You see the native speaker of your target language, that girl/boy you like, an important person you admire or you could be moments away from clicking “send” on an important e-mail or job application, or pressing that last digit to make an important phonecall.
And then it starts: the self-doubt, the reasons you’ll fail and a need to prepare yourself more with assurances that you’ll be ready “later”.
One of the biggest problems I see people having that holds them back from achieving their goals is caused by thinking too much. When you stop and play out things in your mind, the pessimist side of you takes over.
The most important thing you can think about before doing any of these things is this: NOTHING.
Stop thinking about it and act - when the opportunity presents itself don’t even give yourself two seconds to think of what to say, or to mentally “prepare” yourself. Just speak or do what you need to do.
Does acting more assertively lead to more likeliness of mistakes? Perhaps – but more mistakes also means more successes. Most people I meet who stay within safe limits make a maximum of one or two “mistakes” a day don’t achieve very much with that day. I make hundreds of mistakes every day, and tomorrow I want to make even more.
Some of the most brilliant people I’ve met take risks all the time and make tons of mistakes because of it. And that’s why they’re so successful.
Think you could never do that? Then stop bloody thinking it. All that over-analysing and negative thinking is what’s really holding you back – not the actual bullshit excuses about not being “ready” yet.
Stop thinking about it so much. Speak your target language as soon as you see the native, invite him/her for a coffee without playing the conversation over in your head, or just press send. When you act more than ponder, you start to get good at it. You don’t need to think so much, or even better – you learn to think on your feet, and you start to become more confident and successful.
Ever see someone who you’d consider a “natural” at what you want to be good at? How much thinking and self-doubt do you think is part of their day?
Yes, you’ll also fail occasionally. That’s life, just accept it rather than thinking you can avoid it all the time. By avoiding failures, you’ll avoid successes. By accepting that they are a part of the game, you’ll already be braced for impact and can pick yourself up and storm right back into action if one happens.
Right now I have two things I can do:
- I can think “Maybe nobody will like this blog post, maybe I’ll get no comments, maybe they’ll hate it so much that everyone will unsubscribe and never come back, my income stream will stop, my parents will disown me and my friends will abandon me and I’ll live in the street and die of starvation….” (Seriously, many pessimists use worst-case scenarios to stop them from doing anything)
- Press publish.
No time to think, I’m doing it.
What are you going to do? Stop thinking so much – that’s what’s holding you back!
Enter your email in the top right of the site to subscribe to the Language Hacking League e-mail list for way more tips sent directly to your inbox!
If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
Comments: If you liked this post or have anything to say, please leave a comment! I love reading them
Just keep in mind that I’ll delete any rude, trolling, spammy, irrelevant or way off-topic comments. Also, use your REAL name, not a brand or business one, and don’t link to your site in the comments unless it’s relevant to this post.
If you have a general language learning question, please ask it in the forums. Otherwise please use the search tool on the right for any other question not related to this post.
- How to make time if you are too busy (Very similar post)
- Does drinking help you speak a foreign language? (Very similar post)
- Do you need to be rich to travel the world? (Very similar post)
- How to survive as a travelling vegetarian (Very similar post)
- Don't be scared to meet new people (Very similar post)
- 6 languages, 1 singer, 1 signer [video] (RANDOM - Very similar post)