I recently started a new project, which uses a tool I have never used before. It was interesting to notice how I deal with new things, learning to do something for the first time, and how I respond to challenges and roadblocks.

I am usually a very determined person and I have a growth mindset, i.e. I believe things can be improved and I can learn and change my behaviour.

However, I found myself struggling when I felt like I didn’t have a clear path ahead of me.

This is what I did:

  • I reminded myself of other times when I was a beginner and how I was actually praised on multiple occasions for being a fast learner
  • I took a step back and defined the steps I needed to take. This includes searching for information and educating myself online
  • I identified two people I could reach out to and ask questions to

Having a plan is useful because it means you know what you need to do. Any task can be broken down into small and relatively easy steps, so you should not feel overwhelmed.

In the moment it can feel like something is really tough and difficult to manage, but it’s key to remind ourselves that starting something new means the initial learning curve will be steep and that this is normal.

This situation and the frustration I felt reminded me of a podcast episode by Brené Brown, in which she discusses the topic and calls this type of situation an FFT, i.e. a F****** First Time.

Brené Brown is a research and expert on vulnerability. She defines it as uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure. Being new at something is the epitomy of vulnerability. The only way to get to the other side is to push through.

New is hard and we don’t like the discomfort. […] Sometimes we get so afraid of the vulnerability that we actually stop trying or doing anything that we’re not already good at doing.

When we just give up being new and awkward, we stop growing. And we stop growing, we stop living.

The more we’re willing to embrace the suck, and try new things, the more new things we’re willing to try.

And it’s not because being new gets comfortable, it’s because we learn how to normalize discomfort.

Knowing we have the strenght to survive those [though] moments […] is how we get braver.

She advises to do the following:

Name it and understand it. Recognize you are in an FFT. Discuss the situation with someone you are close with and acknowledge your feelings of disappointment and fear. “When we name and own hard things it gives us power, to effect change and achieve purpose

Naming your FFT allows you to do these three things:

  • Normalize the situation. Knowing this is exaclty what it’s supposed to feel like, it’s something that we haven’t done before. We don’t have previous experience to draw on, so it will be difficult and scary.
  • Put it into perspective. It will feel like it’s ok to struggle, since you are doing something new and that’s just how it is. The important thing is to know it will get better with practice and that some time in the future we will look back and think of how much progress we have made.
  • Reality Check expectations. With yourself and others. I am generally quite optimistic and tend to underestimate the time and effort required to do something. And actually, when you are doing something new, there is no way of knowing how much time it will take you to complete a task, of course. And since we might be very good in similar aspects of our lives, we tend to underestimate the effort for something new. Know that it will take time, that you will do many mistakes. Ask questions if you can, take notes and try and not repeat the same errors. Remind yourself that it’s normal for this to take a lot of time and that you will feel stuck multiple times

It’s very encouraging to think about this and to know that although being a beginner is tough, it’s the best way to learn and improve and that I will make progress and the discomfort will end.