When we want to introduce an important change in our lives (for instance, going to the gym, learning a new language, or starting up a business) too often we begin with a lot of motivation and energy, but we soon lose force and end up procrastinating and, eventually, quitting.
Let’s take learning Spanish as an example. We take the determination to establish a learning routine, which includes reading Spanish short stories, watching the news in Spanish and completing grammar exercises on a daily basis. The first two weeks we follow the pace we imposed to ourselves, but soon we begin finding it harder to find the time (and, all too often, the will and the interest) to continue. As we do not meet our expectations, we lose our motivation and we put our objective apart for a later time which, most probably, will never arrive.
If this has ever happened to you, you know how frustrating it is: you keep leaving things unfinished, and you feel you have failed and lost your time. This situation can even prevent you from ever attempting to try again, which is a painful loss. However, unbeatable as it may seem, there is one single simple trick to learn Spanish that can make you defeat this state of mind and achieve the goals you set for yourself.
The rule of thumb is super-easy to follow and incredibly powerful: at the beginning, do less than you are capable of doing. What this means is that when you set a long-term goal that may be overwhelming or onerous, it is better to start small in order to establish a routine you are able to fulfill. When you lower your threshold, there is no excuse to accomplish your goals. Then, if you feel in the mood, you can stay focused and go further, or you can stop. In both cases, you have progressed in the way towards your long-term objective, and, most importantly, you have protected yourself against failure.
Tim Ferriss, the successful entrepreneur and self-help guru, gives the example of dental flossing to explain this trick. Nobody likes to floss their teeth, so the best way to start doing so is to start as easy as possible, maybe just flossing the space between two or three teeth, what may make you want to continue flossing the rest of your teeth. Lower your standards, make the task less intimidating and avoid performing anxiety. This way you will become a doer. This principle can be applied to almost anything, including exercising, studying, eating healthier… and, of course, learning a new language. So, how do we apply this trick to Spanish learning?
When you design your learning routine to study Spanish at home, instead of, for example, putting aside two uninterrupted hours of study twice a week, it might be wiser to set a smaller daily objective which is impossible to miss, such as reading one small piece of news in Spanish on your smartphone on your way to work, reading two paragraphs of a Spanish book after lunch, learning one new word a day, or devoting five minutes of your time to finish just one grammar exercise.
This might be perceived as a loss of potential (“wouldn’t I be learning faster if I studied longer?”), but in the long run, with this trick to learn Spanish, you would have established a routine that works and keeps you forever in motion. Of course, if once you finish your tiny homework assignments you feel like to continue studying, you can do so. The important thing is avoiding goals that have the potential of making you miss them. What ends up happening is that you will usually exceed your goals, and, most importantly, you will feel successful, what will keep you motivated and always willing to continue learning.
We invite you to try this astonishingly easy and effective trick to learn Spanish. You have nothing to lose, and, as you can see, you have a lot to win.