Hello everybody, welcome to episode 204 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on how to regain lost skills.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Great to have you all back here with me today. And let me just say before we get into it that you and your support are the best gift I could’ve asked for this year. Nay, this decade. Yes, yesterday, March 7th was my 30th birthday and you all sure made the last part of my 20s very special. I just got gushy in episode 200 about how much I love all you people (and where I answered a listener's question about how to see the good in others).
So I’ll put a sock in it, but once again, thank you for being here and giving me a lot to look forward to as I begin a new decade and continue the crawl from quarter age to middle age.
And the first thing I’m looking forward to is our question for today! Great question coming in from a listener who finds himself not quite as sharp in multiple areas of his life as he was pre-pandemic. Listen closely to what he says and see if you can find the same pattern that I do. Here’s what’s on his mind:
QUESTION: “I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my focus since the coronavirus has forced me to stay home. I’ve been following guidelines and not seeing anybody for the most part. This is hard for me since I’m someone who was always around people before. I’ve been keeping up with my work fine and gotten used to working at home. I play guitar and have been practicing a lot downstairs still. I’ve also continued to run a lot, though not with the group that I used to go with. But in all of these things and more I just feel like I’m making more mistakes and am not like my old self. Are there any ways to regain the focus I had before COVID and perform the way I know I can?“
Skills During Your Pre-Pandemic Life
Excellent question which is going to make for a good discussion. Thanks for sending this in, asker. I say it’s going to make for a good discussion because my answer probably would’ve been different had you not mentioned something specific; that is the stark difference in your social life between now and pre-pandemic.
Obviously everyone’s social lives are less bustling nowadays, but you talk about always being around people before, adjusting to working from home (which tells me you weren’t working from home before), and the hobbies you mention definitely have social elements to them – the crowd a guitarist performs for and the group runs you used to take part in. It’s pretty clear that you’re a sociable, and presumably extroverted person who, more notably, performs most of their biggest and/or most meaningful tasks with other people present.
Turn your efforts away from trying harder or looking up hacks to focus better. Instead, read up on a thing called social facilitation. Or don’t read up on it, because I’m pretty much going to describe it right now and save you the trouble.
What is Social Facilitation?
Social facilitation is a term that’s been coined to describe a really interesting phenomenon in which people perform certain tasks better when others are around. I don’t have to tell you that we’re all social beings and have very deep-seated urges to connect, impress, and hold good positions within our circles. Simply put, it’s because of this that we develop an extra rush when we’re performing alongside other people, or even imagining that other people are there. This has been studied in rats and humans alike, and it’s real.
Now you may be thinking that that can’t be entirely true because you and plenty of other people don’t have what they call the 4th quarter gene and perform worse when they’re around others because they feel pressure. This is also true. You see, because of that same desire to impress and be looked upon favorably by others, we’ll perform poorly in front of others when we’re doing something that we aren’t confident in, yet wish we were confident in.
So the long and short of it is that when it comes to things you’re better at, confident in and come easily to you, you perform the better in front of a crowd. Paradoxically, when it comes to things that you’re not as good at, know you can improve in, but matter a lot to you, you’ll inevitably perform worse with spectators. It’s cool, right? It’s one of my favorite little psychology-isms.
How Can You Regain Your Skills?
Knowing this, the question becomes, how can you use social facilitation to your advantage? Well, it may be tough during the pandemic, but I still see some avenues for you to leverage it and regain your skills, your focus, and develop some new ones along the way.
What are some of the safest ways you can bring people to each of the tasks you’ve described and more? If your work performance has slipped a bit since not being in the office, can you go to a shared workspace and follow pandemic protocol? Can you go to a library and follow pandemic protocol? Can you have a work buddy within your social circle that you get together with during work hours?
As a guitarist, can you put practice sessions together via Zoom or another video conferencing service? Can you put small practices or performances together with those in your social circle? Can you livestream yourself performing, knowing that others will be watching?
When it comes to running, can you run with at least one of the people from your old running group and maintain a six foot difference? Can you enter some friendly competitions with fellow runners in which you track times and distances together through an app? These are just a few ways to adapt your social life to our current circumstances and stay safe while doing so.
Practicing At Your Own Pace
And you can also use the other side of social facilitation to sharpen skills that you haven’t been so confident in, but want to improve upon. Maybe you want to become better at juggling, but suck at it when practicing with others.
Maybe you’re the only one of your friends who can’t do a front flip and want to learn how, but get stressed when practicing in front of them because you know they’re all more capable.
Whatever the case may be, this is a great time to get better at these types of things because no one will be watching, and you’ll feel less pressured while you connect new dots and practice at your own beginner’s pace.
Big thanks to the asker of today’s question, and I’m hoping that you got a response that you found enlightening and full of some maybe, unexpected pointers. As I said, the ways to bring a social element to most any task, even amidst the pandemic, are pretty plentiful.
So if you feel as though you’ve lost a step since this all started even if you’ve keep practicing, look for interesting ways to socialize or de-socialize each scenario and see what happens. If there’s improvement, keep it up. If there’s not, you can come knocking on my door complaining.
Time to wrap up, friends. Thanks for staying until the end and for supporting the show as usual. Have a great start to your week and get ready to saddle up on again on Wednesday, when I’ll be back with another listener’s question. See you soon.