Embrace Discomfort to Overcome Learning Plateaus

When you’re learning a new skill, you eventually hit a plateau where it feels like you can’t learn any more or get any further. It’s hard to burst through this plateau. As 99U points out, one of the best ways to deal with those plateaus is to embrace the discomfort and push onward.

The idea here is that when we reach a certain point we become complacent, and we stop pushing ourselves to try new things. This inevitably leads to weaknesses because we’re not learning anymore:

The plateau doesn’t feel like a plateau any longer—something foreign and uncomfortable. Instead that flat line becomes the new normal. This happens more easily than you might expect because of the way our brain adapts to stimulus…

To get things going again, you need exposure to new stimuli, but there’s where the rub is. Trying something new may not only fail to make you better, it might actually make you worse. In fact, you’re likely to get worse before you get better.

The problem is that getting better means putting at risk what you’ve already gained, and that butts up against a powerful human bias of preferring to avoid losses over acquiring gains, called “loss aversion.”

It’s a tough spot to be in, but as 99U points out, when you’re complacent, your decision-making is driven by fear, not a wish for discovery. Subsequently, you’re not learning new skills and trying new things unless you embrace that discomfort of being wrong again.

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