No matter which skill you're learning - from painting to public speaking - the basic principles for mastering them remain the same. Read on to find out what you can do to better your chances at achieving your goals. Image Credit: Unsplash/Jonathan Borba

Are you trying to learn a new skill? Painting or a foreign language, for instance?

Click start to play today’s Spell It, where you can find the word ‘skill’ and learn how to hone it.

Self-improvement is a big part of how we grow and evolve – not just at work, but in our personal lives, too. But making up your mind to learn a new skill is one thing… sticking at it until you master it is a whole other ballgame.

According to a November 2012 report in US-based business news and features website Harvard Business Review (HBR), there are a few principles you can follow in your pursuit to develop a new skill:

1. Be ready

Before working on a new skill, it’s worth asking yourself if your objective is attainable, and whether you are in the right space in your life to pursue it. For instance, you may want to learn French, but you may not have the time and energy to go to a class after a long work day. Make sure you are in the right headspace, and have enough time to dedicate to your new commitment.

2. Know how you learn best

Some people learn by diving into a hands-on experience, others prefer watching demonstrations or listening, while still others prefer reading about it. Know what works best for you, based on your past learning experiences, and choose a similar kind of working environment.

3. Start small

While it’s commendable to have ambitious goals, at the beginning, it can feel overwhelming. Instead of trying to tackle everything head on, break down the skill into manageable goals that you can focus on – one at a time. For instance, if you’re trying to learn to be more assertive, HBR recommends focusing on speaking up more in meetings within the first five minutes.

4. Reflect on what you learn

According to American motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, who is also the author of the book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, you have to deliberate on what you learn along the way, in order to eventually master the skill that you’re learning. Sharing your goals with other individuals who can provide support and give you honest feedback about how you’re improving can keep you accountable and help motivate you to do better.

5. Teach as you learn

Most researchers find that one of the fastest ways to learn something new, and to practice it, is by teaching it to others. In psychological terms, this phenomenon is called the protégé effect. A 2016 study in the US-based Journal of Educational Psychology found that just the anticipation of teaching others helps people become more actively aware of their own learning process. So, share what you learn with your family, friends or colleagues as you do, to reap greater benefits.

6. Be patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you should expect skill-building to take time. According to HBR, it takes six months or more to develop a new skill, and even longer for others to notice or appreciate it – apparently, people around you notice only 10 per cent of every 100 per cent change that you make. So, be patient, and the day will come when you’ve mastered your new skill!

What was the last ‘new’ skill you learned? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at