You probably remember the definition of "inertia" from
high-school physics class. But just in case you don't, here it is:
"The tendency of a body to resist acceleration; the tendency of a body
at rest to remain at rest or of a body in straight line motion to stay
in motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force."
What applies to a body in space can also describe
our own tendencies in many areas of life. The area of learning a
foreign language is no exception. Imagine that you are sitting in front
of the TV, watching some show. You look at your watch, and realize that
it is time for you to begin your daily language-learning session. Yet
even though the show doesn't interest you very much, you still
hesitate. That armchair is just SO comfortable, and it's so easy to
simply stay there where you are, and not pick up a language book!
Inertia has you in its grip. You know you should act, and begin
to learn, but you tend to "remain at rest", even if it is a waste of
time. What you need is an "outside force" to "act upon you" so that you
begin doing what you know is worthwhile.
Don't expect a magical hand to come along and give you a
shove - and let's face it, if it did, you'd probably resent it, and
resist all the more. The most powerful force at your service at such
times is your own willpower. If you tell yourself you will
now get your book and start to learn, half the battle against laziness
is won; when you then actually get up and act on your desire, you've
got it made!
What often gets in our way in this type of situation
is our own inner dialogue. You see, there are times when, although we
don't utter an audible word, we are, in fact, "talking" too much!
The conversation is, of course, an internal one, and
may follow a line similar to this one:
"Yeah, I really should learn now, I know I had
planned to do a half-hour every day, and I won't have time if I wait
too long, but I am so comfortable now, I really don't feel like it.
Alright, I could discipline myself, but is it really necessary?
After all, I won't be going to Europe until next summer, that gives me
six more months... big deal if I don't learn anything today, I can
always do twice as much tomorrow. Oh, that's right, I've got a lot of
other things to do tomorrow, but then the day after tomorrow I should
have more than enough time. And hey, is learning a lot now really so
important? So what if I don't know that much by the time I get
to Europe, I can probably learn all I'll need to know when I get
there... the less I know beforehand, the more of a challenge my trip
will be, and having a good challenge is good for the spirit....blah,
In the time it takes you to think of all the reasons
why it's not imperative for you to start learning now, you
could have easily stood up, fetched your book, and learned a few
vocabulary words. Instead, you've wasted time inventing excuses that
won't bring you an inch closer to reaching your goal of learning your
new language. Rather foolish, isn't it?
The remedy? Simple: when the time comes for you to
learn, take Nike's advice: JUST DO IT. I always suggest that
you keep a notebook in which to keep written track of your daily
learning sessions. This way, you will be able to follow your
progress, and see whether you really are fulfilling your daily "quota"
of language study.
But the first step is to learn to recognize your
"negative inner dialogue", and to silence it through action
as soon as you see that it is keeping you from doing what you know
you should do. By this, I don't mean you should try to suppress it. On
the contrary, when you first become aware of the "conversation within"
in a specific situation, by all means, listen to what it is saying -
but refuse to agree with it! When it says, for example, "I'm too tired
to learn now, maybe I should have a nap first...", respond immediately:
"Yeah, first I'll learn some new words, then I'll have my nap. That
way, my subconscious mind can repeat the material while I'm asleep."
Chances are, once you start to learn, you may see that you weren't so
tired after all, and can take in even more information before finally
having that nap - if you still need it.
Up till now, we've only talked about the negative
aspects of "personal inertia" - how it can "ruin" your best intentions.
But remember that there is another side to it: "a body in motion tends
to stay in motion". In our language-learning context, this can mean
that once you begin your learning session, you may tend to keep on
studying for longer than you had expected. Naturally, this will not
always be the case: you may have other things planned, or your mind may
become weary. But if, on a particular day, you feel especially
motivated, don't hesitate to continue learning. Memorize a few extra
vocabulary words, go over some verb forms, read a page or so of text,
perhaps aloud to work on pronunciation - whatever comes to mind.
You will have taken an extra step towards your goal
of mastery of your target language, and where foreign languages are
concerned, the more you know, the more fun it is - that's reason enough
to want to progress quickly, isn't it?
Don't let inertia become an obstacle to
learning - make it your ally instead, and reach your goal all the
your thinking processes