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30 days: How to improve self-discipline

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Andrew Coach
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 Message 25 of 39
08 October 2011 at 8:58pm | IP Logged 
"...but good intrinsic motivation does not equal good discipline. "

Yep, agree with at, however without intrinsic motivation discipline is difficult. In fact most people give up when they
discipline themselves, unless that inner drive is there. Of course there are the highly driven individuals who can be
disciplined at whatever they set themselves. However these are in the distinct minority. This can be seen in any area
of endeavour, not just language learning.
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songlines
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 Message 26 of 39
04 January 2013 at 5:07pm | IP Logged 
At this time of year, when people are trying to keep their New Year's resolutions, folks may find this thread very
useful.   Start with EMK's first post.   


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Jeffers
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 Message 27 of 39
04 January 2013 at 5:43pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for bumping this up, songlines. I already have my calendar for this year, and it already has 3 big red X's on it.

I was inspired by this thread last year, and did Assimil every day for about 2 months, but then I went on holiday for a week, and it kind of fell apart. One day missed became two, and then there seemed to be no point starting the X's again. I still studied French almost every day, but Assimil became more of a monthly activity instead of a daily activity.

No longer! I am going to do Assimil every day to earn my X. To make it more attainable, I will allow myself to do a passive lesson one day, and then do the corresponding active lesson the next day (since it was partly the introduciton of the active lessons which threw me off). Once I've finished the passive wave of Assimil New French With Ease, I'll start a passive wave of the old Assimil French Without Toil.

I have secondary goals as well: to read 10 pages of French or Hindi every day, and to continue to work through Pimsleur French II on my commute. But doing or not doing these tasks won't affect my X. I'm hitching my wagon to Pimsleur for the next few months at the very least.

Thank you EMK and Seinfeld for the inspiration!
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emk
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 Message 28 of 39
04 January 2013 at 6:40pm | IP Logged 
songlines wrote:
At this time of year, when people are trying to keep their New Year's resolutions, folks may find this thread very useful.


Wow, I remember this thread! Just as an update, I've now passed day 1880, and I don't think I've ever broken the chain. Granted, there were lots of days in 2010 and 2011 where all I did was read a paragraph out of Le Monde.

Here's my current thinking:

- In the short run, it's enormously useful to have concrete goals like "write 100 words a day on lang-8 for 30 days", "read at least 10 pages every night", or "learn 3 hieroglyphs every day". These goals seem to give me enough short-term reinforcement to make real gains in a single skill. For example, see this post on how I learned to write semi-coherent French or my 70 day experiment with Egyptian (in French). If you want to try a short-term goal like this, you can join the consistency thread.

- In the long run, I've never been able to stick to any goal more specific than "do something every day." It's better to do something than nothing, right? Even if I spent a year reading maybe a paragraph of French every day, it seemed to be enough that I didn't forget all my French.

- If you break the chain and feel discouraged, just start over again. According to Khazumoto, every moment should be a reset. I'd surely feel horrible if somebody made it to day 18, missed day 19, and gave up out of discouragement. If that's how you roll, maybe you should worry more about the resets than the consistency.

- If you want to learn a language, but you've always given up within a week, then move heaven and earth to make it through those first 30 days. It will be hard, and you'll need to pick a small task. (How about 20 minutes of Assimil?) That's enough time to make some progress, to see if you like the language, and to build a habit.
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OneFreeKorea
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 Message 29 of 39
10 January 2013 at 4:57am | IP Logged 
Great post, thank you.
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luke
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 Message 30 of 39
10 January 2013 at 10:04am | IP Logged 
It has helped me a lot to reset my goals to and take "baby steps". For instance, there was a time when I spent hours every day on Spanish, FSI drills, etc. I had a period of a three or four years where I did almost no Spanish. I came back to Spanish several months ago. At first, with my usual obsessive style. Then my wife and I were getting married and planning a trip to France, so the obsession shifted. After the trip to France (honeymoon), I've set a much lower set of goals in my languages. In most of them, it amounts to about 10-20 minutes of easy study most days. I'm studying French more than that, but these small goals help me feel I'm making progress. For instance, if all I do in Spanish on one day is 6-8 minutes of replacement drills, I still feel content. If I just listen to one Esperanto dialogue of 2-3 minutes, I'm doing okay. Most days I do more than that, but even these small daily goals lay the groundwork for long term progress.

Even with French, in which I study many more minutes each day, I utilize many tiny goals such as:
Read and listen to the current Assimil lesson. (10-15 minutes for an advanced lesson)
Review a previous lesson (May be only a minute or two).
Listen/Read 7 to 10 lessons, depending on the course (about 7-10 minutes).

And with courses or thinking at a higher level, just continuing to march through the course knowing I can come back and go through the course again.

This approach has served me much better than the "I must master the current lesson before I move on" or the "I have to finish it all today" approach.

Edited by luke on 10 January 2013 at 10:20am

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Gemuse
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 Message 31 of 39
03 April 2014 at 4:14am | IP Logged 
I've been at language learning for a few months now, but no way could I do it every day.
Not a self-discipline problem, it's just that my brain needs a break every 2-3 days from
language learning. I actually feel after a few days that I will negative learn if I dont
take the day off.

"Discipline is remembering what you want" Thats a great quote.

Along similar lines, for weight loss "I like not being fat more than I like eating
food".
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emk
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 Message 32 of 39
03 April 2014 at 12:34pm | IP Logged 
Gemuse wrote:
I've been at language learning for a few months now, but no way could I do it every day. Not a self-discipline problem, it's just that my brain needs a break every 2-3 days from language learning. I actually feel after a few days that I will negative learn if I dont take the day off.

Yup, that's one of several reasons why this technique might fail. Another big negative is that Seinfeld calendars are pretty useless for things you want to do 3 or 4 times per week, or even less often. They also tend to lose much of their power once you break the chain:

Quote:
For three years now we’ve scrambled to make sure a Messy Matters post got out the door at least once in every calendar month. Such is the powerful psychology of “don’t break the chain”, also known as the Seinfeld hack. But the Seinfeld hack’s greatest strength is also its fatal flaw: Once you do break the chain, all the motivation it provided bursts like a bubble. You’ve got to somehow motivate yourself to build up another long chain to not break. Until then you’re on a “one more day won’t matter” slippery slope of sloth. (Notice how we missed our end-of-February deadline and how many days into March it now is!)

For a more personal example, here are two goals where I discovered I couldn't use this technique:

1. Exercise. I can't work out seriously 7 times a week, not without destroying myself. I need some way to work out intensely three times per week.

2. Middle Egyptian. Over a year ago, I committed to 30 days of Assimil's L'Égyptien hiéroglyphique. This was really intense and time consuming, and when I reached the 30 day mark, I gave it up willingly. I then put my Egyptian in deep freeze (maintained only by Anki) for over a year before resuming. But I discuss that elsewhere.

I've found the 30 day technique to be very useful, but it only works under certain circumstances. I am, however, still quite fond of "mini-goals", such as 30 days of writing 100 words/day on lang-8, or 30 days of reading 10 pages/day. I've found that my brain really will adapt to this sort of concentrated, consistent stimulus, and two things happen: it gets a lot easier to work every day, and I learn the material fairly quickly.


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