Step 4: Overcoming Inertia and Learning Chinese

You are always the biggest obstacle to attaining your goals. The biggest barrier to reaching any attainable goal are your thoughts and beliefs. If you can change how you think (book by John Maxwell on this topic), you can reach any reasonable goal and some unreasonable goals too!

It All Starts With Motivation

Remember the first step when we talked about why you want to learn Chinese? You need to pull that why out and dig into it. Why do you want to learn Mandarin Chinese? How will it change your life? How will it make you proud? How will it make you more effective? We’re going to use the “Why” behind your goal to attack the inertia of life. The driving force behind inertia is negative thinking. I can’t do it. What about the fiscal cliff? Those thoughts (and others like them) lead to fear and an escape activity like eating, drinking or watching TV. Write down 10 sentences about why this goal is important to you. Now look objectively and write down 10 sentences about why this goal is realistic.

Understand Your Thoughts

Pay attention to the thoughts that run through your head when you start to work on your goal. Watch out for thoughts like: I’ll get to it later, I can’t do this, I’d rather watch TV, etc. Write these thoughts down. Is there a trend? Do they point out that while you’d really like to accomplish something, you don’t like the actual work of accomplishing it? Does that change your plan?

Evaluate these thoughts. Are the thoughts really true? What makes them true? Are there ways that the thoughts could be wrong? Changing your thoughts may be as  simple as figuring out that these thoughts are just an excuse. It may take a deeper look into what you really belief. If you don’t believe you can accomplish your goal, then evaluate that belief. Is it really true?

Change Your Thinking

Every time you think a negative thought, use the 20 thoughts you wrote down to remind yourself of why this goal is important and why you can accomplish this goal. Practice this diligently and it will get easier over time. We’ll spend more time on this in the support section too.

When You are Stuck

Runners often talk about the first step being the hardest. It isn’t the running that makes it hard. It’s the mental effort of starting. It may help to break today’s goal into something smaller. If you have to learn 5 Chinese characters, study 1 or 2 and then give yourself permission to take a break. You may just power through all 5 or take a break and come back to the other 3 in a few minutes. The key is often just getting started.

If you really would rather do something else then you need to: examine your priorities and/or change your schedule. First, look at your priorities. You may want to relax right now, but how will you feel in a year? Will that have been time well spent? You need to decide how to spend your time. Second, if there is a reason that sleep is more important right now, can you change your schedule later this week to make up the time? Go deeper. Why is watching TV/sleeping/reading more important? Were you out late with friends or working late because of a deadline at work? Are those things more important than your goal? Will you need to make regular changes to your plan to accommodate these issues?

Comment Below: This Week’s Questions

  1. What are your priorities? How important are these priorities?
  2. Do you want to accomplish great things in life?
  3. What new beliefs do you need to develop?
  4. What thoughts will help you get things done?
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