Sometimes it’s just painful. As an autodidact, you have taken responsibility for learning Latin by your own disciplined efforts. The first two days, it was fantastic, wasn’t it? Full of exuberance and excitement, you put in the time eagerly. And then…reality hit. After a short time, you met a wall. And that is when you began to put off, postpone, and putter around with stupid things you don’t even like to do, in order to avoid your Latin practice. Motivation–gone.
I’ve been there! (Oftentimes still go there, eheu…) Let’s go over some of the reasons why we lose our motivation, in hopes of outwitting our fears and discomfort. Persistence down the long road is much easier when we plan ahead for the obstacles. Allow me to encourage and advise you!
- You think you’ll never be able to do it.
You’re just not organized enough, smart enough, talented enough, etc…for studying such a complicated language as Latin. So you may think. But…I read a wonderful book years ago by a psychologist and educational researcher that demolishes those myths. If you think you can’t do it, I want you to know that Dr. Carol Dweck’s research also says you can! Get into the right frame of mind, what she calls a “growth mindset.” Her book Mindset describes people across all walks of life–athletes, students, CEOs–and what made them succeed or fail.
What makes people successful? Doing the work it takes to be successful. The growth mindset, which is basically an attitude of persistence and patience in learning, focuses you on moving forward one step at a time, while keeping you confident that your efforts will pay off. The brain is able to change and grow, and so you will be able to grow your own brain’s ability as you practice and learn. Of course, I highly recommend that you read her wonderful book if you are interested in this topic. But for now, know that it’s neurologically true that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Know that if you persist, continuously tweaking your methods/style/materials, you will surprise yourself with your success in learning Latin. You CAN do this.
- There’s just too much tedious work to do.
You might be unmotivated because you see a mountain of work to slog through. Ah yes, learning Latin does require hard work, if you want mastery! However, this obstacle is surmountable with that handy tool on every cell phone: a timer. (I like the old-fashioned kitchen kind, too, that gives that triumphant trill when it rings! Here is an online version that makes that great sound.) When you are tempted to skip your study session for the day, try this trick. Tell yourself, “I will let myself off easy today, just doing a short 10 minutes of studying now.” Set that timer and get to work. When it rings, you are free!
Perhaps you think you can’t do much in just 10 minutes. Give it a try and see. Even if you only have time to review what you have already done lately, it will pay off big time. And of course it is much better than skipping the exercises altogether. Bit by bit you really can complete a rigorous, thorough Latin course!
- Your life is just too busy.
This one has a simple, but perhaps not an easy solution. You think your Latin studies can’t fit into your maxed out schedule? Well, for anything you already regularly do, you have carved out the time for it and made a routine. Now you will have to do that again for your Latin practice. As hard as it may seem, if you really want to pursue your goals you will have to either 1) substitute study time for a half hour of TV or other entertainment or 2) “create” new time in your day, for example by getting up earlier in the morning or staying up a little later. Yes, this is difficult. But isn’t this project worth it? Happily, once you have spent several days with your new routine, you will become used to it, and it will not be so difficult anymore after a short while. “Too busy” is yet another state of mind that can be changed.
Which of these resonates with you most right now? Have you found something in this list that is a recurring issue in your own life? Leave a comment below and we can compare notes.
Later on, in Part 2 on this topic, I’ll look at several more reasons we lose motivation for Latin studies. But if we plan ahead for the hard times, and build in solutions and strategies for managing our motivation, we can keep going even when it’s really tough to get going…