30 million Brits want to learn a new skill, yet over half will never bother. Be in the other half.

From career change to a new venture to trying a new sport, the thought of what we can’t do often holds us back from really making a go of it. Our sense of our own lack of skills can be positively debilitating.

And if we’re trying to create an online presence and establish ourselves as a brand or service, from jeweller to hypnotherapist to dog walker to netball coach there can be a yawning gap between what we know how to do and what we don’t when it comes to establishing that brand. Digital marketing? Instagram? GDPR? SEO? QuickBooks? Mystifying and overwhelming. As our sense of what we lack mounts up, no wonder we feel intimidated and a bit left behind.

But don’t forget all those things you can do. Apart from wisdom you have years of valuable experience, skills that you possibly don’t even see as such – but skills they are. And you just need to keep adding to them.

This is especially true when you launch a business – because suddenly you find you have to do everything. “There’s no way you can know how to do it all,” says Michelle Ovens MBE, founder of Peak B, the campaigning organisation for small business. “You need to know how to do your own accounting, digital marketing and business planning – and of course you can’t know everything immediately”.

Even if we know these new skills are essential there can be too many barriers to acquiring them. Time. Expense. Fear of failure. According to research by Fountech.ai, one in four of us avoid learning new things because we find the process demoralising and 63% of us feel training is too expensive.

“We tend to think if we’re going to invest our precious time in it then it’s got to be worth it. Not having that guarantee holds people back,” says Michelle.

“The best thing is it’s bitesize, 20 minutes here or there.”

But we have good news. The IDEA programme – Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award – in partnership with the Duke of York is a series of mini courses that’s totally free. Equally useful for career change or startups, it’s training that’s online and in modules so you can learn about social media or GDPR, financial planning or website management. IDEA helps you develop digital, enterprise and employability skills for free.

“The best thing is it’s bitesize, 20 minutes here or there,” says Michelle. “Most of us haven’t got the time or inclination to take an MBA. But in this way people try a little bit of learning and it gives them the appetite to do some more”.

So what about the other problem of learning new skills that holds so many of us back – the “I’m rubbish, I can’t do it, I just won’t bother” belief that stubbornly grips us by the ankles and refuses to let go? Well we need to knock that one on the head.

“It’s time to adopt a growth mindset, not a fixed one,” says business psychologist Paula Gardner, founder of Scarlet Thinking. It was the research of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck that discovered the difference between students with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset. Fixed means you fear making mistakes so don’t push yourself. Growth means you love pushing yourself and taking on new challenges. No surprises for guessing who’s happiest and most successful.

“The more you try new things, the more you grow and also make mistakes, which is where the real growth comes. From mistakes you learn how you deal with things, what you did wrong/right and what you can learn for next time,” says Paula.

There’s a huge sense of achievement that comes with learning a new skill. “There’s that feeling of competence and achievement, but also this new skill becomes part of your identity,” says Paula.

“And that encourages you to learn more – it’s a virtuous circle. The more you try new things, the more you gain confidence, plus a sense of achievement both of the skill itself and of actually completing the course. People often struggle with focus nowadays so completing something is a reminder that you can actually give your attention to something for more than 20 mins – and this is always a good thing”.

With 38% of us struggling to find reliable and engaging online courses, it’s well worth taking a look at the IDEA programme. And let’s not forget it’s FREE. No excuses now. Broaden out that skillset.

Words: Marina Gask