I recently came home from my last deployment feeling the familiar yearning to get back into doing what I love most. I thought idealistically and romantically of all the content for this site I would create, all the progress that I would make with my languages, all the creativity that I finally had the time and space to unleash! This feeling of boundless possibility carried me through my travels and to my front door, where it promptly gave way to burnout and exhaustion.
After a few weeks of reflection, I began to ask myself, why is it so hard to actually do the things that bring us joy? I say us and not me because I have a suspicion that I’m not alone in this mental trap. So many of us say we want to learn a language, want to paint more, read more, be more creative, and at the end of a long day, we find ourselves on the recliner in front of the TV, swearing that we’ll do it tomorrow.
I can’t speak for others, but I found that my problem was often that I was relying on the flighty and ever-elusive motivation and inspiration. I waited days, sometimes weeks, for a lightning bolt to go off in my head and me to jump from the couch, overwhelmed with the desire to study my languages. What I failed to do was consider what triggered those lightning bolts in the first place.
This brings me to the first step
Recognize Your Lightning Bolts
What are some of the things that inspire you to study? Do you watch a Lindie Botes video and feel totally geared up to sit down to a productive study session? Do you sit down in your favorite cafe and automatically start reaching for your books? Find the little lightning bolts you already have and write them down. These inspirations may not seem similar at first, but there are likely things about them that you can replicate in your own studies. After you recognize what inspires you, you need to
Find Your Optimal Relaxation
Once you know where your lightning bolts of inspiration come from, you’ll need to stay focused enough to utilize them. Do you need a silent place to study? Maybe get some noise-canceling headphones. Do you need background noise? Go to a cafe or put on an ambient youtube channel (can you tell I’m obsessed?). Do you need other environmental stimulation? Choose something based on your personal preferences. Once you have your relaxation strategy down, you can
Create Your Study Ritual
This is where the magic happens. For me, I open my laptop, choose from my playlist of ambient videos, light my crackly wood wick candle, and start my Forest app timer. I put the kettle on and make some coffee or tea. This combination of habits has become my language learning ritual, and it has become something so relaxing and enjoyable that it doesn’t carry the pressure that I, unfortunately, associate with other “productive” tasks.
The ritual will be different for all of us based on what we find relaxing and what our preferences are, but I find this method far preferable to other, more extreme habit formation strategies. We have to remember that this is a lifelong journey, and it’s supposed to be fun!
I’d love to hear what kind of learning rituals you have. Drop them in the comments, happy language learning!