How to Learn a New Language: Lesson 1
How to Set the Right Goals to Learn a New Language
“I want to be wealthy…”
“I want to travel the world and learn languages…”
“I want to lose 10 lbs. this year.”
We’ve all dreamed of these lofty goals in life at one point or another, especially during new years.
Setting goals is an essential technique for accomplishing what we truly want in our lives, and more importantly —living a more fulfilling life. And the importance of goal setting is only increasing as our ability to focus continues to diminish with the rise of new media and technology.
“Setting Goals In Life Is The First Step In Turning The Invisible Into The Visible.”
— Tony Robbins
If you’re truly committed to achieving your most important goals, whether it’s to learn a new language, lose 10lbs, start your own business, it all starts with this…
1. Know What You Really Want
“Decide What You Want, Decide What You Are Willing To Exchange For It.
Establish Your Priorities And Go To Work.” —H. L. Hunt
One day, Warren Buffett was having a long conversation with his pilot.
After realizing that his pilot has been working with him for quite some time, Warren decided to perform a goal setting exercise with him.
He first started by asking his pilot to list 25 goals in life he’d like to achieve in the next 5 years.
i. Go nuts
We’re going to borrow Warren’s strategy by starting to list all the possible goals and dreams you have for your life in the next five years.
Go nuts. The bigger the dream, the better. And feel free to list more than 25 if you’re feeling ambitious.
ii. Domino effect
After a few hours, his pilot came back to him with his list of 25 goals he’d like to accomplish.
Then Warren told his pilot to narrow that list down to only 5 goals.
His pilot hesitantly responded, “but these are all important to me… that’s why I wrote them down.” Yet Warren persisted and told him he could only pick 5.
When his pilot returned with his 5 goals, Warren surprised him by responding: “Okay, do you see the 20 goals that you haven’t circled? This is now your ‘avoid-at-all-cost’ list.”
The takeaway lesson from the mindset of this billionaire is: focus is essential.
It’s better to focus on 5 important goals that we can fully accomplish well, rather than 25 goals we perform mediocrely.
In the book The ONE Thing, the author Gary Keller states that you can ask yourself this simple question to narrow down your goals:
“What is the ONE Thing I can accomplish [from this list], so that if I accomplish it, everything else will become easier or unnecessary.”
Keller refers to this technique as the Domino Effect.
“If You Chase Two Rabbits, You Will Not Catch Either One.”
For example, let’s say your 5-year goal is to make $1,000,000 for your business, and your business has 3 revenue streams:
- Product #1: $100,000/yr; growing 10%/mo
- Product #2: $100,000/yr; growing 25%/mo
- Consulting: $75,000/yr; growing 15%/mo
Instead of diverting your attention and managing the growth of 3 separate revenue streams, why not focus your resources and energy on one product/service with the highest growth potential (i.e. Product #2), that will make everything else unnecessary to reach your ultimate goal?
This is what the tech icon Steve Jobs did when he cut 70% of Apple’s products in order to focus on the few that mattered, like the Macbook, iPod, and eventually the iPhone.
Or what Jason Fried and his team at 37signals announced last year by deciding to rebrand their company to Basecamp, and drop maintaining their other popular products.
In relation on how to learn a new language, let’s say you want to become fluent in Spanish in 6 months and your measurement for success is having a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker.
Instead of diverting your attention to learning everything from reading, writing, and learning from different textbooks & courses, you can maximize your limited time and energy by focusing on learning the most common Spanish words, and practicing your speaking skills.
iii. Your “Why”
One of the biggest reasons why only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions is the lack of motivation.
And the reason why we lose motivation in the first place is not having a strong enough “why.”
Discovering our why requires us to dig deeper than the immediate reward of achieving the goal.
Here are some questions to ask yourself (and write down).
Imagine you accomplished your goal(s):
- How will you feel? Will you feel invincible, overjoyed, powerful, fulfilled, grateful, excited, energetic, healthy, fit, etc.
- Who will you be around? Will you be connecting and have deeper relationships with fellow language learners across the world? Become associated with influential people you would love to connect with?
- Who will you become? Will you be more confident, interesting to you friends and family, reassured, giving, happy, financially independent, polyglot, etc.
- What opportunities will this open up? What doors will open up for you if you achieve this goal? Travel the world, more speaking opportunities, improve your love life, ability to learn other languages much faster, have a deeper connection with family members, etc.
Notice how much more powerful and motivating this is compared to simply writing down:
- “Lose 15 lbs.”
- “Make $100,000.”
- “Learn Spanish.”
2. Model, Model, Model
Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, chances are that someone else in the world has already done it.
Learning to model can be one of the most powerful techniques to achieve any goals in life faster because you can learn from the mistakes and lesson from those who have come before you.
On a piece of paper, rewrite the 5 goals you have chosen and:
i. Beside each goal write down 3 people that have achieved what you want to achieve. It can be someone you know, met, or an influencer you follow.
ii. Reverse-engineer in 3–5 steps what they did to achieve their goals.
For learning languages, it could be:
- travel to Spain
- hire a one-on-one tutor
- memorize 30 words a day
- only hang out with Spanish speakers while living in Spain
iii. What’s the one piece of advice they would provide you?
Imagine you’re having coffee with these people one-on-one, and you’ve just spent 3 hours telling them everything about your situation and goals.
3. ACTION Plan
Once you know what you want, it’s a matter of taking massive action to achieve your goals.
Beside each goal:
- Write down chronologically the first 5 steps you need to take from as early as today in order to progress your goal. Make it as detailed as possible. **Short term**
Examples: picking a name for your business, deciding to hire a language teacher, signing up for a gym membership.
- Now write down the 5 overarching milestones you need to meet in order to achieve your end goal. Make sure to think big this time, and many of these milestones should make you feel a little uncomfortable, but keep in mind this is who you’ll be becoming in 5 years, not today.**Long term**
Examples:Raising money from VC’s, memorizing 3,000 words, quitting your job, etc.
4. What’s Stopping You
If you were building a house from scratch, do you take a nail and a hammer, and just plow away at a pile of wood? Unlikely!
We need a plan. Better yet, a blueprint that lists what resources we need in detail and what are the specific actions we need to take to build the house.
We all have limitations, and a powerful way to make up for our limitations is to dissect exactly what they are.
What’s stopping you from achieving your goals in life?
Is it: failure to plan ahead? no mentor to advise you? more knowledge on a specific topic?
Have a clear focus of what your limitations are, and how you’ll overcome them.
5. Who Do You Need To Become?
The attitudes, internal beliefs, and behaviors of a successful person are rarely talked about. Yet it’s the most important driver for someone’s success.
What will it take to achieve your goal? Who do you need to become?
Will it take a great deal of discipline? Do you need to become a more productive person and manage your time better?
Think about the people who have already achieved the goal you want.
If you want to build a successful business, think about the daily routine of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. How does it compare to your current routine?
If you want to make it to the Olympics, think about the daily routine of Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps.
Are you playing to their level?
Goals are never achieved from one-time events, but through the daily actions, beliefs, and routines that accumulate over a period of time.
Who do you need to become?
6. Resources At Your Disposal
All of us already have resources we can leverage to achieve our goals faster.
It could be your resilience and persistence, a personal connection that can open up doors, or an asset that can be re-used for different purposes, such as technology.
Create 3 columns with the following titles:
- Your strengths: character traits, specialized knowledge, motivation, time, etc.
- People you know: connections that have done what you’ve done, someone that can get you in the door, a potential investor, etc.
- Current assets:financial resources, technology, tools, etc.
Then start to make a list of all the resources you can think of. Try not to overthink this, and just write as much as you can. You’ll be surprised a number of resources you already have currently.
Now look back at your goals.
Pick one resource from each column that will bring you the maximum outcome with the least amount of resources. In other words, what are the 20% of resources at your disposal that will bring you 80% of your desired goals?
7. Process Over Performance
Showing up is often the hardest part in anything we do.
The biggest mistake most of us make is emphasizing the importance of daily performance over process.
Even the most professional athletes, musicians, writers, and performers across all industries have their bad days. But the difference between professionals and amateurs is: they show up. They do the work.
For writers, this is sitting down and writing 500-words a day, no matter how bad it may turn out.
For athletes, this is waking up every morning and training, no matter how groggy and sore you feel.
For language learners, it’s forcing yourself to speak the language every day, no matter how many mistakes you make or how uncomfortable you may feel.
Focus on doing the work instead of having a perfect day, every day.
Focus on the process, not the performance.
Here are a few ways to develop the habit of process over performance:
i. Think macro/long-term: According to this study on motivation, abstract thinking can help us develop discipline as we look to future rewards by “dreaming big.” Self-determination theory also showed us that intrinsic motivation is an essential part of developing habits that stick, versus motivation through punishment and fear.
ii. Be boring: There’s power in being boring, according to this study. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, is well known for wearing the same colored tie and suit, in other to minimize the daily decisions he needs to make. As the Harvard Business Review states, it’s better to find the mundane tasks in your life and “routinize” them as much as possible.
iii. Discover your trigger points: We all have moments when we say, “ah screw it. I quit,” also known as the “What The Hell” effect. The key is to discover when we have those trigger points and what those trigger points are.
For example, according to Steve Pavlina, a major reason why we choose not to get up early in the morning is that the snooze button is right next to our beds. By putting it out of reach, say on the other side of your bedroom, we’re forced to get up and shut it off.
“Seventy Percent Of Success In Life Is Showing Up.” — Woody Allen
At the end of the day, goals are not the end all to your life purpose.
The tricky thing about goals in life is that we can never truly achieve them because they’re always changing.
Once we achieve a goal, we set bigger goals. Then we set even bigger goals.
And that’s how it should be. The point of setting goals is not to simply achieve them, but to use it in order to stretch ourselves to a level we’ve never been before.
What’s more important is the person we become, after the journey we have overcome.
“Goals Are A Means To An End, Not The Ultimate Purpose Of Our Lives. They Are Simply A Tool To Concentrate Our Focus And Move Us In A Direction.” — Tony Robbins
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