Thursday, November 15, 2012

Your past (probably) equals your future

Like many people, my favourite personal development blogger is Steve Pavlina - and if you haven't read his stuff then I recommend you do.

Learning a language is one of the many ways people choose to improve themselves. And with all the other aspirations people have, so many decide they are going to learn a language, few actually begin, and fewer still get to much of a meaningful level.

When I read Steve's blog, it is easy to work through an article on vegetarianism and to simply replace that goal with learning a language - and the lessons are directly applicable. The same applies for getting fit, losing weight, making more money, starting your own business, etc.

I recently re-read an article of his from 2010 called "The Past DOES equal the Future". It takes on a different stance to what Tony Robbins usually says, and there was one section that I found really good!

So I'm quoting that portion below, and encourage you to take some time to think about the bigger picture of learning a language. Not the details of whether to use flashcards, or whether you should choose the Simplified or Traditional character set ... No, think about the bigger picture of your goals & aspirations, but most importantly, your habits.

Enjoy ...

To Change the Future, Change the Past

Consider two scenarios.

Bill and Ted both want to have written a book within the next year. Neither has written a book before.

Bill has no habit of daily writing. But he has a clear written goal/intention for his book. He knows what kind of book he wants to write. When people ask him what he’s working on, he tells them he’s writing a book. In the past 30 days, he has spent a lot of time thinking about his book. He’s even jotted down some ideas for it, but mostly at random intervals.

Ted has no written goals, intentions, or plans for his book. He hasn’t told anyone he’s writing it. He’s not even sure what the chapters will be. But for the past 30 days, he’s gotten out of bed every morning at 5am, and he’s worked on his book till 7am before having breakfast. He has averaged about 2 pages of potentially usable content per day. He’s been working only on his book during that time and nothing else. He’s done this every day without fail. Nothing has come up in his life during that time that would disrupt this habit or indicate that it’s likely to be disrupted.

If I told you that only one of these two gentlemen finished their book within that year, which one would you bet on? Which approach do you believe is more likely to lead to a completed book within a year?

Which approach are you betting on in your life right now?

How’s that approach working for you?

Is your success predictable? Is your lack of success predictable?


  1. This was very inspiring, Greg! I think about this all of the time when I work on dance or other pursuits.

    I've learned recently that my boyfriend wants to learn a type of martial arts from China, so we're thinking about staying abroad for an extended period of time (like a month or so) post-school so he can study & I can envelop myself in Chinese. It's still a few years off from now, but it's a decision we've made that we don't want to let go!

    Now, if I can only make time out of my day to study Chinese daily ;) in all honesty, I think I'm going to start in September after the graduate school entrance exams. My life will be free so why not? It's a much earlier wait than what I said a few weeks ago (post-PhD).

    I saw a student in the library doing Chinese homework for Level 1 or Level 2, & I was thinking to myself, 'wow, I can still read a lot of those characters or recognize them for the most part'. It made me feel good, you know? It's still the best language in the world to me. :)

    As usual, glad to hear that you're okay & doing well. Take care Greg! Looking forward to your next post!

  2. Hi Kara

    I was speaking with one of my work colleagues recently, and he learned Japanese many years ago. He doesn't have time these days to study Japanese, but he has to read the news everyday anyway, right? So he simply uses Japanese news websites - so it takes zero *extra* time to keep his Japanese fresh. I suppose that's one way you could keep practising without taking extra time too :-)