Want2SpeakThai’s Greatest hits

When I started this blog, it was actually a Spanish blog.  I eventually started a separate Thai blog, before I eventually combined them both into this one blog.  While many have followed me for a while now, most probably were not there from the beginning, there fore I thought I would repost one of my old post from when it was just a Spanish blog.  With out further ado, Seesaws: The key to success in language learning and in life.

How many of us can sympathize with the picture on the left.  All of our lives are full of ups and downs and this only gets exaggerated when one does anything new or attempts to change anything in their life.  It is hard to learn something new and doing anything that disrupts our routine is painful.

We can be on top of the world one moment and down in the dumps another. These drastic changes are the biggest reasons we fail to follow through on new things we want to do in our lives.  Hows did your New Year’s resolutions work out this year?

It’s just too uncomfortable dropping, from such high heights to such low lows, that we would rather not do it again.  So when the first sign of  “failure” happens, we loose all motivation we need to keep going.  There is a trick, though, that can help all people when they just want to give up.  The trick to getting out this *depression we put ourselves in might surprise you though.  Its Humility!!!
*I am not talking about bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, or any other psychological disease.  These are real chronic diseases that have nothing to do with attitude or motivation. 

Humility?!?  How thought that was only for those who are too proud?

Humility is the cure for pride, but it is also the cure for depression. Most people assume that the opposite of pride is humility.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The opposite of pride is depression.  Humility, however, is the perfect balance between these two extremes.  Humility allows us to be confident, but accepts that we are not always the best in all things.  We can also accept that we are not the best without having to beat ourselves up about not being the best.  You see how Humility works?  It helps you balance that seesaw of pride and depression and gives you that quite confidence that you need to be successful.

Haven’t you ever felt down before? 

Of course I have, let me share just one of many.  My first days in Thailand as a missionary for my church was a major rollercoaster. I got to the country after completing a 2 month intensive course on how to be a missionary in Thailand, which was mostly about how to speak Thai.  I studied and practiced hard and I felt really confident in my abilities.  I, along with a few others, even talked to a very patient Thai person on the airplane ride to the country.  He went on and on about how amazing our ability was to speak so much in such a short time(which I still do agree with).  I was extremely confident and, to be honest, probably a bit proud of my abilities to speak Thai.

Then I went to my first area, Surin.  We missionaries always go in pairs and I was paired up with someone who had been in Surin for a while.  We went to our first appointment of the day and sat down on the floor to teach this man about our church.  My companion asked me to start teaching, but I only got a few words in before this man started laughing.  I don’t mean soft giggles to himself, he was full on belly laughing.  No matter what, whenever I talked, this guy acted like it was the biggest joke of his life.  My companion had to do all the talking, and I mean ALL of the talking, just so we could get through the lesson we planned to teach him.  This was the start of a major roller coaster down.

I soon learned, that this man was the exception and did not represent how Thai people really act.  For the most part, Thai people are very accommodating and helpful, especially when someone takes the time to learn their language.  Thai people actually helped me stay humble on my 2 year mission to their country.  The moment I was really good at Thai someone would remind me in their own way that I didn’t speak very clearly.  Then another person would remind me how much I could do and how they appreciated me speaking to them in their language.  Thailand helped me stay humble.

So how can we be humble?

There are a couple of things, but the first thing is to recognize that the seesaw exists.  It’s easier to balance if you know that you need to balance.  Pay attention to your thoughts and actions.  A great thing about having a wife is that she supports me and loves me, but she doesn’t let me get to proud or depressed.

The next thing is to be “Thai” and find people who are “Thai” as well.   What do I mean by this?  Just like Thai people helped me stay humble, you can help yourself the same way.  As you get too proud/down about yourself recognize whats happening and counter attack to keep yourself balanced.  Find friends or colleagues who will do the same.

One of the easiest ways I have found to do this is to keep a proper perspective.  A drop of water can look like an ocean if you focus too closely.  Stand back, look at what you have done so far.  Acknowledge that you may not yet have arrived, but you are closer than you were before.  Perspective is an amazing thing.

It may seem easier said then done, but it just like any other skill in life, it can be developed.  Humble people were not born humble.  Humility is not a result of circumstances.  Humility is skill attained by practice and hard work.

Anything else?

Yes there is one last thing I recommend.  It is more of a preventive measure than anything else. The third thing I recommend is to not set yourself up for failure!  This is the biggest killer of motivation that I know.  It is probably the biggest reason none of us keep our New Years Resolutions and all our little projects stay partially completed.

Tell me if this sounds like you? You decide you are going to do project X and you’re  so excited that you go out and buy 5 videos, 3 books, 2 apps and a new outfit.  You schedule it in that you are now going to do 2 hours a day of project X, and then you hit the ground running!  At first its awesome, but then you miss a day.  You didn’t try to but it just happened.  Maybe it was because the car broke down or the kids were fighting, or your best mate flew in and you haven’t seen him/her in 8 years.  Basically, “life” eventually happens and now you are a day behind!

So what do you do? You double your efforts and what was 2 hours a day worth of project X is now 3 hours.  Then life happens again two days later  and now you are even further behind. Not wanting to give up, you triple your efforts and work even harder, but now you never seem to get caught up because you can’t seem squeeze more than 3 hours a day worth of Project X without something else important in your life falling  by the way side. That is when you tell yourself, “I am too busy and this just isn’t possible now,” and then you give up.

Does this sound like you?  It sounds like me!  Up until recently, this is exactly what happened to all my little projects that I started.  Then I learned a different way of working through your day-to-day goals.  You need to set a minimum goal that you hold yourself accountable for.  This means you look at yourself and say to yourself, honestly, even if all hell breaks loose and the end of the world is upon us, I can still be accountable for X minutes a day to work on project X.

For me, right now,  I hold myself accountable to do 15 mins a day of Spanish learning.   I know I can find 15 mins a day on my worst day, to do something spanish related. It may be small, but is do able, no matter what happens.  I also keep it general so I can be flexible in what I do.

Does this mean that I don’t do more than 15 mins a day of language study?  No freakin’ way.  I usually can find an hour to hour and a half of language study.  Sometimes even more.  What this does do is keep me from trying to play catch up all the time.  15 mins a day minimum means that anything else I do is just bonus.  No I didn’t get to watch that movie in spanish, but I did listen to a podcast while doing the dishes.

One final thought be fore I go

Once again, being humble is not a characteristic, it is a skill.  Yes some people are naturally more humble than others, just like some are more athletic than others.  All that means is that you need to work harder at it.  The more you practice, the easier it is to keep that seesaw balanced.

Anyone else have recommendations or suggestions?  Things you do to keep motivated?  Share them in the comment section below.

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