Treat learning English as your project, NOT your hobby

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Tell me something dear reader. Deep in your figurative heart (which would actually be your brain, as your heart just pumps blood), how important is it to you to learn English?

No... even better: For you, how important is it to improve your English? For you, deep down, how important is it to become able to read any kind of text in English without any major issues? Become able to understand to any person who speaks to you just in English? Be able to write and speak in English really well?

Is it really important for you to reach that point of English mastery? If it really is, then you have to stop treating English as just a hobby. Instead, you need to treat English as one of your life projects. Allow me to explain what I mean:


What is a hobby?


A hobby is a fun activity you do I your free time, things you do at times when you don't need to do other things that are much more important to you, like your job, your studies, spending time with your loved ones, and all that. When all your important tasks of the day are finished, when you don't have anything else to do that's important, then hobbies come into play to give you something entertaining to do for the rest of your day.

You could treat English like a hobby: Sometimes, when your to-do list is finally empty and you don't feel like playing Team Fortress 2, or reading your fiction novel for young adults (and in your native language :/ ), or going out with anybody, or practicing with that violin you bought and have only touched three times and a half, then you can sit down in front of the computer, open Firefox and your dictionaries, and start reading and deciphering articles on some blog in English that caught your interest.

If you want you can do your English learning that way. But if improving your English and reaching a high skill level in the language is actually important for you, you can't treat your learning as something you will only do now and then "for entertainment" and when there's nothing else to do. If you desire and need English, you cannot treat it as just a simple hobby.


Why English shouldn't be one of your hobbies


I don't recommend you treat English as one of your hobbies for a simple reason: If your life gets difficult and complicated, your hobbies that require the most effort will disappear from your life.

If your workload is doubled, if you have to complete a ton of projects for college, if someone in your family gets sick and you have to take care of that person, if a lot of important things happen at once and they all require time from you... whenever you get some free time (if you get any at all), I doubt that you will grab that freaking violin or sit down to work in your English.

Instead, you will most likely do something less demanding to "relax", like watch a movie, or a TV show, or play a videogame... all in your native language. And so, the times you actually sit down to train your English will be very rare. In fact, they will be so rare that your progress will be painfully slow, or in the worst cases, you will be going backwards in your English because of lack of practice.

A hobby is by definition a low-priority activity, something you do just for fun when you are "free" from the things that are actually important in your everyday life. In hobbies, progress is not a priority. All that's important when you have time to engage in a hobby is to have fun, and that's it. It feels good to progress in our hobbies, sure – we enjoy those things in which we improve. But if life gets tough and we can't dedicate time to those hobbies, meh, doesn't matter. Nothing will happen.

If you don't improve your skills playing the violin (like, for real, why the hell did you buy it?!! AHHHHH!!), or playing soccer, or lifting weights, or playing chess, or in your videogames, or dancing, or whatever... there will be no negative repercussions in your life. Yes, it would feel nice to improve in those little things we like, but neither your house nor your income nor your survival are at risk if you don't improve in those areas. In other words, failing at your hobbies is completely inconsequential.

But failing at your projects... now that's something completely different.

Look, if you think about it carefully, and it turns out that deep down, improving your English is NOT important to you... then sure, leave it like another hobby if you want. But if improving your English IS important, if you need it to do things that will improve your quality of life (but that you can't do yet because you don't master the language), if you feel in your veins the intense desire of being able to use English naturally every day of your life... then you CAN'T treat it as a dumb hobby. Not if you want to increase your chances of succeeding.

If you feel mastering English is an important mission for your life, then you need to treat your learning as your project.


Hobbies VS. Projects


Hobbies are fun. You do them because they give you pleasure, because you like them. Instead, a project is not "fun" in that sense of the word. Yes, your project should be meaningful and important to you, and progressing in your project should give you satisfaction. And your working methods shouldn't bore you so bad you die form a brain shutdown, sure. But your projects are NOT fun like hobbies are, and there is no reason for them to be.

You don't start working on a project to complete just because it gives you pleasure and it's fun yay lalala. That's a hobby. You decide to work on your project because in one way or another, your quality of life will improve if you succeed in it. You will work on your project day after day, month after month, sometimes year after year, not because "it's fun", but because you want to achieve something in your life that is important to you.

You put in the time and dedication to a project because you want to obtain a new skill that will help you in other future projects, or because you want to increase your income, or to find and attract a romantic partner that makes you happy and that you want to make happy, or to improve your health and live longer, or to change a situation in your day to day life that you can't stand anymore. Those achievements are rewards. If you work on a project it's because you want a reward – a treasure at the top of the mountain.

In a lot of personal development books and blogs that I've read, I've seen several variations of the following idea:

"It's not about the destination, it's about the journey!
It's not about the goal, it's about the journey to get there!
Stop now and then to smell the flowers, be happy, enjoy the journey, yaaaaaaaaaaaaay"

This mindset is ok for hobbies, but not for projects.

Analyze the following: To me, a hobby is like playing a videogame (yes, playing videogames is a hobby, I know... but that's not the idea here, mmmkay?). More specifically, a hobby is like a 1-player adventure or platformer videogame like Zelda or Megaman.

When you turn on the game and give your character a name (just don't call him "Fuck Me"), you will not be thinking something like...

"Ok, now let's build my plan of action: I will get in the game for two hours a day, Monday to Saturday, I will not let myself get distracted by crap inside and outside the game, and I will focus on completing the 12 levels as fast as I can. Man, I hope to finish this game very soon... but oh well, to work!"

Nope. You won't be thinking about the huge amount of work you have in front of you, or finishing as soon as possible. In fact, you WON'T want to finish as soon as possible – you'll want to prolong the game as much as you want, to slowly savor it and enjoy all the way through, until the last drop that the game has to offer.

In a videogame, in a hobby, your priority is the fun, and prolonging that fun as much as you want. You look to increase the time between the start of the game/hobby and the "goal" (in the game's case, defeating the final boss or obtaining 100% completion), so you can enjoy the "journey" as much as possible.

And if for some reason you never finish the journey... in this case, if you never finish the game... it doesn't matter. Your life will not be affected in any way. You will not have lost or won anything if you leave a game without finishing it (ohh... and the fun you experienced doesn't really count as something you "won", by the way.)

In contrast, a project is NOT something that you follow because you want to "enjoy the journey". You want to complete your project, reach your goal and receive your reward as soon as realistically possible, because the sooner you have your reward in your hands, the better. In a project, your priority is to arrive soon and fast to your goal. "Enjoying the journey" is not the objective. Moreover, if it were possible for you to jump to the reward without having to do the journey, that's precisely what you would do.

Look, let's be honest. What would you rather do:

1. Learn English deciphering texts, listening to content in English, writing and practicing your pronunciation, all of that for a year and a half of focused work and effort?

OR

2. Learn English by buying a BIO-USB drive that you can connect to your nose to upload any languages you want directly to your brain all Matrix-style?

Pretending the year is 3427 or something like that and technology like this exists, what would you rather do?

If English is a hobby for you, you will prefer to learn in the traditional way to prolong the process and enjoy it. And if life gets tough and you can't dedicate more time to it nothing will happen.

But if English is a project to you... then damn, you would buy that drive instantly! It would be amazing not to have to wait so much time to obtain the skill you so dearly need. It would be woooow, cool, yeeeeahhh!

Unfortunately, nobody sells BIO-USB drives yet (or whatever humanity will invent to install mods on the brain), so the next best option is to build a learning method based on comprehensible input, be disciplined, and sit down to work that method day after day, month after month, without letting anything distract you, without missing a day of training... and standing the road until you reach the English level you want to reach.

I'm not saying that working on your project has to be a boring or stressful process, or a living hell. I don't think it's fair that you follow a journey that you really hate and that literally makes you suffer just because you want to reach a reward. If you use content in English that you really like and follow methods you like to follow, the journey to fluency will be a lot more bearable, and even pleasant.

But make no mistake: Learning English is NOT fun, and it's NOT a game – not in the sense hobbies are. I repeat: A project is NOT something you do for fun, but for a reward. Yes, progressing in your project should give you satisfaction, and if you hate the learning methods you are following you should try with others that might be more pleasant to you. But it's not about enjoying the journey. it's about arriving to your destination as soon as possible.


How to make English your project


The first requirement is that deep down you do see English as something crucial to you – as a very important skill you need to develop in your life.

If you do some introspection and perceive that English is really not that important to you, what follows will not help you much, as you will be fighting against your own current. That said, I think that it's possible to change your perception towards English, and end up seeing it as something very important to you when it wasn't like that before. I will speak more in depth about these topics on motivations and values in future articles.

Right now, assuming that in the depths of your figurative heart you DO value English over any hobby, then what follows is simple: Just assign time each day that you can dedicate to your project, and eliminate any distraction and hobbies that you need to eliminate. If English is truly important to you, you will dedicate the time you've decided to dedicate to it no-matter-what.

What follows is just to implement an action plan that you will implement to do your learning. If you need ideas about what daily activities you can do to train your English check the Table of Contents. Then, execute your plan of action each day. Once again, if you truly value improving your English, you will follow your action plan regardless of what else is going on in your life.


Summary


A hobby is not important, and if you stop doing it there will be no consequences. However, if you stop working on a project, you lose the opportunity to achieve something important that you need in your life.

You do a hobby for fun. You do a project NOT for fun, but to achieve an important reward in your life.

If for you, deep down, mastering English is truly important, then treat learning English as a project, not a hobby.


Last updated: May 22 of 2015

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