I have a confession; I am a kook.
If you don’t know what a kook is, you’ve probably not tried surfing – or you have, and you’re one too. A kook is a beginner, who makes stupid and often hilarious mistakes.
A kook is the person that probably tries their best, but has limited knowledge and it shows. A kook is most certainly, and irrefutably, me.
Recently, I have taken up mountain biking. Last summer, I took up surfing. I am good at neither of these. My favourite past-time has always included hard rock, and boulders.
Unfortunately, while some skills from climbing are definitely helping me beat my inital fears of starting something new, there are a lot of ways in which I am having to learn to use my body that I am not used to.
When used to sending hard in one sport, it’s easy to forget how to be a beginner. We become so accustomed to expecting the most from ourselves that when muscle memory doesn’t respond in the way we want, it is infuriating.
There is a pride that comes with earning your place in a sport, especially if it has been earned through accumulated hours and tough training sessions. Starting from scratch again can be soul destroying, and is no mean feat.
How can we accept these feelings of incompetence (Conscious incompetence, as known in psychology) and use it to our advantage, when that alone is uncomfortable enough to put someone off? The world of outdoor sports is vast, and it would be a tragedy to miss out on new experiences – pushing past the mental block is vital to improvement. Here are a few ways you can start your journey from beginner to more, without giving up before you have chance to really fall in love:
- Stop worrying about being good at it
- Share the experience
- Celebrate the small successes
- Learn to laugh at yourself
- Have fun!
Don’t think about being good at it.
As we grow, we’re inundated with an expectation of ‘natural talent’. Everyone has certain qualities that make some sports easier than others – but if we expect ourselves to out achieve our capabilities, we set ourselves up for downfall.
Don’t look at the people you ‘wish you were like’. They’ve earned the right to be that good, they’ve worked hard at it – most likely for years.
And they’ve earned the right to do so without your frustration at them, and yourselves, that you’ve not reached that level yet.
Instead enjoy the individual moments. Just be proud to be there, and trying. WE have no need to be good, but there is no point doing something if it is not fun. In a world where FOMO is becoming the norm, step outside that box and just enjoy joining in.
Share the experience.
The best thing I ever did for my surfing ability was finding someone else at the same stage of the learning process.
Previously I’d only surfed alone, or with someone so far beyond my capabilities that I felt I was letting them down when I inevitably couldn’t keep up.
Now I have a surf buddy that has as much funny as me, is happy doing the dumb stuff that I enjoy doing, and who I really enjoy meeting in the car park (Even at 7AM) before getting in the sea for a cold dawn session.
Friendships and groups can be massively motivating. They provide a social environment that will offer tips, goals and guilt on the days that you really don’t feel like letting your ego take a hit.
It gives you an environment to vent your frustrations, and a community to discuss successes. There will always be people around who are interested in your activity – and having someone else there can make the difference in you carrying on or not.
Celebrate the small successes.
When we become accustomed to big successes, we’re less likely to notice the smaller ones – this is a mindset that has to change when you become a beginner again.
It’s not about the end goal, it’s about the journey we take to get there.
Taking time to acknowledge every improvement will not only help you keep track of your progress, but will also keep you motivated to keep trying.
A success could be as small as getting out on a day when you really do not feeling like it. It could be hitting a PB, or going for longer than you have ever gone before. I have always argued that beginners have the most fun, because they progress the most and they care less. The easiest way to get hooked on a sport, and to stay hooked on a sport, is to keep this mentality.
Learn to laugh at yourself.
We’re all going to make stupid mistakes from time to time. God knows, I have made many over the years – both in sports I have experience of, and ones I am just starting. Anybody that says they haven’t done something dumb before, is definitely lying.
Rather than taking them to heart, the best thing you can do is have a laugh, shake it off and try again. One day, these silly choices will be the funny stories you tell in the pub with your new friends.
“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”
Just have fun
Wow, isn’t this the one we all so easily forget?
Life is so easy to take seriously. We need the right kit, we want the new gear, we like to see improvement after improvement and amongst it all the love of adventure and fun gets lost.
I know I am very guilty of being competitive. As soon as I start something new, I want to keep pushing myself to get better. That, in itself, is not a problem. It becomes more of a problem when we get disappointed, when we feel we are not achieving as highly as we should, when our expectations of ourselves are so high we cannot always match them.
This is when it’s time to step back, smile, and remember that it is all about the fun.
The reason we so often take to these sports is because we enjoy them. Whether it is the thrill, the adrenaline, or the social aspect, there is something addictive about what is essentially play.
Allow yourself to play, do dumb things, throw yourself about a bit, get dirty. Having fun is the best way to keep getting involved with a sport, and should never be forgotten.
Getting comfortable being a beginner really takes practice, and for some of us it will never come easily, but it does offer the perfect excuse to try as many exciting new hobbies you can possibly fit in to a 24 hour day. It can be scary, and sometimes have its disappointments, but being a beginner is the start of a journey that could lead to a whole host of possibilities. Despite the fears, it is not a feeling on an experience that I will be giving up any time soon.