Today we’re going to look a little deeper into motivation. These next five tips will examine some of your unconscious, core beliefs about motivation and studying and help you revise them so you can maintain more motivation for longer!
6. Remember your goals
What are your English learning goals? Have you thought about this? Do you just want to learn enough English to get around when you travel in foreign countries? Do you need to pass a test? Do you just want to enjoy watching movies without subtitles? Do you want to make foreign friends? Do you want to master the language? Without goals, it’s very hard to know what you should be studying.
Have you written your goals down? Do you look at that list to remind yourself why you are studying regularly? Any time I feel my motivation slump, I look at my list of goals and remind myself why I’m pushing so hard. I recommend you do the same!
7. Revise your goals
Human beings are very interesting. Sometimes we think we want something only to realize that we didn’t really want that… we actually wanted something else!
Sometimes we think we really wanted that boy or that girl, only to later realize we wanted a different kind of person!
Sometimes we think we really wanted that promotion, only to later realize that we wanted to have a different kind of job!
Sometimes we think we just wanted to learn English for our trip to Mexico next year… only to later realize how wonderful it feels to communicate with people from all over the world!
Our goals are constantly changing as we change. That’s why it’s so important to look at them from time to time, and ask ourselves: are these still my goals? Have my goals changed? Have my goals become more realistic? Have they become bigger? Are there things that were important to me before, but aren’t any more? Do I have any new goals?
Take a look at your goals. I recommend at least once a month (many people recommend once a week, or even every day), but even just a few times a year is still helpful.
8. Forget the extrinsic motivation.
First off, I probably should explain intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Very basically, intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from enjoyment of the work. If you like doing something even though you don’t get anything – money, status, attention – from it, then you have intrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation is the opposite: it’s motivation that comes from what you get from doing the work. In other words, you are trying to get a certain result – again, maybe money, maybe a better job, maybe attention – from the work.
Forget the extrinsic motivation. I’m going to be straight here and say it: if you don’t enjoy studying English, stop doing it. You will never be able to maintain motivation, and it will be extremely hard to improve, unless you really, really enjoy studying it.
But wouldn’t extrinsic motivation make you more motivated?
In fact, research shows the opposite is true. When someone has intrinsic motivation, adding extra motivation in the form of rewards actually makes a person less motivated. Extrinsic motivation is usually only useful if there is no intrinsic motivation to start with. If you already love doing something, adding more rewards just adds pressure, and diminishes the enjoyment. Forget that test you want to pass. Forget that job you want to get. Forget that conversation you want to have. Just enjoy it.
Which naturally leads to the next tip:
9. Forget the goals, enjoy the process
Wait a minute… didn’t you just talk about how important goals are?
Yes, they are. But only temporarily.
Everyone should go about actively and carefully setting their goals. Your goals are the reason you do what you do. Without a reason, you’re going to have a hard time motivating yourself.
However, your goals are meant to be set before you start studying. While you are studying, they are not important. While you are studying, the process is important.
It doesn’t matter how great your goals are. If you don’t enjoy the small steps it takes to get there, it will be an uphill battle trying to achieve those goals.
Similarly, even if your goals are small, if you enjoy the process, then achieving that goal will be inevitable. The enjoyment of the process, getting pleasure out of every single step, every single day, every single minute, is the key to achieving almost any goal.
10. Envision your future
Now the last two tips are very useful, but sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes you wonder whether you really enjoy studying, whether it’s really worth the time, energy and effort. Sometimes you can think of better things to do. Sometimes you don’t find any fulfillment out of the process, even though you did before.
Sometimes you think about quitting.
And that’s fine. That’s natural. In fact, it’s possible that language learning is not for you (but I hope this isn’t the case!). It’s hard to say sometimes. I certainly had lots of times I thought I should give up on Japanese. Heck, I’ve even had times I thought maybe I’m not supposed to be an English teacher. So what can you do in these situations?
Envision your future.
This is when your goals become extremely important again. Look at them one more time. Your goals are a representation of your desired future. Ask yourself why you’re studying so hard. Do you want to be able to speak English when you travel? Why? Imagine how nice it will be to communicate in English when you go to Hawaii. Picture how much more comfortable and convenient it will be to understand other people, and to ask for help when you have a problem. Envision having fun encounters with foreigners and being able to have a conversation with them.
Imagine the feeling when you pass that test.
Picture yourself watching movies without subtitles and how great it feels to understand them.
Envision what you could do with your life if you mastered English.
If you do this, and you still don’t feel any motivation, well… then maybe you need to consider whether or not you really should be studying English. Remember, it’s ok to take breaks once in a while too!
But if you do this, and you feel that motivation coming back… then there’s still a part of you that loves what you’re doing, and how it could change you and make your life more amazing. Hold that vision in your mind. Really feel it because, with enough hard work and effort, one day it could be reality. Imagine how wonderful that would be!
Now get to work!