If you've already read my
article "Envision your goal, plan your
strategy, and go for it!", you now know one way to form a positive
habit: by writing down, on a daily basis, that which you've done on that
day, and making it a point to look at this list every day, in order to make
sure you continue doing what you've set out to do, as well as to track your
But there will be times when you're tempted on occasion to
not learn your daily words. You'll hear yourself
thinking up all kinds of excuses: "I'm so tired now, I couldn't learn
anything anyway"; "I can do it later, maybe before going to bed"; "I really
have better things to do right now", or whatever else you can come up with.
We often have the tendency to make up reasons to not do what
we know we should do; this is "only human", you might say. I know in my
case, when it's really cold outside, and maybe even raining as well, I do
not generally feel like going out to run, and if I stop to think about
it for a minute, I'll no doubt be able to devise at least 10 good reasons
why I should stay indoors and do something else. The solution to this
problem? Well, it lies within the previous sentence: "if I
stop to think about it for a minute"!
Do you want to make sure that you do what you planned to do
each day? Then when the time comes, don't stop to think about it. Or, as
Nike puts it quite aptly, just do it!
The value of this slogan cannot be overestimated. You have
decided you want to do something - for example, learn 3 new words a day.
You know you can do this in a short time, almost effortlessly,
once you start. If you plan to learn those words at a certain time of
day, then when that time comes, get out your word list, select three new
ones, and learn them. No thinking about it first. No asking yourself whether
it wouldn't be better to do it later. No procrastination of any sort. JUST
Of course, you may well
hear a little voice within yourself thinking up excuses. Let it talk, but
while it does, begin to take action, get out your word list, and start to
learn. Don't pay any attention to what the little voice is saying. Treat it
like as you would someone who habitually nags at you: don't try to think up
counter-arguments, just take action. And when you do, the little voice will
disappear, for it'll know that your will has won the game!
When you first start learning the foreign
language of your choice methodically on a daily basis, you will often
be in danger of listening to that dissenting voice within, and may be
tempted to take its arguments seriously. In this phase, as I've already
said, simply act before you have time to decide not to. After a couple
of months or so, you'll discover that once your habit has been formed, that
little voice may well continue chatting away, but the effect it has on you
is different: you'll find that the more it tries to dissuade you, the
firmer your will becomes, and the more decided you are to get your task
accomplished. When you notice this happening, you can be sure that you have
turned your learning routine into a positive habit, and it becomes less and
less likely that you will give it up.
At some point while reading the last couple of pages, you may
have thought that all this talk about determination, willpower, and so on is
somewhat exaggerated. How much willpower does it take to learn three words a
day? That's a cinch! No need to worry about forming habits, acquiring
discipline... Ah, but here, I would disagree. You have made a
decision to learn something every day, and even if it's just three
words, doing it every day will occasionally be quite difficult
Decide when you want to start. Today, if possible, tomorrow,
at the latest. Then...
- When you start, tell yourself you will do it every day.
- When the time comes to learn, don't think about whether you should or shouldn't,
simply begin to act: do it!
- Once you've learned your words,
add the day's date (and the words you've learned) to
your list in the notebook. Then
do anything else you may have planned for
Follow these steps on a daily basis, and before you know it,
learning something every day will have become a positive habit. Nothing can
now stop you from mastering your
favorite foreign language!
Memory Techniques: How to learn
faster, and remember better
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