Today I want to talk about the importance of habits when it comes to language learning. I also want to talk about how to develop good study habits for Japanese so that you can apply this information in an impactful way.
Most people buy a book on Japanese when they want to learn the language, but nobody buys a book on the non-language things that also play an important role in their overall success.
There are quite a few non-language things that can accelerate your results beyond belief when you know about them and harness them for yourself.
Some of these things are your attitude, your beliefs, your goals, and of course your habits.
What Are Habits And Why Are They Important?
First off, let’s get everyone on the same page by going over the definition of a habit.
Habit: A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
In other words, the actions that you take on a regular basis are your current habits.
This could be what time you wake up in the morning, the amount of TV you watch, or how often you practice Japanese.
The thing to be aware of is that, as humans, we tend to engage in our current habits without really thinking about them too much.
It’s like we live on autopilot for most of the day.
This can be a good thing when the actions are supportive towards your overall success, like getting regular exercise, or managing money properly.
But it can be a disaster when they lead towards ruin, such as eating too much sugar everyday or getting into too much debt on a regular basis.
The problem with habits is that you don’t see their effects right away.
That means that any bad habits your currently have, won’t hurt you today, and probably not tomorrow either. But in a year or two, the results of them can be extremely painful!
The same thing happens with good habits, but the feeling is a little different since you have to put in a lot of work before ever seeing the hard won results of your efforts.
This means that doing the hard, but necessary work of removing bad habits and establishing good habits is a long-term game.
You have to know that even if your daily actions don’t seem to produce much of an effect right away, they will make all the difference when added up over time.
In today’s world, it’s all about instant gratification. This has trained people to give up on things that they don’t achieve in a short about of time, such as a month or two.
But then a year or five rolls around and people start to feel the regret of their past actions, or inactions.
Here’s the bottom line: Your future is determined by your current habits!
Your habits are the things that you do, and the things that you don’t do on a regular basis, and usually daily.
If you want to achieve anything with Japanese, you are going to have to figure out which habits will bring you to your long term goals, and then you have to engage in those habits day after day no matter what.
How To Choose The Right Habits To Establish
The first step is figuring out which habits you will need. I always like to start at the end with the future goal (macro level), and then work backwards to the present in order to determine what needs to be done each day (micro level).
Let’s use an easy example to illustrate this:
Let’s say that your goal is to learn 3,000 kanji so that you can pretty much read any native material you come across.
A simple way to do this would be to establish a habit of learning 10 new kanji each day.
Now that seem like a pretty easy task for most people to do, and it is, but it’s also easy not to do.
You see the problem?
There’s nothing super sexy or exciting about 10 little kanji each day, but when added up after a year it becomes 3,650 kanji!
Now doesn’t that huge number seem pretty cool? And a year isn’t really all that much time considering how quickly life seems to progress.
What if your goal is to be able to speak Japanese fluently? Then you’ll need to create a habit of listening to and speaking the language yourself.
Even if you only practiced The Shadowing Technique for 10-minutes a day, every single day, it would add up to 60 full hours of speaking after one year.
What if your habit was 30-minutes of speaking practice? That adds up to over 180 hours of speaking in a single year.
That’s plenty of practice to become good at a skill, and yet if you were to ask most people learning Japanese how many hours of speaking they get in a year, it wouldn’t even come close to this amount.
How To Create Good Habits That Guarantee Your Success
The thing about habits is that good ones are hard to establish and bad ones are hard to break!
This would make it seem like it’s always an uphill battle, but what I’ve found is that good habits are actually hard to break as well.
Once you are in a groove and are doing something like “learning 10 new kanji every day” you actually start to feel kind of weird when you stop doing it.
You begin to miss doing it, even if you’ve successfully hit your goal and have moved on to something new.
This means that all you really have to do for the new habit is establish it.
Once it is in place, it takes on an energy and momentum of its own and you don’t have to work so hard at it anymore, since you will naturally do it at that point.
It can be a little different depending on the person in question, but generally speaking it takes thirty days, about one full month of daily execution of the new habit to make it a long-term habit that then can continue indefinitely.
It’s at this point where the action actually becomes a part of who you are, and you can’t really imagine not doing it. Like I mentioned earlier, you begin to get uncomfortable when you stop engaging in it, even after a single day.
So once you’ve chosen a new habit to establish, and I recommend you only do one at a time, you have to do it every single day for an entire month, no exceptions!
You cannot miss a beat during this installation phase as it has the potential to collapse the entire thing.
Become a dictator of your own life and make this one new habit your universal law.
You can miss brushing your teeth, you can miss your favorite show, but you CAN’T miss the Japanese study habit you are in the process of solidifying!
Once you make it past this part, doing it every day becomes much, much easier. Then after a year of doing it, you’re a completely different person due to the compound effect of daily actions added up over time.
What Is One New Habit You Are Going To Establish?
Talk is great, but Action is King.
Now that you know the importance of supportive habits, and also how to create good ones that help you, I want to ask you this:
“What one new habit are you going to create in your life starting today?”
Let me know your answer in the comments below as a form of accountability.
It’s been proven that publicly declaring something increases the likelihood that you will follow through on it, since humans have a need to be consistent with what they’ve told others they will do.
I’ve also written before about motivation and how to use it in your Japanese studies to keep that fire in your belly burning hot for the language. Check it out if you need a little extra oomph for making a new habit.