measure your skill improvement? Is the lack of trackable evidence that you are improving causing you to doubt that you are making progress?
One major problem is that some goals are difficult to track accurately. The goals are ambiguous and the route to achieving them is not linear. For example, goals like, “I want to be strong” or “I want to be happier”. These are too vague and it is impossible for you to objectively measure your incremental improvement because you don’t have any clear milestones in mind. Goals can be so loose that it is hard for you to even define how you are moving along the path. Without being able to measure the goal, they are essentially meaningless and useless.
This is why having solid, clear goals with specific ways to measure your progress, like gaining 10 pounds or getting down to an 8% body fat percentage, is crucial. The more clearly you can define what it means for your goal to be hit, the more clear it will be when you reach these milestones.
Some improvement is impossible to track in the short-term
Some skills and talents are innately difficult to track. We are going to look at one of my favorite hobbies, jiu-jitsu, as an example but this can apply to many other skills.
In the case of a skill like jiu-jitsu, you will have ups and downs. Even though you are steadily improving over time, there are many variables that make your progress difficult to see clearly. Here are some of those variables.
- Your physicality is not consistent day-to-day – Some days you feel great. Some are groggy. Your diet isn’t the same every day and you might sleep more or fewer hours each night. Soreness varies frequently. And sometimes you are having to work through injuries too. Some of the factors are possible to manage, such as sleep and diet. But others are too fluid to measure accurately.
- Grappling with different training partners – This wildly changes how you will perform because your training partner also has the same variables. They could be having a good day, or they could be tired. And not to mention that they might train more or less than you. One day you might do well against one guy and the next day he wipes the floor with you. This will be different with each person you train with. Sometimes after a rough match, I feel like I don’t have any talents or skills in grappling anymore. But logically I know that this isn’t true.
- Sometimes you are in the zone – Have you ever been in the zone? It’s that state where everything is perfect. The moves are flowing effortlessly, you are executing your game-plan perfectly, and the timing of everything you do is right on target. You aren’t even trying hard or forcing anything but it all seems so easy. When you are in the zone you feel unbeatable.
But why am I terrible at everything?
Okay, let’s say that the skill you claim you’re terrible at is measurable and you are objectively bad at it.
There are two likely causes.
You aren’t putting in enough effort to improve
You have to be honest with yourself on this one. How much time you are spending practicing? Are you being realistic with your goals? If you aren’t training hard enough, you are not going to get good. You need a deliberate practice routine and adequate time to see noticeable improvement. This will vary from skill to skill. Consider how much work other people are doing in comparison to you. Are they putting in way more time? If so, it’s time to step up your game. You can’t say, “I’m not good at anything,” if you don’t put in the time and effort to actually get better. This is deceiving yourself.
Your method of improving is flawed
The other potential cause of your lack of improvement is that you don’t have a proper plan in place. Think about lifting weights. If you go to the gym without a plan for what exercises you will do, the amount of weight you will lift, and how often you will go then you probably won’t see progress. You can say that your “goal” is to get bigger and stronger but it doesn’t matter. If it is all haphazard training then it won’t be effective. The more organized your practice the better you will perform and see improvement in a shorter amount of time.
Or you could have a plan but the plan is not good. Let’s say you want to get better and speaking Spanish. So every day you wake up and count to 10 in Spanish. With a plan this flawed, how could you possibly ever improve your skill?
Not all self-improvement plans will have flaws that are this obvious. You may have to ask for advice from someone with expertise on the skill you are wanting to develop. They will have an easier time seeing the reasons why your plan may not be working and can answer questions you have about training. You can learn from their experience and use it to accelerate your own progress.
Once you have a good plan in place you can work steadily at improving your life.