I recently read a very interesting article from The Art of Charm called, 10 Overlooked truths about taking action; this article helped me draw the inspiration to tailor this message down specifically to language learning, so that you can take it and apply it immediately. You will especially love # 4 on the list!
1) Action is cheaper than planning
How many times have you bought certain books or language learning software only to use it for a couple of days and never to return to it again? I can say that I have books that I have never even opened!
Often people ask, “What’s the best language learning resources?”, thinking that if they can just plan get the “right” resource(s) and plan everything out perfectly before it happens, then everything will work out just fine. This is far from the truth and this type of thinking actually works against them. In the article that I drew the inspiration from to write this, Kyle Eschenroeder mentions the story of the Wright brothers.
The Wright brothers were able to beat out the largest corporations in the race to take flight they were able to perform hundreds of test flights in the same time that it took the big corporations to perform only a handful. Why was that?
That was because the Wright brothers had a limited budget; therefore, they could not spend a lot of time going back to the drawing board, they could only afford to make minor adjustments and retry quickly. While these larger corporations who were so much more advanced than them in terms of technology (And maybe even knowledge one can argue), they were spending too much time collecting theoretical knowledge and the Wright brothers were out gaining practical knowledge from tons of trail and error.
One of the best teachers that you will EVER have is real-life, first hand experience.
2) Action creates new possibilities
It’s difficult to see yourself speaking another language – until you do it.
If you are driving through the country and all that you can see are fields and trees, it’s difficult to imagine that you’ll eventually end up in a large city filled with tall buildings, other cars, and people everywhere – until you start to get closer and closer.
A positive change is actually inevitable if you begin to and continually move towards it, but you actually have to make that first step and then continue to make the following steps in order to reach it.
If all you can remember is making mistakes, it’s very easy to think that you will continue to fail; however, every successful language learner has a trail of mistakes and failures behind them. The only way that they even got to experience the the success that you see was through continued action towards their goals.
3) Inaction has slower, longer-lasting repercussions
Let’s look at the topic of health as an example:
There are two guys; one guy pushes himself hard in the gym. At times he experiences soreness after his tough workouts; also he has to discipline himself not to eat the same way that his friends do.
The second guy does not experience soreness from time to time because he doesn’t work out; he also eats whatever he wants. Little does he know that in a few more years he will develop cancer and spend the rest of his life suffering due to his inaction towards his health.
Both guys experience some type of pain. One type of pain actually served to strengthen and increase quality of life, the other (although it’s put off until later) has much more painful and longer lasting consequences.
By not doing what you know works in order to avoid a little “pain of embarrassment” or “pain of failing” (The sensations that strengthen you). You just set yourself up for the much more painful and longer lasting pain of regret.
4) Motivation lives in the house of action
Everybody seems to want to know, “How do you find the motivation to learn a language?”
Well, motivation lives in the house of action, and all you have to do is knock on the door and you’ll be gladly invited inside.
Motivation is like everyone at a party who is too worried about what others might think of them, they just stand around – until that one guy (Usually someone like me) starts dancing without an ounce of caring what others might think. At this point everyone swarms to the dance floor following his lead. Motivation always follows the lead of action.
You will rarely ever feel motivated to take action if you’re in a state of inaction. Have you ever heard of a scientific principle called inertia? An object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force (In your case taking action in the right direction).
5) Explanations follow actions
As humans we tend to validate or actions (Or lack thereof) with stories. These stories are in alignment with our beliefs and the make us feel like what we did, didn’t do, or can not do, actually makes sense. One of my favorite business authors, Seth Godin talks about this phenomenon is his book, All Marketers Are Liars. Whether you have been successful or not in your language learning up until this point, you have a story that you tell yourself about why you are where you are.
Does this sound like a familiar phrase to you (After not do something that will move you closer to learning your language)? “Oh I didn’t have time today” or “Oh just don’t have enough time in general”
How about this (After having a conversation with a native speaker)? “Oh wow, I can’t believe I remembered how to say that” or “I’m doing great, I can actually understand a lot”
The more actions that you take, the more reasons that you will come up with to continue to take action. It’s a cycle that continues in an upward spiral.
6) Action vs. Comparison
Many people compare themselves, their results, and their abilities to others, but what other people are doing in relation to you really doesn’t matter. Whether or not someone seems to learn faster and easier than you doesn’t change the fact you still want to learn your language. Comparing yourself to others is just a distraction; of course there are people learning at a different rate than you, this is a massive world and anyone (including you) can learn the skill of acquiring a foreign language.
7) Action Brings Out Humility
There are people who aren’t experienced in language learning who believe that someone who has learned a foreign language has super powers. There are some who have achieved an elementary understanding of the language, who have developed massive egos.
What long term success in language learning teaches you is that you are no different than anyone else (What you can do, anyone else can do too), you don’t have super powers, you aren’t immune to making mistakes, and it’s not as big of a deal as you thought it was to speak a foreign language.
You realize that you will have to put in A LOT of effort, and that it only makes sense for you to have results after the consistent amount of effort that you put into developing this skill. You don’t view yourself as better or less than anyone else, because you see the process for what it is – a process. Something that if you or anyone else follows it, they can expect to see similar results.
How To Put All Of This Into Practice
Now that you have an understanding of of action can help you tremendously in your language learning, how do we “take action” on what we just learned? There’s two things, one is a mindset that I would like you to adopt and the other is a challenge that I would like for you to accept:
The Process-Oriented Mindset
A lot of times when you have a goal, you’ll tend to become results oriented, which is good in some instances, but terrible in a lot of others. It can be really bad because when you have a goal that you’re working towards, but haven’t yet achieved it, you aren’t happy with the progress that you are making along the way.
As you might already know by now, you’re not going to achieve all of your language learning goals by tomorrow, and that is why I invite you to adopt a process oriented mindset. This is where you just make your only criteria for success taking action. You enjoy taking action for the action itself, this way you enjoy the entire process all the way up through the point of achieving the larger goal.
Go an entire week with zero information consumption
For one week there will be:
– No reading books.
– No reading blogs.
– No reading newspapers.
– No going on Facebook (even just to post).
– No watching TV (shows, sports, news, anything).
– No watching movies.
– No listening to talk radio.
– No going on Reddit.
– No going on Twitter.
– No information input – only output!
… When I saw this, I thought to myself that this would be very challenging, but I can see the type of value that this will bring, so I’m going to test it out starting today, and I invite you to join me.
I know that this is an extreme way of practicing taking action, but if you are serious about seeing changes, you have to sometimes go way beyond your comfort zone. This will force you to stay away from your procrastination activities that keep you away from actually doing the things that you know you should be doing.
I had to leave you with a video on this challenge, because that only makes it more fun!
I hope to be hearing back from you on how this went a week from now in the comment section below.