Language Learning Motivation: Avoiding Pain

I just realized another very interesting thing. I mean, a well known technique for motivating yourself to continue is to realize that if you quit, there is a good chance you will regret it at some point. However, that motivation is just as distant as the motivation to continue. Just like telling yourself, “in 6 months time I will be glad I stuck with it” is often not enough, saying, “If I quit, in 6 months time i will regret it cause I’ll know where I could have been” is also not motivating enough on it’s own.

However, Once you’ve actually experienced that regret, you’ll realize it’s not like, in 6 months you’ll suddenly feel like, “O snap if only I stuck with it”. At least that’s not the case for me. It’s actually an on going thing, if I’m not actively learning, especially after how much time I put in, every day I am seeing Chinese or bumping into situations where I would love to even be able to say “I am learning Chinese right now, this is what I learned today, ect”. Just that feeling of knowing you are progressing, that you are in it, that you have that affiliation with it. This is a reason to maintain it daily.

Daily is what you need, and it doesn’t have to be a lot. Just something. I give it around 20 – 30 min a day depending on how my reviews(using anki) and new hanzi come to me.

SO, well I guess it’s kind of moving towards pleasure as much as it is moving away from pain. Maybe these two are part of the same spectrum. I just realize this type of motivation is really important in tasks that you know you will have to do every day, especially before they have become habit. Part of the motivation does come from failure from doing too much and quitting. I know this, so if someoen is just starting out and has the urge to do too much, I kind of feel like saying go for it. It will be more meaningful when you finally internalize how these things need to be done, and if you still have a flicker of passion left after quitting many times, you’ll know how much it really means to you.

For me, I can feel the difference when I do just 10 new hanzi each morning and the rest of the day I don’t need to think about learning any more but I have the constant assurance that I am getting there and that the whole time I am having more and more to show for it. Night and day compared to quitting and having less and less to show for all the effort, every day.

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