Creating good habits

Creating good habits

Let us start with a familiar situation. On holiday you have discovered that ‘Italians are understood everywhere‘ is just a myth. We need languages to communicate, and you decide to learn English when you get home. It seems easy on social media! All you have to do is watch TV series and do five minutes of practice a day, maybe with an influencer’s online course. But things don’t go your way, you convince yourself you don’t have what it takes and put your dream back in the drawer. But why did you fail if your intentions were the best and you put so much effort into it?

Whose fault is it?

Inept teachers? Useless courses? Ineffective advice? All of these reasons, and more.

But before we go any further, let me repeat the two best advice you will ever receive:

Join the John Silver Language Academy and create powerful habits!

And now let’s find out together why it is so difficult to create and maintain good habits.

Creating powerful habits, or patterns, is not easy. In January, gyms are full of well-meaning people who will pay for a membership without getting beyond the first week of training. It’s the same with dieting, walking instead of driving, or learning a new language.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, when the opposite happens), once established good habits tend to stay forever. The first step is the hardest. Goodwill is not enough. The problem is when we try to change the wrong thing in the wrong way.

Changing the wrong thing

Let’s start with the concept of change. I have identified three types:

1. outcome-based. The most immediate, but which identifies the result with change, whereas the former is about direction, the latter lifestyle. As I wrote in the previous article, direction is important but not essential, if one can achieve the same results with empowering habits and the support of a good teacher;

2. process-based. The second level is more about what we do than where are we going. It is a futile effort if we have not created empowering habits because the change will be temporary. On the other hand, why change something that is not part of our daily or weekly routine? Our brain recognises this as a waste of energy and it is in our nature to avoid such efforts.

3) Identity. The third level identifies habits with identity, because ‘we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is a habit. I did not write this, but I have made it my own, which helps me in times of difficulty.

In what way?

We form our identity through good habits

I struggled a lot in my university career. One day, tired of repeated failures, I decided to give up to do something else. However, I felt something burning inside me. Coming from a sports background, I saw giving up as a defeat. I found myself saying ‘I may not be the best, the strongest, or the smartest, but I’m the one who never gives up’, and I identified myself with that positive image, although expressed with a negation. At first, I thought it was getting back up after every defeat. However, this attitude should be identified with those who repeat the same mistakes. The intention was not to accept defeat, but to avoid falling back into the vicious circle of making a mistake, falling, get up again, I started going to bed before midnight, waking up earlier, studying without breaks or distractions, leaving the house to go to the library, repeating aloud. In short, I created winning habits and became a motivated student. Every time I woke up early, went to the library, and repeated out loud, I renewed these good intentions.

I have applied the same way of thinking to other areas with success. Now, when I write a page of a novel or an article, I am a writer, when I exercise, I am an athlete, when I face a problem at work, I am a problem solver.

Good habits prevent bad habits

Another benefit of positive habits is that it is easy to keep them. Now, when I make mistakes, my body reacts and warns me. Therefore, the most practical way to change our identity is to start with our daily actions. To learn to speak fluent English, you should be aware that the journey may be long and there will be good days and bad ones. However, making English part of your daily routine will shorten the time and make the change permanent.

Good habits for learning English

In the coming weeks we will see how to establish and maintain these habits, but today I would like to leave you with some interesting food for thought.

1. Find a good teacher who knows what you like and what you do, to build strong habits. The lesson alone is not enough.

2. Reading books is an essential vocabulary-building activity, but not for everyone. For many people, it is tantamount to torture (I don’t accept being told you don’t have time because that’s why you are here. NO EXCUSES!). If it sounds familiar, then instead of novels, start with articles on topics that you like. Reading can be trained. When you are ready, you can move on to more complex texts.

3. Podcasts. It is an effective tool but depends too much on factors like level and age. A beginner may not understand enough and feel discouraged. A young student may not find interesting topics.

4. Films, cartoons, and TV series. In my entire career, I have only had one student who was not interested in them. For the others, it was easy to start with something they had already seen, maybe with subtitles, and then forget dubbing for life. Remember, if you find removing subtitles hard it is not your fault! It may be due to sound distortion (which is different from listening to a podcast through headphones), the actor’s accent and pronunciation, or that your attention may be captured by the situation. Imagine you are watching a horror film; it is easy to get distracted!

5. Music.Sorry, but for me this is a big NO. Like poetry, music follows a certain metric, so the benefit of listening to songs is limited to learning a few new words. On the other hand, unlike poetry, many terms may be slang, which limits their usefulness, especially for lower levels.

6. Apps, Duolingo, and Co. Again, I am rather skeptical. I tried downloading one, and although it can be fun at first, I found it rather repetitive and progress-limited.

As I mentioned in the previous article, the advice you hear is often the same. The most important is finding an excellent teacher and considering students’ inclinations and interests. It is important to find out which of these positive habits can become part of the daily routine more easily and for longer.

In the next article, I will talk about how to incorporate them into your daily routine. Until then,

See you, mates

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