041 – Make the most of your motivation – a conversation with BJ Fogg (part 1 of 2)

Introduction

Hi English learners! Lori here, your teacher from Betteratenglish.com. You are in for a treat with this episode of Real English Conversations. It’s a really special episode, and I’m so happy to be sharing it with you.

A while back I had the huge honor of having a conversation with one of my own personal heroes, Dr. BJ Fogg. BJ is the director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. Put simply, he’s a scientist who spends a lot of time studying how to help people create desirable habits and getting those habits to stick. The concept of motivation plays an important role in BJ’s work. I think most people would agree that motivation is incredibly important for successful language learning, maybe even the most important thing. When you’re highly motivated, it’s easy. But when your motivation is low, it’s not so easy.

BJ has lots of practical advice about how you can make most of your motivation, no matter if it’s high or low. His way of thinking about motivation as a wave blew my mind when I first came across it. The motivation wave can easily be applied to language learning, so I am super excited to share it with you.

As always, you can find the full transcript of this conversation, including a bonus vocabulary lesson at betteratenglish.com/transcripts.

OK, you’re about to hear part one of the conversation. I’ll pop in again at the end to give you four things you can do to get the most benefit from this episode.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Conversation transcript
Lori: Can– can people depend on motivation when they’re trying to learn things and do things that are difficult?

BJ: Well, in order to do anything difficult, you have to have motivation or you won’t do them. So either, if it’s…if the behavior or task is difficult, you’ve got to find some way to summon up some motivation; or if you make the task simpler, you won’t need so much motivation. So you basically have two options: boost your motivation or make the task easier to do.

Lori: Okay yeah, that– that makes a lot of sense. And I— I noticed in your video, you said that…people often, like teachers or people trying to initiate behavior change or help people change their behavior, that, you don’t like to hear them talking about, “motivating behavior change,” you prefer the term “facilitating” behavior change. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that.

BJ: Yeah. In English, there’s a common phrase that people use when they talk about behavior change, “We need to motivate behavior change.” And yes, you could motivate behavior change but there’s other ways to get behavior to happen. And if you’re looking at long-term behaviors or getting people to create habits, focusing on motivation is the wrong focus. You really need to look at, how do we make the behavior easy to do? And also, it’s related to the habits — how do we make the behavior rewarding or emotionally satisfying? And so, the thing that I’m worried about is by using that phrase, “motivate behavior change,” people are really limiting themselves in how they think about the different ways to design for behavior change.

Lori: It’s interesting to me, coming from, you know, having a background as a teacher. I can remember from my initial teacher training, we were often…it was either implied or— or sometimes even overtly stated that the idea was, “You have to motivate your students. You have to do things to keep their motivation up.” And— and of course, you know, [as a teacher] you want to be motivating and inspiring to people. But when I saw your video, your presentation about the motivation wave, it’s kind of like, a little bell went off that– you know, that it makes so much sense. Could you just explain just the basic, basic idea about the motivation wave — talking about the peaks and valleys, and difficult and hard?

Practice your listening with CC subtitles


BJ: Everyone, I think, has experienced this phenomenon in their life where they get excited about doing some behavior or some set of behaviors like, getting healthier or reducing stress. Now that excitement, as it goes up, I decided to call that, a “motivation wave” because it will go up but it will also come back down. So, it’s not a constant thing. And what the motivation wave allows you to do, when the motivation wave is high — you can do hard things, you can spend lots of time, you can put in a lot of effort, you can persist through hardship if your motivation is high. And as your motivation comes down, you can’t do the hard things anymore, you only can do simple things. And so the key to understand…there’s a few keys: Number one, that motivation won’t always be high. That goes up and down. And then two, when motivation is high, that’s the right time to get yourself or other people to do hard things. And when motivation is low, you can’t do hard things; what you can do are simple things. And so designing — if you’re trying to get yourself to study more or exercise more or what have you and your motivation’s really low, then you should take, let’s say, the study task, and break it down to just three minutes and say, Continue reading…

6-step English fluency method for intermediate learners – S.T.A.R.T.R

Are you stuck at the intermediate level, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and not sure how to make progress? Are you over-complicating things, hopping from one English learning resource to the next and getting nowhere? Are you tired of not feeling fluent?

Feelings like these at the intermediate stage are very common. They lead to frustration, and learners often end up over-complicating things and getting even more frustrated. At worst, they give up.

language learning mastery curve

Getting stuck in your language learning is normal. But it still doesn’t feel good.

Improving your English fluency past the intermediate level doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be frustrating and overwhelming, either. You can do it on your own, even without a class or a teacher.

Try this simple 6-step system for one week. Look at it as a 7-day experiment. You are going to test something new and see how it works.

If you commit to the process and put in consistent effort for 7 days, you will be amazed at how much your fluency improves.

But even better than that, you will have learned a simple and effective system you can use to keep improving your English for as long as you want.

This is “teach a man to fish” turbocharged.

Your 7-day English fluency goal

Your goal is simple:

To be able to speak fluently* about a specific topic for at least 90 seconds.

For the next 7 days, you will work exclusively toward mastering this specific task.

S.T.A.R.T.R — a 6-step English fluency system

I’ve broken the fluency-building process down into 6 steps. It’s even got an easy-to-remember acronym: S.T.A.R.T.R. It’s pronounced “STARTER. The letters stand for Select, Test, Analyze, Research, Train, Repeat.

How to use the S.T.A.R.T.R English fluency system

Choose a topic that excites you

Your topic should make your feel like this.

1. SELECT an interesting topic
Choose a topic that feels interesting and exciting. It should be something that you can look forward to working on for the coming week. It makes no sense to choose something you would never need to talk about, or something that bores you. Can you feel excited about it for a week of study? If yes, then it’s a good topic.

2. TEST your current fluency
What is your starting point? It’s time to find out. Do a self-test before you study or prepare anything. Continue reading…

040 – Daily Rituals part 5 of 5 – Real English Conversations

Introduction
Hi English learners! Lori here, your teacher from Betteratenglish.com. In this episode of Real English Conversations, you’ll hear part 5 of my conversation with Kyla. This is the final part of our conversation about the book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. In the previous episode we talked about dealing with distractions and interruptions when you’re trying to work. This time we talk about one of the biggest interrupters of all: email. We also talk about ways to structure your day to make it easier to do important things.

If you want to read along as you listen, you can download the full transcript, including a bonus vocabulary lesson at betteratenglish.com/transcripts.

After the conversation I’ll be back with three questions you can use for speaking practice. Oh, and one final note: I’ve marked this episode as explicit because near the end of the conversation I say a couple of mildly vulgar words. They’re very common slang words that you hear all the time on TV, but I’m playing it safe and warning you anyway. You never know what someone might find offensive!

OK, let’s get on with the conversation!

Real English Conversation Transcript

Kyla: I was going to say, I guess, one drawback about the book actually is that so much of it is, there’s not— there’s not very many current contemporary people in it to ask about their rituals. It’s, yeah, an awful lot of people from the last century before, before internet and so it would be— it would be nice to find, you know, the daily rituals of more people living now with the different forms of communication that we have now.

Lori: Right.

Kyla: Because of course there were several people that would have, you know, they’d have their hour in which they would make their phone calls to their agents or their phone calls to newspapers or, you know, when it was still there. Because you still had the communication that was required with the— the rest of the world. But I think it was probably much easier to schedule, “Okay, this is the time that I’m going to be on the telephone because this is when I have access to a telephone or…”

Lori: Right.

Kyla: You know, “This is the time of day when I sit and write my letters and read my letters,” which there’s no reason why we can’t do that now but I think it’s easier when you have a physical letter that you can put in a pile on the— on the bedside table or the coffee table and…

Lori: Right. And it’s— it’s also…there’s a limit there, you know. It’s self-limiting. You see, “Okay, I have five letters I have to answer…”

Kyla: That’s right.

overwhelmed

Overwhelmed by the endless stream of email

Lori: …and you know that it’s not like today with email where at any second, you can get more added to that pile and you never know when you’re going to get one.

Kyla: That’s— that’s right. You’re sitting there answering, it’s like, “I have five emails to respond to,” and by the time you’re done, there’s five more. [laughs]

Lori: Exactly. Or you send your answers and then the person replies right away with still more questions, and it never ends.

Kyla: Yeah.

Lori: So there— there was more of a sense of, like, these finite chunks of work that you could do in a given period than— than now where the boundaries between work and not work and yeah, it’s just getting fuzzier and fuzzier all the time, I think.

Kyla: That’s right. Yeah.

Lori: But I agree. I agree with you that it would be great to hear some examples or read some examples of people living in our time dealing with the— the kind of problems we’re dealing with every day. Yeah, very cool. Let me see. Was there something else? I guess my— my…I don’t know if it would be my final question, but one question that I have for you is, if you have picked up anything from the book that you have started to apply to your own life, or that has somehow changed the way you approach getting your creative work done or your productive work done?

William James

William James knew how to get things done.

Kyla: One of the— one of the things for sure is, and I actually went and found the quote again because I thought it was a brilliant quote, and it’s from William James. And he talks about what he calls the “effortless custody of automation.”

Lori: Whoah!

Kyla: I have really tried to do sort of the opposite of automating the creative process, but that’s automating the mundane process. And I found a little bit of success and I think— I think it has grown over time and will continue to grow but sort of, like, we kind of have a routine in my household of, like, when dishes get washed and when they get put away and who does what. And I think it sort of making habits out of the mundane but other necessary things that have to happen and just kind of getting those things out of the way without having to think about them leaves you more time and more space to do the things that really matter, which, you know, is creative work or learning new things. And I think that was sort of, oddly enough, one of the things that I really took from that book, and it’s almost the opposite of what the book was about in some ways. [laughs] Continue reading…