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Chapter 3. “How can I Learn the Skill of... > The Three “A’s” of Skill Acquisition

The Three “A’s” of Skill Acquisition

  1. Awkward

    It’s true, isn’t it? When you first try something, you usually don’t do it very well and it feels awkward. Remember the first time you rode a bicycle? Maybe you didn’t go very far and your ride would have probably ended in a crash if someone wasn’t there to support you. Instead of getting frustrated though and giving up (“I’ll never do that again”), you were reassured that awkward performance is to be expected. It’s the very natural first stage of learning. You wanted to be able to ride that bike, so you kept trying. Because you did, you progressed to the next stage:

  2. Applied

    At this stage, if you applied the techniques you learned, you got better results. In handwriting, you focused on how to shape your letters and you were able to write legibly. In swimming, if you remembered to keep your head down, breathe to the side, stroke your arms and kick your feet, you were able to stay afloat and get to the other side of the pool. If driving a car with a gear shift, you were able to get around a corner or accelerate from a stop sign without stalling the car. If you persisted through this stage, you arrived at that wonderful final stage which is:

  3. Automatic

    At this point, you didn’t even have to think about what you were doing, it came naturally. Now, you could type the letters without even having to look at your fingers on the keyboard. In tennis, you didn’t even have to think “racquet back, eyes on the ball, step into it, follow through.” You just thought, “I’ll hit this one cross-court.”

    What do the Three “A’s” of Skill Acquisition have to do with concentration? When you start practicing your concentration skill-building exercise, it may feel awkward and you may not do it very well. Your mind may persist in wandering, or you may not be able to regain your train of thought after becoming distracted. Don’t give up! You’re just in the very natural first stage of skill acquisition. If at first you don’t succeed, you’re about average. This little exercise does work—if you do!

    Still skeptical? Ask yourself if acquiring this important skill isn’t worth an investment of five minutes a night for six weeks. Hundreds of people have found that practicing this exercise has enabled them to lengthen their attention span. They have developed the power to concentrate, despite distractions and disinterest. Perhaps most importantly, they have learned how to control their minds by mastering thought stoppage.



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