What’s the difference between “easy” and “difficult”? Have you ever had a friend or family member stand in awe after you do something you’re talented at? They may watch you cook a delicious meal, go ice skating, create a piece of art and comment, “I could NEVER do that.”
Here’s what I find most interesting:
Depending on the person, their set of talents and life experiences, two different people can view the same task as easy or difficult.
Sometimes the task is irrelevant. We’re the ones that place labels of “easy” or “difficult” on a particular action.
Here are three things that make the difference:
When things seem difficult, or we’re just learning a new life skill…we tend to look at every single detail involved. When we’re 3 or 4 years old, and just starting to learn written communication, we spend hours on writing individual characters. Entire classes and days of our life are devoted to penmanship, grammar, and writing. Now, it takes many people just a few seconds to sign their name in cursive. Complex skills become grouped together into units. The idea of “420 characters that take a long time to write” gets squashed into “sentence.”
- Past Experience
When we’re learning something new, I think our brains look for as much familiar territory as possible. It gives us a “home base” before venturing out into the new elements of the different skill. This explains why we learn solar systems using apples and oranges. If we don’t have “anything” that we don’t already understand, it takes longer to get our brains oriented. For example, computers don’t really have “trash cans”, but it uses a metaphor that already exists that most people understand. This also explains “culture shock.” There’s no “home base” anywhere we can use to start learning something new.
There’s a great book out now called “The Power of Habit” that talks about how our brains sometimes go on “auto-pilot” for items we’ve done repeatedly. It frees up of a percentage of our thinking to focus on other things. This explains why people brush their teeth or drive home without remembering it. If your brain travels the path enough times, it gets easier to focus on other things. I believe that’s how we learn, and difficult things begin to seem easier.
What about you? What are some things you’ve done that seemed tough or impossible at first? What made the difference?