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!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.