The Most Important Advice I Have To Give

When I started this blog, just a little more than a year ago, I was just one of several newbie bloggers who were excited about language-learning and starting language blogs at around the same time. Today, I'm still far from reaching my blogging goals, but my blog is relatively popular, and relatively successful, whereas several of those others have faded into obscurity.

What's the difference? I don't think I'm any smarter than anyone else, and I'm sure some of those other bloggers knew more about language learning that I do. So why is my blog succeeding?

And when I say I'm going to learn a language fluently in one year, I'm not the first person to think they could do that. In fact, last year, when I set out to learn Italian fluently, several people I knew also had decided to learn a language in 2010 — most of them did not succeed. So why did I succeed at learning a language fluently in one year, when others have failed?

The answer isn't something I learned in school. It's not any kind of genetic advantage. It's not something I was born with, and it has nothing to do with how I was raised. In fact, the answer is something I learned in a gym.

When I go to the gym and work out every day, it's easy to keep doing that — momentum is easy to work with. It becomes a pattern, a habit. I know my routine every morning, and I follow it. Piece of cake.

But momentum doesn't last. One week you're sick, or one month your traveling, or one morning you hurt your knee and you can't lift again for two weeks. And after a few days, the momentum is lost and the patterns change. After a week the new pattern takes hold. After two weeks, you're committed to a new lifestyle. Suddenly, getting back into the gym is a lot to ask!

And worse, when you've got a time commitment, like accomplishing something in one year, or training in time for a particular event, there is a tendency to give up completely once you hit that first roadblock. After two weeks not running, you give up on that marathon. After three weeks not writing, you give up on that blog. After a month of not learning anything, you give up completely on learning that language.

But where other people get comfortable in their newly formed habits, and allow their new, unproductive momentum to take over, successful people remain committed to the stated goal. They get back to their language study, their blog, their gym. We see the same crowds every year on January first, but by April all that's left is a small group of people who are committed to the task.

The key is commitment. Successful people aren't counting on consistency or momentum. They aren't using at tricks, or NLP, or motivational language to get in to the gym and work out. They aren't using a hack learned on a web site to stay motivated in language study.

That's the secret in life. People talk about consistency a lot, but consistency is just momentum. Life isn't consistent. Surprises come up. Whether it's exercising every morning, or cooking dinner every night, or learning to speak a new language, you can't get by on excitement and momentum. You need commitment.

When you're committed to the task, giving up is not an option. Failure is not an option. Writing it all off is not an option. If you're committed to the task, the only thing that matters is moving forward from where you are at right now.

Successful people succeed because they have a commitment to the task. That's it.


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Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • I hadn't updated my progress for two weeks (I had no desire to do any sort of writing), and reading this got me to do it. Thanks for that.

  • This is one of the best motivational articles I've read. I like the way you, Randy, put things in your own unique way.I've been dwelling upon the subject of motivation during the last couple of days because I'm really bad when it comes to beating procrastination. Today I finally decided to gather myself up and this article sums up the way I feel at the moment.Commitment. Simple as!

  • Glad to see that!

  • Thanks!

  • I gotta say that's preety true, Randy, and that I couldn't agree more with you. It is just a shame that remaining commited can be so difficult for most of the people ( I mysef).
    Well, the good news is that this post gave me motivation i was lackin. Let's just see if it is not another damned momentum...

  • I learned this quite a while ago and have been telling people ever since. My personal favorite way of phrasing it is this: "You have to be consistently persistent." :DCheers,
    Andrew

  • Yeah, commitment is the key!!! But why is it bad to use NLP to keep your momentum. I don't see anything wrong with it.

  • Couldn't agree more, Randy.In January 2010 I dislocated my shoulder and prior to that I was hitting the gym and the running track regularly. Since my injury and even post-physiotherapy I couldn't get together a regular running stint throughout the year. I didn't think I'd even be able to go the distance again.I didn't make any New Year's resolutions for 2011, I just took the New Year as a clean slate to clear my mind and give myself an early boost. I decided to go just 2-3 times a week so that I wouldn't lose my hunger for it and told myself that whenever I went to run, I had to make it count. I didn't keep any high expectations as to how much distance to cover in a particular run and started off with just 2km. 2km became 4km, which in turn became 6km and in my last run I told myself to go for broke and went 11km non-stop.I think the most important thing I related to your post, is I that I told myself that I had to show up on these few days and just "hang in there" or "keep going at it". On my way to the track initially I'd say to myself, "Ok half your work is done, you're showing up here". Now I say, "Ok, a quarter of your work is done, you need to run now!" It helps not to keep any high expectations early on. That way you're just focusing on what you do. That's what commitment for me is all about.

  • I will return to this post to give it a proper comment at some point it highlights some key issues. I have commitment for sure, there are one or more points I would like to quickly though.Anybody who is motivated by this post or similar to re-start or do something almost certainly won't have the commitment to maintain it (I have the reasoning for that but it would take a page or two and is based on some research also). But basically commitment doesn't work like that, well not in our current overstimulated world, the power of one work (whether, written or film or music) to act as a strong motivator is very diluted.Not quite sure how you define a successful language blog though, I have been blogging about languange learning highly successfully for almost five years but I blog mostly for my own reasons which have little to do with popularity. I suspect that some language bloggers who dissapear may well continue learning their language successfully (although many won't). Successful language blogs are not pre-requisite to learning a language.

  • The success of the blog and the success of the language learner are two completely unrelated anecdotes. The one is not related to the other.

  • Nice!It reminds me of when I couldn't do squats for a month after hurting my knee. And then instead of sqatting 150kg I had to start back at 60kg and build up strength again. It was almost 3 months from the time of the injury until I returned to where I was at before, and every day of those 3 months was disheartening.I gave up. 100 times I gave up. But that 101st time, I did it. And got back to my strength and form.

  • Nicely put.

  • With this post, I never meant to motivate anyone. Rather, I meant to challenge you. Be honest with yourself. Are you really committed to what you're doing? If not, get committed or give it up, because otherwise, you're wasting valuable time that you could be doing something else to which you *would* commit.

  • It's only bad if you're lacking the commitment. Tricking yourself into doing something isn't the same as wanting to do it.

  • "If your interested you will do what's convenient. If your committed you'll do whatever it takes."I totally agree with this quote I found last week. But it leaves me at a bit of a loss. Most of us are really interested in a lot of things - maybe language learning is one of them. So how do people move along the scale from being interested to being committed. Every runner I know was first just interested. What caused them to become committed? And for you. I am sure before you started the blog, something interested you in the idea. You were not instantly committed I bet. How did the interest move to commitment. It seems if we can all think about that, it can help us figure out ways to develop the commitment that you so rightly identify as the necessary ingredient. I was not born a committed person. I became one.

  • I couldn't agree more!

  • I won't claim to have all the answers — I may not have any! — but it seems to me that there's a really strong social component. That is, when you really like something, or you really believe in something, you make it a part of your identity. I believe that's the key to commitment. How do you want to be thought of when people talk about you?Regardless of anything else that people may or may not say about me, I want to be thought of as someone who helped people to learn. For me the blog is the vessel I use for that, and my own language-learning experience is a necessary manifestation of my own credibility as the author of the blog, so commitment to both is directly related to my own identity.Does that make sense? Or am I just fooling myself? :)

  • Raised a lot of thoughts this one will be posting about similar issues myself at one point. If this commitment means the same (or similar) to you as it does to me then it has little or nothing to do with that positivity BS that I often take issue with.The only way I can explain for now is in reference to how some bloggers go, on and on and on trying to say or suggest or prove that language learning is not hard (yet ironically use the word hard to describe their own tasks or tests they take, how does that work?). That is NOT the way get the commitment required. Don't pretend that everything has to be easy (are you that weak), believe that you can do hard things, believe that you have the guts to do a hard thing if you want to and you will be far more likely to succeed than someone who gets a little boost from some fluffy post treating them like children.Edit: obviously the "are you that weak?" statement is not directed at you ;) but at anyone who mistakes those little bits of getting "fired up" by something in today's highly distracted and overstimulated environment as the force required to do hard, meaningful things in life.

  • I think there's a certain sense in which, if you have the commitment, you don't view a task as difficult. That is, you view it simply as a task; a think that needs to be done. Easy and hard don't really apply.Sure, the positivity bloggers often bill everything as super easy, when the law of duality dictates that for anything to be easy, something must be hard...I hope that I, personally, am not overselling the ease thing. For me, I do indeed believe in doing things the easy way, so I don't necessarily talk about what's hard. But that's not to say that I don't think it could be hard if you wanted it to be. :)

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