The Value of Motivation Advice

My motivation behind writing this blog is that I had no other ideas.

I’ve talked before about how a lot of the general discourse of language learning as it exists online is centered on motivation.  Which makes sense, as it’s probably the single largest failure point in a hopeful learner’s journey.  Motivation dwindles as time and difficulty ramp up, until you start missing days here and there, shrug, and move on with your life.

Which isn’t always a bad call, mind you, sometimes you’ve got more important things to worry about, and sometimes your priorities make it clear that this language learning thing really isn’t the thing you’re aiming for.  Lots of people get hung up on “failure” as a true negative, where it represents a devaluing of yourself in some capacity.  Maybe you’re not smart enough, or you’re too weak-willed, or dad was right and you’ll never amount to anything, or whatever other nasty things your brain whispers to you, but failure is a natural part of life and isn’t always a sign of defects.

If after some introspection you come to the conclusion that you really don’t want to be spending all this time trying to learn a language, and would much rather spend it learning to paint, or getting into Samurai movies, or playing video games, and so you switch over and end up being happier day to day?  That’s a victory, not a sign of weakness, and you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about considering yourself and making a decision.

Anyway, digression aside, sometimes it is a bad call, and you can feel it.  You know it’s something important to you, and maybe you have a strong motivation for the task in the long-run, but are struggling in the short-run.  Or maybe you’re going through something in your life that’s strained your time, or you’re juggling multiple Important Things at once and something has to give somewhere.  Or maybe you straight struggle with procrastination.  For situations like that, managing motivation can make or break your projects, and you can end up abandoning something that’s really important to you and feeling guilty about it.  Having the general discourse focus on that point and offer advice make sense.

Making sense is, however, not the same thing as being all that valuable, unfortunately, and I frankly don’t think there’s that much value in motivation advice.  Some elements are helpful, like I think having a good framing device for a project or structure of studying can be great, and framing devices can be something given as advice, but overall, I think motivation is too personal of a thing for someone to really talk you into it.  They can share their own perspectives to give a reader better context for something, maybe even inspire them, but that motivation comes internally, not from the advice-giver.  Finding what it is that drives you to do something is ultimately very personal.  You might be the sort of person who can generate motivation out of people talking about becoming motivated, but I think that for most people it doesn’t.  It makes you feel like you’re on the right track having read the advice, you feel confident and in control, and know that you’re going to conquer the project you have your sights set on—as soon as you feel like getting around to it.  Which will definitely be tomorrow, not today.

And I certainly get it.  I’ve struggled with a lot of different projects over my life, many of which fizzled out despite my interest in them, and I have spent an obscene amount of time reading motivational stuff.  It’s a trap that a lot of people fall into that I’ve heard described as productivity porn.  Rather than actually be productive, you fall into a self-indulgent act of thinking about how one might become more productive.  If you never get around to doing any of it, it’s totally useless, but thinking through all of it can scratch the same itch as actually doing it, so you never have to get around to doing any of it.

The worst part of all of it is that the ultimate goal of all the motivation planning and pep-talking is to get to a point where you don’t need motivation, anyway.  Working on Spanish has long since become an ingrained habit for me.  There are days when I have done poorly, or missed out on stuff entirely, but it feels weird to not work on it a little bit, because it is such a part of my day.

My struggles have largely been around having my schedule change for outside reasons, and therefore needed to alter how I went about studying.  I had a dip in reading time after I quit smoking and stopped having a built in “read while outside with a cigarette” time, for example.  Building those habits and making them sustainable is the real goal.  And while that is something that productivity advice often gets, pushing for you to form ingrained habits, it doesn’t sound that motivational-y.  Just do the thing until it’s a habit, then you won’t worry about “wanting” to do it.  Not advice that’s gonna get a ton of attention.  Nice that it actually works, though.

Now then, let’s look at today’s numbers.

Tuesday 1/21

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 5% of El Mundo Según Garp, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Radio Ambulante, 1 episode of Arte Divierte,1 episode of Andrea Ga, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 1/22

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of El Mundo Según Garp, ~110 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Radio Ambulante, 1 episode of La Zona Cero, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 1/23

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of El Mundo Según Garp, ~110 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of TED en Español, 1 episode of Kiwillius, 2 episodes of Fancylooks, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 1/24

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 8% of El Mundo Según Garp, ~150 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, 1 episode of Fancylooks, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 1/25

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 3% of El Mundo Según Garp, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Kiwillius, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 1/26

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 3% of El Mundo Según Garp, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Kiwillius, 1 episode of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, 1 episode of Ducktales, 1 episode of Seis Manos, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 1/27

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of El Mundo Según Garp, ~110 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of La Zona Cero, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1/3 books, 690 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 14 YouTube episodes, 3 tv episodes, and 3 podcasts, 480 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 19 hours 30 minutes

Another good week.  I’m still a little unsure on how things will shake out in the actual long run, but at this point I’m feeling pretty safe in the assumption that I can usually hit 2.5 hours per day.  I have no guarantees on it, though this is apparently the busy season for my job, which suggests that it’ll only get easier from here.  I’m expecting a week or two in the coming months where I’m getting shoved back onto an early day schedule for training time (my job requires obtaining special licensing that they provide paid work time to prepare for, so I’ll be doing that when the time comes), and I’ll probably have a few catastrophically bad Spanish days as a result, but hey, that’s life.  In the meantime, this is all working out pretty well.

I’m getting very close to finishing El Mundo Según Garp, which is a mixed feeling.  I’ve really liked this one and I’m reluctant to dive back into the unknown of picking something new again, but at the same time it was a very emotionally difficult read, and I’m ready for some lighter fare.  Part of me wants to step back and reread something, too.  I don’t know, I’ll be thinking about it over the coming days.

I started in on a number of new listening things this week.  I stumbled across Fancylooks in my youtube recs, a drawing/arts and crafts channel in Spanish, which is totally in my wheelhouse, so I’ll have fun watching through chunks of it.  I also started Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts on a recommendation, and was reminded that the reboot of Ducktales exists and is on Disney+.  The former looks fantastic and won me over with its first episode, and the latter was something I started in on in English but never found time for and thus fell behind.  I’m still pretty spotty with actual tv shows, but these two might become common staples.

In tangential news, CGP Grey released a video this week explaining Yearly Themes in a nice and succinct way.  I’m excited to have something convenient to link to when giving the backstory on my own themes, and I’m a little surprised it’s taken him until this year to release something similar.  On the subject, I mentioned that I wanted to touch in on my own theme more regularly this year.  I’d tack that onto a section at the end of the month recap blog, but those ones are long enough already that I’m reluctant to add more work to them.  Instead, I think I’m going with this blog, the second-to-last of the month, that way it’s not in the Spanish-drafted blog, but also not in the main recap.  Man, it’s crazy that we’re almost through with January already, it feels like time is flying by.  I need to get around to doing my taxes soon!

So the theme of The Year of Personal Fulfillment has had an uncomfortable start so far, in non-language-focused ways.  I’ve started taking some major steps in my personal, medical journey, but those steps have come bundled with a lot of waiting, which is driving me crazy, but is part of the process, I guess.  I’ve been working at pushing myself toward not giving up on that, and trying to reinforce other parts of my life to find fulfillment there.  If I can’t rush headlong into one thing, I ought to be making the things I do have work well, right?

I’m really happy with the amount of reading I can fit in with work and all, so the Spanish stuff is feeling pretty solid for now, but I’ve been floundering in the world of not-writing for ages.  I’ve managed to snap that dry spell this month, and am happy to know that I’ll be reporting actual words of fiction next blog, though it’s been uneven and spotty so far.  I’m inching toward evening all that out as well as I can, because I know that’s important for my mental health.  I always feel better when I’m writing.  This Monday was also my first time working with a therapist, to try and work on this from an external perspective as well.  I’m unsure how helpful that could be—a lot of talk therapy is about working out how to think around negative thoughts, which is something I already know how to do.  Worth the effort, though, considering it’s covered by my insurance, so it’s not like I’m losing something.

Anyway, that’ll do for this one.  TTFN.

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