In the latest podcast episode (AFP 33) I had a great talk with Alberto Arrighini about motivation, self-development and just basically how do we become successful in anything (and everything!) – If you haven’t already listened to that episode I strongly suggest you do, as it contains a ton of actionable steps to overflow with motivation.
In that post I also shared that I decided to write about self development a bit on the blog. I have actually been playing around with this topic for a while, and at one point I was even considering to start a new blog just to write about personal development.
But then I realised that although not entirely related to learning languages, it is super helpful, and thus decided that I would also post these personal posts, on top of the current language learning content that you are used to seeing.
This first post is a kind of introduction to how I discovered personal development, and what results I have achieved so far with it.
Language learning is a form of self-development
When you choose to learn a foreign language, you are actually taking on a massive personal development task. You are studying, which helps the brain stay fresh and young but you are also upgrading your own “persona.”
This means that even if you have never heard of self-development or studied a book on the subject, you could very well be doing it extremely well already.
For me language learning totally opened a door into the personal development, because I realised that to learn languages you need to have the motivation to study on a regular basis and motivation can’t just be summoned or consumed in the form of tablets or drinks.
So my thought process went, how do I get more motivation? Which is a question you will frequently hear me ask my guests on the podcast. To me, the concept, that some people are capable of motivating themselves to do something that very few others do, is very intriguing.
How do some people learn multiple languages in a year and spend hours every day doing flashcards or studying?
The answer is motivation. It’s this mythical intangible that seems to be the pillars of every action anyone has ever taken. Without it we are nothing, and with it we can be everything we ever dreamed of – and more.
Before I started my Russian language journey in 2014, I was depressed. Useless and just wasting every day. I had high ambitions, even showing great promise in whatever I managed to do, but the motivation was really never there.
When I started Actual Fluency and my Russian mission, I had still not cracked the code on motivation and the site back then was quite awful and I did not spend much time studying Russian. My estimates are about 15 minutes a day on average.
Now that is likely 15 minutes more than most people on the planet, but to me that is irrelevant. I knew I was capable of more, so when I wasn’t doing it, it really hurt.
And not only did I let myself down personally, I was not producing enough content for the blog, as a result of my relaxed approach, which means I was letting down the people who were interested in following my story.
The turning point
I would say my turning point came in Berlin, at the Polyglot gathering.
Meeting extraordinary people, who even with remarkable language skills still managed to stay humble, friendly and outgoing. This is the person I want to become, I said.
The gathering reinforced that the future Chris, that I was working on via the blog, actually had a future. Suddenly it was not studying languages in a dark room all by myself, but I became part of a community that worked towards common goals.
Now, a word of warning. Changing your life is not an overnight process, and I do not claim to be an expert in motivation, working hard or anything. I’m a work in progress. And that thought keeps me hungry for knowledge and information.
I'm doing way better now than I was before, and if you can say that to yourself every day – you are definitely doing something right.
Information is everything
EVERY TIME I tell non-language learners that I'm studying Russian, they ask me what school I go to.
This means that they are missing information. Without the knowledge that you can, in fact, learn a language on your own, how is anyone ever going to get started? This for me is step one. Faith.
And I'm not talking about religious faith, although that can certainly be beneficial too.
If I hadn't found famous polyglots on YouTube like Luca or Benny, I would never have even imagined it was possible to learn 10 foreign languages to fluency, let alone one. But I saw them do it, read their recounts and absorbed all information.
The information we need to change our lives is widely available. For me personally I'm absorbing information by reading successful people. When I realised the power of reading self-help books, I romped through a book in less than 2 days.
And I have maybe read less than 20 books lifetime. Another weak point.
Remembering the low times
About three years ago I had just returned home from a year in London.
This was at my lowest point yet. Unemployed and out of school I moved into a small room with my mother and her partner. I had nothing going on, so I was just mindlessly surfing the internet all day.
When I came across the polyglots I didn't take it in 100% but I got that 10 second motivation, some of you might recognise. You convince yourself that you are a overweight and go on a long run. You feel great.
But the next day you don’t go. Because your 10 seconds of motivation didn't last through the night.
My run was listening to Michel Thomas French, a few of the CDs, and that was exciting. I could really feel the power of the method and I quickly understood a lot more French than I had before.
A week later I was not listening to it any more, and I have not since gone back.
I was obviously lacking motivation, but more importantly, I've later realised, I was missing a vision. Yes it’s great you want to learn French, but why, and where do you see yourself using it?
The old me, bad way: I want to learn how to Speak French so I can speak another language
The new me: I see myself in the south of France, the sun is shining and I'm drinking a lovely glass of red wine while casually speaking to a few French girls sitting around me. I order in French from the waiter and even throw in a few jokes, he laughs and says how amazing my French is and how awesome it is when foreigners take the time to really learn it.
I write this down in a book, which I call my dream book. Every morning at 5:00 am I get up and the first thing I do is to read through all my visions. They range from health to language learning, and everything important in between.
I'm not superhuman, I'm still overweight, my room looks like crap, my personal finances are questionable at best but you know what, I'm working relentlessly on improving all those things – and more. I'm changing my life positively, and these changes would've never come about unless I started to learn languages and decided to blog about it.
And the blog is also important to talk about because It's also part of my life. I want to provide you, the reader, with awesome, inspiring and helpful content. Not just half-arsed posts about how to do flashcards or how you can learn Spanish by setting your phone to Spanish.
I want Actual Fluency to be the best language blog in the world. And you are invited for the ride. Let's be awesome together!
I know this post is a little different from the others, so I’d love it if you took a second to comment below. What did you think about it? Would you like to see more personal development posts on AF in the future?