If you want to succeed at anything worthwhile in life, the quality you most need is self-discipline, and the same applies to language learning. Self-discipline will be the ladder you need to achieve your long-term goals and transform your language proficiency dreams in reality.
First, let’s define self-discipline. Self-discipline is the ability to do what should be done even though it often requires postponing immediate reward and or gratification. It is the ability to let our rational mind guide us instead of succumbing to our emotions. It propels us into action.
So, you are learning this new language and your long-term goal is to reach a good level of conversational proficiency. Self-discipline will help you keep the course in pursuit of your goal through perseverance. You will resist for example, the temptation of scrolling aimlessly on social media in favour of a language learning activity. Self-discipline will maintain you focus on the outcome even in difficult times and will enhance your motivation. Self-discipline will help you to become more resilient when facing setbacks.
“It’s all good singing the praises of self- discipline, I hear you say, but what happens if I am not naturally self-disciplined?”
Don’t fret. Self-discipline is a skill that can be learned through daily practice and repetitions.
How to build self-discipline.
Analyse how you spend your day. Write down all your activities in a notebook, be true to yourself, don’t miss out any. Then evaluate their usefulness. For example, after dinner you spend two hours scrolling the feed on social media. Ask yourself if it is time well spent. You could maybe cut down the duration of this activity and study your foreign language for 30 minutes instead. Be thorough and ruthless. If you find this exercise difficult, you might ask a friend or a member of your family to give you their honest opinion.
You will have found your weaknesses and the areas of your daily life in need of improvement.
Identify the time of the day that you are at your best.
Some people feel they are in their zone of genius early in the morning meanwhile others are more productive mid morning. It would be good – work permitting – if you could program the most complex language activities during these times. It is a way to surround yourself with the best opportunities for success.
If you know that the constant notifications on your screen will tempt you to stop working on your language task, mute these temporarily and switch your mobile phone off so that you may remain focused on your activity and take the most advantage of your time in contact with the foreign language.
Have clear goals.
It is necessary that you have clear and specific outcome goals like “I want to be ready for my B2 language exam by the 30th of September”. You should also write these and all the small tasks and goals leading to your outcome in your calendar as well as assigning a deadline to each. By doing so – according to research- you are 42% more likely to achieve them.
Include visualisations in your morning routine. Visualisations is about self-improvement.
Visualisation provides strengthand courage when faced with daunting tasks. Visualisation triggers hormones and enhance synaptic connections in your brain that make it easier to achieve goals.
Visualisation neutralises negativity. More than ever, you need some positivity in your life. It will help you overcome fear and take actionable steps toward achieving your goals.
Yes, it will be hard to challenge your new reality, no one doubt this, but with a positive attitude you will feel more able to accomplish the necessary changes to win.
During a visualisation session you get to experience your dream life no matter your external circumstances.
Visualisation encourages purpose. When we lose hope, we lose so much. With visualisation you develop self-beliefs that will help you create the fulfilling life you are after, no matter what.
You can do it at anytime of the day or night and it does not have to take long.
Start where you’re at.
If you wait to have the perfect schedule or a lot of free time, you will never start. Begin with what you have, and you will make modifications as you go along.
Also bear in mind that changing your routine will not be easy. You will have to break old habits and install new ones. You will encounter resistance because your old habits are on autopilot meaning they don’t need you to use your willpower contrarily to the new habits that you are trying to implement.
It will be initially a constant tug of war of subconscious versus willpower. But after a while your brain will succumb to the new establish habit requiring then less and less willpower. You just must carry on until this happens.
Take small actions.
Start with 10-15 minutes of study a day. Learn just 10 new vocabulary words, read only two or three paragraphs, listen to a song in your target language. These are small tasks that it will be difficult to say no to. Set a timer. When it goes off take a 5-minute break and start again. With time you might wish to increase the period you spend with the language. It is always good to push yourself just a little out of your comfort zone so that you can gain ground in pursuing your goals.
Measure your progress.
You must find ways to document your progress so that you know if you are succeeding. For example, at the end of the month you have learned 100 new words, you have read 6 chapters of the book etc. You must have a clear idea of your definition of success.
Be gentle with yourself.
Forgive yourself when things don’t go as planned. If you did not study two days in a row, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go back on the horse and ride away. I just want to say that this will not change the outcome if you carry on implementing your studying routine.
Remember, you ought to have good and bad days you should be able to adapt and not feel discouraged and giving up altogether.
The journey is at time easier if you are accompanied. Involve friends and family in your project. Let them know what you are trying to do. You can also look for the support of like-minded language learners or hire a coach to cheer you up along the way. Let yourself be supported.
No one is born with self-discipline. It is an acquired skill which is highly valuable if you want to succeed in life and in language learning. You must be motivated, determined, and resolute to reach your language outcome. You should also forgive yourself when you fall off the wagon but always keep aiming at the results you are pursuing. Remember that you are not alone in this journey.
Are you self-disciplined? Comment below. I would like to know?