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Why feeling safe is the key to your ability to learn a new skill

As the volume and velocity of change continues to escalate, it’s become essential to continue upskilling and learning new skills to keep up to date and relevant in the workplace.

It’s true also in life.

A few years ago, I took up Cardio Pilates as a way of building and maintaining fitness.

I quickly fell in love with the reformer machine, the loud pumping music and the effervescent enthusiasm of the trainers who took the classes. I left feeling taller after every session.

But after 2 years of attending 2-3 times a week, I developed chronic low back pain and more worryingly, pain in my right leg that was sufficiently bad to keep me awake at night.

I sought advice from a physio who gave me some exercises, which made the pain worse, and sent me for a steroid injection in my bum, that did nothing.

So, I went to another physiotherapist who listened attentively to my story, examined me carefully and said she thought the issue was something different than what I’d been told, and recommended a different exercise to do at home.

Within 2 weeks I was completely pain-free.

Next, she suggested attending their reformer classes to learn how to do Pilates safely and correctly.

The difference being:

  1. I was allowed to work at my own pace. If anything, it was suggested I do the exercises more slowly!
  2. I was asked what I wanted to achieve from the classes and the regime designed to help me achieve my goal.
  3. Each exercise was matched to my physical condition. If I couldn’t do a particular exercise, it was suggested I lower the weight of resistance, or reduce the range of movement.
  4. I received continual feedback. When my posture was incorrect, a pair of gentle hands would guide me to the correct position and words of encouragement, “Good job!” or “Nice!” delivered when I got it right. I’ve always been a sucker for positive feedback, it makes me want to keep trying.
  5. I have always felt safe. There is always a check-in before we start to ensure there are no problems and the advice is to only exercise to the point of fatigue and no more.

What I’ve learned is that whatever our goal for wanting to upskill or learn a new skill, it’s about having the right person who keeps you always feeling safe, provides the appropriate resources and support and cheers all your wins.

It’s so much easier to learn something when it is delivered in a way that encourages curiosity, a willingness to try something new even though you’re not always sure it will work, and the shared joy of seeing your progress.

I may not be entering a Pilates competition any time soon but working towards continual improvement is what keeps me going back.

What have you discovered helps you to learn most effectively, and how does this translate to your workplace environment?

With grateful thanks to Megan, Annie, and Michelle.

 

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author specialising in mental wellbeing, burnout prevention and psychological safety. 

If psychological safety is something you’re interested to find out more about, why not join me in my May Feeling Good, Doing Great Masterclass that looks at what Psychological Safety is and why it’s so important.

You can find out more information here.

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