The Golden Hour.
That time just after sunrise when light can be at its most beautiful.
That time you fix to start out on a fresh new goal.
That time you hit the snooze button and fall straight back to sleep.
Ever been there?
All your enthusiasm and motivation from the night before magically vanishing into thin air?
I certainly have.
The question is then:
how do we transform motivation from that impulsive itch of something we want to start into an irresistible urge to do it every single day?
I started this series describing learning as a journey and how for learning to be truly effective, it needs to integrated as closely as possible into our day-to-day work and life.
The notion of a journey also implies the idea of a beginning, a middle and an end, almost like a line.
In this article though, I would like to introduce the idea of learning being in a circle, more specifically the motivation element of learning.
What are the roots of motivation?
Tell me, what is it which comes to mind when you think motivation?
If we were to break down the word we would get the word motive coming from the old Latin term motivus meaning to move or impel.
And if we were to look at the Chinese term 动机， in the character on the left 动 we find the component 力 meaning force or power or strength.
So simply put, we are looking at that thing inside of us, that force or strength which pushes us to move forward and do something.
Our inner reason.
Which is good.
But how come, even with the best of "reasons", we still fail to pull ourselves out of bed on those dark mornings, instead pulling the blanket round us and hitting the snooze button?
How come, with the best of intentions to learn something new, not even two days in and our brain is already freezing up?
Is our inner reason just not strong enough?
Not big enough?
Not illustrious enough?
Not at all.
It actually comes down to our understanding of motivation in the first place.
It's not just about learning techniques: well-designed learning comes in layers
Now during this ten part series I have shared with you various learning techniques all centred around effective second language acquisition, with a specific emphasis on learning Mandarin Chinese.
We've looked into the heart of what really makes learning effective so each of you can find success in your individual learning journeys.
However effective learning isn't just about black and white technique and theory.
It's also about getting to the real heart of what makes us tick as humans and what makes us learn effectively, above and beyond what traditional learning has fed us as standard for decades if not centuries.
And so while the first eight parts of the ten part series focused more on specific techniques for transforming what most consider to a very difficult language to learn - Mandarin Chinese - into a fully, even relatively easily, achievable challenge, these last two parts have taken a different approach.
This is because too often in learning we learn technique after technique after technique. However, what I want you to discover in this section and the previous one, is how all these techniques have been designed with several objectives in mind, and that no one technique does just one job.
So in 9/10 Discover EIGHT techniques to developing the power of intuition in Chinese language learning we went back over each of the techniques we had discussed so far and I metaphorically added a filter to them, that filter of intuition, as each had been conceptualised and designed with this possibility to not only learn explicitly but also learn implicity and prioritise intuition in the learning process.
And in the same light, instead of submerging you in yet more techniques, I want you to see how various aspects of motivation, specifically designed to optimize learner motivation and bring it to the fore, were written into each of those techniques.
What you will discover in particular, is how motivation in learning goes much much deeper than that initial burst of motivation and reason for starting the learning project in the first place.
It will also radically transform your outlook on motivation in learning and suddenly your brain will be awash with all the possibilities this new knowledge will open up to you.
I will definitely be letting you in on some great learning secrets, so get ready!
Motivation Factor Number One: the need for utility
In rethinking the concept of difficulty in learning Mandarin Chinese the primary focus was the need to create a cycle where we can repeatedly learn and use the language we are learning.
However from a psychological point of view and at a level of motivation, this is very important because it is a key way to reinforce the utility of what we are learning.
Too often in a learning context, we have a lot of input, we take a lot in, for very little output.
This is because many courses out there are curriculum based and there is a necessity to cover a set amount of material in a given period. Because it has been taught (and usually tested) it is automatically assumed that that knowledge has been acquired.
Not only in these cases do we get a serious case of information overload which you can listen more about in Are you an intellectual hoarder?, One tiny seed, One giant tree: The secret to building your knowledge, the secret to making it grow, and Learning and the Fat Issue - Are we becoming 'intellectually obese'?, we quickly feel a sense of frustration because there is all this buildup but no outlet for it.
Coupled with this also comes a feeling of what we could actually term pointlessness, because again, we don't quickly experience that sense of utility.
Note specifically my choice of the word experience here. This is deliberate, because in learning there is a big difference between knowing something is useful and feeling it's utility for yourself.
But more about the notion of experience a little further into this article.
Just remember for now, that creating this cycle where we automatically learn and use something directly serves to give you that sense of utility in learning and creates that balanced input output scenario where knowledge doesn't get backed up and everything runs like a smooth well-oiled machine.
Having that direct input output cycle only makes us want to keep moving forward because we quickly know it is having a positive effect.
After all, isn't that the type of learning you want to experience too？
Motivation Factor Number Two: Motivation and the need for perspective
It is also incredibly important, particularly when it comes to the psychology and motivation side of learning, to keep perspective. Yes, learning can often feel difficult, but many times, this is down to the way we are learning it in the first place, and often it is down to perception.
Just as in life we may naturally fear pain, difficulty actually follows a similar pattern and it is human nature to run from it rather than embrace it. It is a number one factor in giving up, so if we want to succeed in learning, it is essential that we face this concept head on, and very early on in the game.
Difficulty in learning truly is a perception. Sure, something may be complex, but even complex doesn't have to be difficult.
Think about the beauty of taking something complex and turning it into something clear and understandable.
After all, isn't that what learning should really be all about?
If we don't get something straight off, don't be afraid to stop, stand back, and look at it from another angle. Don't be afraid, to stop and break things down into bite size easily digestible pieces of information. Don't be afraid of stopping, mixing things up and presenting it in a completely different way.
The only time and place difficult equates impossible is when we let it take root in our minds.
Keep it out of our head in the first place and you will be astounded how much you actually can learn instead of being constantly held back by the reins of self-disbelief.