If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the fact that it has been quite a while since my last post. My motivation tanked and I experienced really fierce writer’s block. For the longest time, I had no ideas and couldn’t think of anything to write. I don’t like to write about nonsense and will only post something if I feel like it may be able to impact somebody in a positive way. Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since my motivation originally tanked, and I am still experiencing writer’s block and am still struggling to come up with ideas, but I have good news! Although my motivation to write still isn’t as high as I’d like it to be, I changed my mindset in order to force myself to feel more motivated. Let me explain how I did this!
As you probably know by now, I love Self-development and introspection and try to surround myself with other people who share the same passion and I also try to consume as much content created by people who know more than I do whether it be in written or spoken form. I feel like it’s possible to learn at least ONE new thing from absolutely everyone. It was through doing precisely this that I was able to change my mindset and motivate myself to start writing again! This post that you are now reading is the manifestation of that motivation!
The Motivation Paradox!
Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to find the motivation to just get started? This doesn’t necessarily have to pertain to language learning or studying at all. It can be hard to finally just sign up for a gym membership at the new gym down the road, to start eating healthier. It can be hard to sit down and start writing a blog post… It can even be hard to just go and book a date for your damn G1 test when you were a teenager… The last two are unfortunately true stories, but let’s pretend that they never happened… The point is that it can be very hard to find motivation to get started and that can be very annoying… and SURPRISE!!!…lead to even less motivation! Yay! We’ve all been in similar situations and they’re no fun at all. Despite all this, have you ever noticed that when you just force yourself to start doing something before you have time to rationalize why you don’t have time, can wait a little bit longer or come up with some other lame excuse, you end up developing more motivation to continue? That’s the paradox! The process of actually doing something motivates you to continue doing it!
Motivation doesn’t lead to action, action leads to motivation!
I know it probably doesn’t make logical sense, but it’s true. Once you actually start doing something, it’s a lot easier to continue doing what ever it is that you’re doing. Some may argue that it takes more motivation to stop than to keep going once you’ve finally started! This is the exact principle that I’m putting into practice as I write this. Completing an article feels good, starting and not finishing an article does not. Once I’ve started and the dopamine starts flowing, I’d have to force myself to stop.
I’ve been aware of this principle for over a year now, but as you all know, once you start making excuses, it’s a lot easier to keep making excuses and so on and so forth. Eventually, you reach a point where you forget the key principles that originally kept you motivated. It’s a vicious cycle that seems to work in the exact opposite way of how the motivation paradox works. That leads me to my next point!
The Inaction Trap
So as we all now know, action leads to motivation which results in more action, but the opposite is also true. Let me show you the trap that I fell into and how you can avoid it. I’m sure you’ll all be able to relate to it in some way!
Action leads to more motivation, which leads to more action, but inaction leads to excuses that lead to less motivation and less action. How many of you have gone hard at something for a while only to take a break and find it extremely hard to get back into it? You lose your routine and then the excuses start piling up. This is what happens to me with languages allllll the time. I sit down and tell myself that I’m going to start/continue learning a language and everything goes great at the beginning. I enjoy the process, I learn new things, meet new people and have fun. I try to make sure that I do a little bit every day and keep a good routine going. Everything goes very smoothly until something unexpected pops up and I have to miss a day. It doesn’t seem very bad on paper, but then that sheet of paper fills up with excuses. The following day, I wake up and think about studying, but I somehow convince myself that I’ve worked hard enough and deserve another day off. That one day-off pluralizes and sometimes turns into weeks and I end up dropping the language altogether a lot of the time! This is actually what happened with Korean a couple days ago!
I’d fallen off the wagon and was trying to summon enough motivation to get back into actively learning languages and after some… actually A LOT of deliberation I almost settled on Brazilian Portuguese, but then ended up deciding to go for Korean last minute. Great! I had finally decided on a language! That was the easy part. The hard part was actually starting because although, the idea of diving back into Korean was very appealing to me, I wasn’t motivated enough to take the first step. I remembered the paradoxical motivation paradox and promised myself that I’d wake up the following morning and go through some Korean before I did anything else. Even if it was just 10 or 20 minutes because I knew that I just needed to start in order to be more motivated to continue.
I woke up the following morning a little later than I had originally planned and as I promised myself, I got started with Korean. I didn’t end up getting very far due to the fact that I’d woken up late, but I still got some Korean in and that was all that mattered. It was hard to push through the initial hump and I’m not going to lie, my Korean reading speed had slowed down and it was pretty discouraging. This is completely natural, my mind was just trying to come up with more excuses to get me to just take the lazy route and to stop doing what I was doing!
***I’m going to take this brief moment to remind everyone that it’s 100% normal and natural to forget or feel rusty if you leave a language alone for a lone period of time. If you haven’t touched Spanish since high school and are now 42, then of course you’ll find that you’ve forgotten a great deal! I know that’s common sense, but we forget simple things like this when attempting daunting tasks. Korean is very daunting and in the face of all the Hangeul, I got discouraged despite the fact that my forgetting was completely natural and normal.***
Anyway, back to that faithful morning!
I tried to snap myself out of the self defeating mindsets that I was falling into and managed to cover most of the material that I wanted to cover and made my way to work upon completion. I was still lacking a bit of motivation, but still felt relatively accomplished and happy to have finally dove back into Korean.
The following morning is when everything started to fall apart. Despite my success the first morning, I somehow still found a way to convince myself to stay up later than I should have. I ended up falling asleep hours after the time that I’d initially planned to be asleep by. I woke up the next day and felt super groggy and tired and made the fatal mistake of deciding to turn off my alarm and sleep in a bit longer. Not only did this end up making me late for work, but it also made me miss my morning jog (Which was another thing I was trying to get back into), and, as you probably guessed, my Korean studying time. The day went on as usual and I kept telling myself that I’d do it on my break, then right after I got home, then right before bed and then, before I knew it, the day was done and it was time to go to bed again. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning… I think you all can probably predict what happe… or should I say didn’t happen next… Yup! As you probably guessed, I ended up making an excuse not to study Korean and sleep in a bit longer… not only did I miss Korean, but I also missed the morning jog… AGAIN. I find that demotivation is like a disease. If I start losing motivation in one area, it spreads like a virus to others areas of my life too and it can be hard to stop without the correct vaccine, A.K.A, action.
I’m sure all of you can relate in some way to what happened to me with Korean and my sad attempt at a morning exercise regime. Although, I’m not happy that Korean didn’t work out, I am happy that I’m able to use it as an example for this post, and besides, it’s never too late to start. Inaction is a trap. Once you allow yourself to make an excuse that results in your stopping whatever it was you were doing, you’ll end up making more excuses about why you shouldn’t even bother starting up again! Avoid this trap at all costs!
My Personal Antidote
Unfortunately that Korean story is not a monolith. I’ve fallen into this trap multiple times, but I find that forcing myself to just get up and out of bed before I can come up with an excuse helps me stay on track. This is a form of action that leads to motivation!
The second thing that I do is try to keep what ever I’ll be using to learn whatever language I’m learning near my bed whether that be my laptop or iPad. This is another form of action that leads to motivation. I’ve lost motivation countless times because I couldn’t remember where I’d left my resources. I’d search and I’d search and eventually I’d think to myself “Well I can’t find my Italian Assimil book right now, so maybe I’ll just skip it for today and do it tomorrow” and the cycle would continue the following day, the day after and so forth. Keeping my resources near my bed prevents this. This doesn’t just apply to language learning either! I’ve heard of people sleeping in their gym clothes to help the stay motivated to go to the gym.
The third and final thing that I do is I make sure that I study a little bit every day no matter the circumstances. Five minutes of Dutch is better than no Dutch at all and will keep my number of excuses to a minimum. The same thing applies to exercise! If I miss a morning jog, I’d just go for a walk to keep up the momentum and motivation.
Action leads to motivation which leads to more action and inaction leads to excuses which lead to more inaction, so even a little bit of action counts and serves a purpose!
One last thing I wanted to add is that motivation is like a virus too! A good virus, of course! A virus that gives you super powers! You could become the world newest Marvel super hero! You can use your action and motivation to somehow get an Endgame part 2 made! Best of all, you can take action and prevent the ending of the movie from getting spoiled for me before I can watch it…unlike the original…
Anyway, lame Marvel super hero jokes aside, just as inaction and lack of motivation spread to other areas of your life and bring you down, action and motivation do the exact same thing, but in a positive way! Ever notice how when you get something done the you’ve wanted to get done for a while, you’re a lot more motivated to get other unrelated things done too? Just writing this post has motivated me to wake up tomorrow and study more!
I am now very confident that we’re all very familiar with the benefits of action and how it leads to motivation which results in more action and how inaction leads to excuses which lead to more inaction, but we still need to be careful not to beat ourselves up when we fall off the wagon! I fell off the wagon and right into the inaction trap and was disappointed in myself which led to negative emotions, which led to more inaction, which led to more negative emotions which led to even more inaction which led to…I think you get the point… It was a vicious cycle that got me nowhere. The key was to just remind myself that I’m human and that falling off the wagon is completely normal and that it happens to everyone. There was no need to beat myself up about it when millions of people around the world were probably experiencing the same thing at the same time and you shouldn’t either! It’s natural!
Always remember that action leads to motivation and use this knowledge to achieve your goals! You got ‘dis!