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7 principles of deliberate learning

boy learning a new skill while listening to headphones

What separates a good designer from an expert designer? Or a mediocre speaker to a keynote speaker?

Many people believe that the world’s leaders have an innate talent that forms the difference between amateur and professional. However, researchers have found it comes down to one thing — deliberate learning. Experts master one or two skills by continuously pushing the boundaries to new levels, whereas the majority learn fifty skills to a ‘good enough’ standard.

“This is a fundamental truth about any practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve” Anders Ericsson

Become an expert in your chosen skills by practising the seven principles I have listed below. These will help you think like an expert and set you on a path to growth and success:

1. Clarity is power
2. Be motivated
3. Set realistic goals
4. Challenge yourself
5. Be consistent
6. Get feedback
7. Reflect

Let’s explore each principle.


1. Clarity is power

If you want to develop your skills, grow your business or get a promotion, you need a clear focus on the bigger picture — what is your vision? If you don’t have clear goals, it will be hard to focus on what skills you need to master.

“The genius without a roadmap will get lost in any country but, an average person with a roadmap will find their way to their destination” Brian Tracey

Clarity brings confidence and confidence raises standards! To think like an expert, you need to be deliberate with what you study — ask yourself, is this book, course or webinar related to my goals?


2. Be motivated

Once you are clear on what you want and why then take action. Having goals and being clear automatically yields motivation.

I’m sure you all know that feeling of procrastination — you need to do 1000 things, it all becomes overwhelming and results in an unproductive day. That feeling is BS, and it’s no wonder we’re not motivated because there was no real purpose in the first place.

Lacking motivation is because you’re unclear on what or why you’re doing something. To be successful, you have to push past the hard parts — failures, frustrations and slow progress.

Without motivation, the natural response is to give up. Whatever skills you want to master needs to have a reason, and that reason needs to be related to your goals.


3. Set realistic goals

I talk a lot about goals, but it gives you a purpose. It sets milestones to reach your ultimate vision — without them, you’re just plodding along, hoping to get lucky.

Deliberate learning relies on small, achievable, clear goals that help you work towards significant improvement. It requires extensive planning, identifying areas for growth and formulating a long term self-development plan.


4. Challenge yourself

Implementation is the only way to start. Changing habits and challenging your current capabilities is the only way to improve. Repeating practices won’t enhance your skill level or improve performance.

If you want more, you need to learn more. To make a positive change, you have to take full responsibility for your future. It’s not easy every day, but with definite goals in mind, progression is the best form of success.


5. Be consistent

Make the most of today, then tomorrow, the next day. It will be tough at times, but it’s these times that lead to significant self-improvement. Connecting daily actions with future goals is one of the foundational aspects of deliberate learning.

Results must be created in your business whether you feel like it or not. Success requires many sacrifices. If you lack consistency, you will always be staring over again—make consistency a commitment.


6. Get feedback

Always ask for feedback; it’s an opportunity to learn. Feedback will help you identify areas of improvements and give you an understanding of your progress.

“Without feedback either from yourself or from outside observers — you cannot figure out what you need to improve on or how close you are to achieving your goals” Anders Ericsson

Feedback from a teacher, mentor, family or peers can help strengthen your weaknesses. Without feedback, we see our actions through the lens of our intention, rather than what others see. Quality feedback is crucial because it accelerates personal growth, performance and confidence.


7. Reflect

Deliberate learning requires your full attention for an extended period, and sometimes you lose the meaning of why you were doing it. It’s important to stop and reflect to regain clarity.

Lab studies of deliberate learning reveal that the optimal time to study is one hour per day, three to five days a week. If your over-working you won’t get the desired results — you will get mental and physical fatigue.

It is essential to recover and get away from studying. Get a clear mind and absorb what you have learnt so far. The offset of intense effort will help with the continuous motivation to succeed.



Deliberate learning is a long-term investment in improving yourself and your capabilities. This kind of education gives you the advantage to stand out from the crowd — learning efficiently and working smarter.

People put defences on why they cannot achieve mastery — not intelligent, too hard, unrealistic — there is no hard evidence that this is true and if you put time and effort into these seven proven principles your bound to make leaps towards your bigger vision.

Related article: 3 strategies I practised to master my skillset.

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