The Learning Process Broken Down (For Behavioral Change or New Skills)

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Everyone has learned new skills or changed behavioral patterns in their life whether they realize it or not.

This starts from the time we enter school at a young age to the time we die.

The problem is that without realizing it we are often programmed in ways that are not harmonious with a healthy and joyful life.

In order to achieve our goals, be healthy, and become who we are meant to be it’s necessary that we make many shifts in the way we operate throughout our lives.

Making these shifts is not easy and it often requires moving through pain and suffering but it is possible to change (given enough time and desire) if you understand how the process works.

In this post, I want to outline the process of learning any new skill or behavior so that we can increase the positive rate of change in the right direction instead of slowing it down or stopping it completely. 

1. Awareness Of Your Pain Or Problem At The Root Level

The first step is to be aware of a problem or pattern you want to change which is inhibiting your life from being what it could be or causing suffering.

Most of the time the reason people don’t change is that they don’t want to learn the truth of their present situation because in order to bring their problems into awareness it can be painful and scary.

This is because we develop an unhealthy ego that tries to protect us from feeling our pain. It tries to pass the blame on other people, seeks constant reassurance, and will pretty much do everything possible to shield you from facing your own fear and suffering.

The first step of any change is to be honest with yourself about your problem, to accept responsibility for it, and to completely accept yourself the way you are currently with all your flaws.  

You have to bring radical acceptance and radical truth to your current situation before any progress can start to happen. 

You have to start working on accepting and loving yourself just the way you are right now even if the truth of who you are is painful to bear.

2. Finding The Right Education And Learning How To Change The Problem

The second step for creating any meaningful change is to find the right education to learn how you can start to implement practices that will allow you to start changing your behavioral pattern or allow you to learn a new skill.

It’s critical that you find the education that will work at the root cause of your problem and not be just a temporary bandaid that allows for relief now but a worsened condition later.

Temporary bandaids can be very helpful and necessary at times but in the long run, the goal should be to work towards creating a change without needing to rely on a crutch.

This can be tricky because a lot of the products and solutions which are sold in the marketplace (by often well-intentioned people) can be poor or even detrimental long-term solutions because the business goal of the product is just to sell as much as possible and keep people using the product for as long as possible.  

Learning from the right educational source is important in helping to implement a new skill or create a personal change and learning from the wrong source can cause destructive effects.

Be careful who you learn from and who you decide to trust and make sure the people or sources you learn from have been able to accomplish the change or skill you are looking to acquire and they are not people who “just know everything about it”.

Experiential knowledge from actually going through the shift that you are looking for is way different than someone who has intellectual knowledge on the topic but has never actually done the thing you are trying to do.

This leads me to my last point in this step.

In reality, not a lot of education is required and it’s 100% possible to acquire the skill or make a change in yourself without intellectual knowledge of the subject. It’s not required and can often be another source of resistance. Someone who truly has the desire to make the change will figure out a way to make it happen whether they have education or not.

This is unless you are working towards a degree or certifications where knowledge of a certain technology or procedure is required.

So it’s critical to lean more towards experiential practice and learning as you go along practicing instead of getting stuck trying to understand everything before you even step in the ring and feel what it actually takes to make the change.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. And the person who deserves the credit is the one who is covered in blood, sweat, and tears and who is willing to put themselves in the arena to be criticized, judged, and fail over and over again until they make it happen.

3. Practicing The New Response Or Pattern

You have to have the courage to step into the arena and start practicing your new skill or behavioral change.

Start with small steps that get you into action.

It’s critical to remember that practice is practice. It’s not meant to get you a perfect result. It’s about doing something different than you have been doing which will be uncomfortable. 

Real growth and nervous system change happen through practice not through thinking about practice. The external and internal influences in situations have to be present in order to make any meaningful change.

It’s important to let go of the results and practice getting excited about the actual practice itself. 

Results take care of themselves when you let go of the thing you want and focus on the process instead.

Find a way to reward yourself for doing the practice itself so you can create a positive dopamine feedback loop based on the practice and not the future reward.

Lastly, your desire to change and become who you are meant to be has to be stronger than your fears. 

If the present situation you find yourself in is not painful enough or you are still somewhat comfortable this will prevent the change from happening because your desire will not be greater than your fear and the pain that the change requires you to move through.  

It’s great if you’re comfortable in your current situation and don’t really want to make a change but I think it’s important to understand that part of the equation because it’s necessary to make a change. 

4. Moving Through Pain, Failure, And Changing Self-Criticism

Developing equanimity and self-acceptance is the accelerator of change.

It’s inevitable that you will practice a new skill or behavior and you won’t be able to do it optimally at first or even for a while.

You will also face many setbacks and failures.

You may even face embarrassment, criticism, or judgment from other people.

You will find out real quickly how much self-criticism and hatred you have created about yourself because when you fail or are not able to do something and someone else is criticizing or judging you if there is any self-hatred it will automatically start.

You need to love and accept yourself enough to be ok when you are vulnerable around other people, to feel shame and fear around others, and to get to the point where the judgments of other people do not affect your own self-worth.

Self-hatred puts a stop to or slows down your progress.

In order to speed up your rate of positive change you will have to practice accepting and loving yourself for who you are currently. 

If that means you cannot do the thing you are practicing yet or you have an embarrassing issue, then accepting that and being ok with it is what you must do.

You have to trust that if you keep doing your best things will start to shift when the time is right.

This is not an acceptance of giving up. It’s an acceptance of “I’m proud of myself, I did my best, and I wasn’t able to do it, but I’ll eventually get there when I’m ready”.

If you need a break or some rest, then take it. Take care of yourself and allow yourself to make the change or learn a new skill in your own time.

Don’t compare your own progress with others.

Start to develop the trust and faith that if you give your best effort things will work out exactly how they are supposed to in the time they are supposed to take.

5. New Response Or Skill Becomes A Part Of Your Automatic Operating System

After you’ve practiced a lot, failed, faced embarrassment, criticism, lots of fear, gotten pissed off, and felt your own pain over and over again while working on a new behavioral response or skill your confidence will start to increase and the new pattern of being will start to become a part of your unconscious operating system that works on autopilot.

It’s like learning any new skill or behavior or even creating a software update.

At first, you have to consciously learn and practice the new things over and over again rewriting the old operating system code until it just becomes second nature and is established into the system where it then frees up your energy to focus on other things.

At this point, the change has been made. Congratulations, you have just done one of the hardest but most satisfying things in human life. You have upgraded your default mode of operation to a healthier version of yourself which allows for more freedom to be who you truly are. 


That’s how I see the basic process of learning a new skill or making a behavioral change.

Another important thing to consider is that there are certain cases where genetic differences or more permanent changes in your health will create much more difficulty in making certain changes or learning certain skills.

This is where you have to play with the cards you were dealt, find the right skills to learn and changes that you can uniquely make, and get the help that is required to help you progress along your own path.

I hope that you will have the courage, self-love, and determination to become the person you were meant to be and to shine your light in the world.

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Josh is a writer and entrepreneur who runs a small digital content publishing business. His main interests are in topics related to developing personal and financial freedom. When not working he enjoys reading, yoga, surfing, being outdoors, meditating, exploring, and hanging with friends.