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The Best Way to Learn is to DO

Here at YU, we talk a lot about the benefits that can be gained from trying new things, from pushing yourself and learning new skills, and there’s absolutely no doubt that it can open up opportunities and horizons that were previously closed to you, boost self-esteem and confidence, and give a sense of true purpose and belonging. There are so many reasons to get outside of your comfort zone, and rarely will you regret it.

Much of progress is about learning, and one of the best ways to do this is to DO it. Instead of just trying to learn the theory, or worrying about all the tiny details and wanting everything to be perfectly aligned before you begin, sometimes the best way is to try your hand and figure it out as you go. You’ll learn far better and more quickly by doing it - it means you are far more engaged in the process of learning, which makes it more likely that you will more thoroughly understand and retain the information and be able to apply it, and learn troubleshooting techniques along the way.

The thing is, this method is far more likely to lead to mistakes and failures. Which is all a bit scary, especially when you're building up the nerve to do something for the first time.


Dipping your toe into unknown waters feels very intimidating – we worry about all the possible ways that things might go wrong. What if we’re terrible at it? What if everyone else is better than us? What if we embarrass ourselves? What if we choose wrong?


It’s entirely natural to fear these things, and to want to protect yourself from feeling out of your depth. The easiest path is to avoid trying something different in the first place. This may well be safe and comfortable, but it’s also limiting and restrictive, with little chance for fun or exciting things to happen, or for you to grow as a person.


There’s a reasonable chance that, by taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, or pushing for a promotion, you could fail. Many of us will at some point, and this is difficult because, culturally, we set huge store in success. Everything we do, from exams at school, to pursuing careers, and even to what our children do for a living, is geared towards proving how high we can achieve, how good we are, that all of the effort was worthwhile. This means we tend to view failure as the ultimate disaster, the one thing we want to avoid at all costs.


But, whether it’s minor or catastrophic, failure isn’t always the terrible thing we build it up to be. It’s actually an incredibly helpful tool that teaches us how to learn from mistakes, meaning we can progress quicker and be more adept, determined and resilient. It also gives us a dose of humility, which (in small quantities) is never a bad thing!


It can be a skill in itself to learn how to relinquish control and approach new and different opportunities with a more relaxed view, where it isn’t the end of the world if it doesn’t go to plan. But if you can get to the point where you’re happy to give it a go without the pressure of it being perfect, it can be liberating. You might find that you can push yourself to try all sorts of things that you might never have dared to do before.


And once you can try things without fear, you can start to learn through trial and error just what it is that makes you happy, and perhaps even more importantly, what doesn’t. This is invaluable to make sure that we don’t spend our lives doing things that don’t really satisfy us, but we feel that we should do because it’s what others do. It also helps us better understand ourselves, what makes us tick, and how to reach and maintain a sense of purpose and fulfilment.



We would never advocate overloading yourself and trying dozens of new things all at once, as you could be setting yourself up to become overwhelmed and unable to apply yourself to anything properly. But taking small, manageable steps can be a great way to make big changes.


When you look back over life, you’re unlikely to regret the things you gave a go. As Albert Einstein said: “Failure is success in progress”. So, take a deep breath and just do it!

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