This first step on the journey to learning to play the guitar is to begin learning guitar chords. For most beginners this is also where the first real stumbling block gets thrown up in their way. Below I am going to outline the process I use to learn new chords and have followed for the last twenty years or so. If you follow the basic steps outlined below you will find that in a few weeks time you will be able to effortlessly perform about three or four chords to your favorite songs and actually make them sound like music.
The first step in learning guitar chords is to go out and get some chord charts, which will show you what the chords you will be learning look like. Now when you first start out, it can be a little difficult to wrap your mind around the picture you are seeing. In a nutshell, a chord chart is just a picture of the guitar neck with some numbers or dots on it to show you where to put each of your fingers. In the beginning it can be a little painful to form these chords with your left hand. The key to getting really good at it is simply repeated practice. You should make a short routine of switching back and forth between two chords for about two minutes a day. After a week or so of doing this you should have no problem getting your hand into the right chord position.
The best way to go about learning guitar chords through this method is to get some chord charts to various songs you want to learn. The simple fact is that it is just way to boring to learn guitar chords by themselves. The previous exercise will help you get your changes down, but it really is pretty boring and should be applied to the chords of a specific song so you will be improving your ability to play real music as you work on it.
What you should do is do a Google search for a video explanation of the chords you will be using in the song. This way to can see someone performing the chords and will be able to understand what your hand is supposed to look like as you move from chord to chord. This will give you a framework to work with. From this point you can then move on to the using the previous exercise everyday to learn to move fluidly between each of the chords of the song, adding only one chord at a time until you have mastered the basic movements between each chord of the progression.
The process of learning guitar chords I have been outlining is a process that is designed to develop what is known as muscle memory. What this means is you no longer have to think in order to execute the chord forms. This is similar to learning how to type for instance. In the beginning you have to hunt and peck and look at the keyboard to find each letter, but as you practice typing you find yourself looking at the keyboard less and less. This is muscle memory; your fingers just naturally fall on the right keys without having to look for them.
When you first start learning guitar chords, you will find that you go through a period of discomfort. This will be in proportion to the amount of practice you do. Your fingers will need to develop calluses before they can accurately and painlessly execute the chords you are teaching them. Just remember that every professional musician you have ever seen had to go through this process. If they made it through, so can you with diligent practice.