Hi English learners! Lori here, your teacher from Betteratenglish.com. Last week I shared the first part of a cool conversation I had with Dr. BJ Fogg, all about making the most of your motivation. Today you’ll be hearing part two, the final part of this conversation. If you missed the first part, make sure to go back and listen to part one before you listen to part two.
At the end of part one, BJ was telling me about his goal to get better at writing neatly on a whiteboard. He knew that he needed to practice a lot if he wanted to improve, so he wanted to make it as easy as possible to practice every day. In this part of the conversation, you’ll hear what he did to change his environment to make practicing easy, even on days when his motivation is low. You’ll also hear about how his practice routine is working for him.
As always, you can find the full transcript of this conversation, including a bonus vocabulary lesson at betteratenglish.com/transcripts.
Are you ready for the conversation? Let’s go!
BJ: One of the habits I’m doing right now is, I’m practicing whiteboarding. I’m practicing with markers writing on a whiteboard. You know, like teachers do.
BJ: And I want my handwriting to get much, much better and so, I’m practicing every day. But anyway, what I did was I went out and I got some marker paper, I got a bunch of markers, I got different whiteboards so I have whiteboards in different parts of my house. I have the marker paper, I have markers, I have a marker in my bathroom, one in my sun room, I have a whole set in my office, I have a whole set in my other office. In other words, I made it really, really easy to practice writing with markers by getting all the materials and getting everything set up. And I did that when I was in a period of high motivation. So now, it’s really easy just to pick up a marker and practice. I don’t have to be super motivated.
Lori: Right. And– and you can tell yourself that, you know, “You have all your materials. It’s all easy right at hand.” You could even tell yourself, “I’m just going to write one sentence. That’s all I feel like doing right now and —
BJ: Yeah. In fact, just before your call, that’s what I did. I was sitting down and I was going to read but I was like, “No, no. I’m just going to, like, get out the marker board and write one sentence.” And I ended up filling up the entire marker board because I thought, “Oh, this is kind of fun. I’m going to keep going.”
Lori: Yeah —
BJ: And then, you called.
Lori: Have– have you — oh, I’m sorry to interrupt your practice…
BJ: [crosstalk] No, I was expecting your call.
Lori: …while you were on a roll. But yeah, and I guess…how’s your writing? Has it been improving? It must be improving.
BJ: Oh my gosh, it’s so much better.
Lori: And that —
Lori: Because I can imagine when you start seeing that your efforts are paying off, that that makes it more likely that you’re going to pick up those pens and do your practicing.
BJ: Yeah, and I– I think there are some behaviors or skills where it becomes clear pretty quickly — your progress. And then there are some, at least outcomes, where it’s harder to measure like, “Wow, am I really reducing my stress? Am I really getting healthier? Am I really…,” you know, whereas the whiteboarding — and then, I practice guitar every day…
Lori: Oh! Cool.
BJ: …and– and other things. Yeah, but in those two cases, it’s very clear that you’re getting better. It’s just obvious that you’re getting better. And the writing is one that I may have other people join me in because…and then take pictures before and after because it’s– it’s quite dramatic.
Lori: I…yeah, I can imagine if you practice. I mean, I haven’t practiced writing really since I was a kid; and learning to write and then, you know, you get your hand style and you think that that’s sort of what you’re stuck with for the rest of your life.
BJ: And part of it is changing; changing like what your style is. You know, because my normal style doesn’t work very well on a whiteboard so I have, sort of…it’s almost like having, well, in some ways, speaking a different language because you shift into a different gear. So, I speak Spanish and French, and I know when I speak those languages, I go into a different gear. It’s just different. And when I’m writing on a whiteboard, it’s not like I’m writing in a notebook. It’s just…I’m drawing in a different– different movements and different ways of thinking, well, about the letters and the spacing of the letters. And on the whiteboard, I’m trying to get things very straight, up and down just like you might try to get an accent, like, you know, an accent right and you’re really focusing. I think there’s probably a lot in common about learning languages and practicing other skills.
Lori: There really is. I notice when I hear people talking about health and fitness, you could almost substitute…you know, just substitute some of the nouns and verbs and it would all…like the principles are all– all the same or often quite the same.
Yeah, time is almost up. I only have one final thing I would like to ask you and…
Lori: …that is — sometimes I notice when I’m working with learners, they tend to beat themselves up when they feel like they’re not motivated or they’re not able to do hard things and I want…you know, ever since I saw or learned about the motivation wave, I thought, “Oh, that’s one thing I really want people to know, that it’s normal that your motivation is going to fluctuate.” And could you just confirm that for me?
BJ: Yeah, you know, there are times…there might be a day when all I do is write one word with my marker. But that’s okay because I’m still keeping the practice alive. So I think about it, I learned this a long time ago as a student…is I’m working on a very big paper that really is intimidating and it’s hard that I worked on it every day — I write at least one sentence. And I…the next day I can go back and erase the sentence if I want to. But I always write at least one sentence. And if that’s all I get done, it’s like, “Great! I did my sentence for the day.” And what happens is a lot like what we talked about, I write a sentence like, “Oh! I might as well write the next one…Oh! The next one…the next one.” Now later, you’ve got all of the paper done. But the key is, you cannot — on those days when you’re stressed or busy with other things or just somehow not motivated to do that behavior, just do a little, tiny bit and congratulate yourself for doing that little, tiny bit and move on.
Lori: Right, right. Oh, that is– that is such great advice.
BJ: As long as you keep taking those small steps, you’ll get there. Once you stop taking the steps, you don’t only just stop, you slide backwards. There’s no way to stay still. You’re either moving forward or you’re sliding backward.
Lori: Right, exactly. Well, BJ, thank you so much. And I know you’ve got another interview scheduled in the next minute but I just really…I’m so, so, so happy that you– that you took.. and wanted to take the time and let me…
Lori: …pick your brain a little bit.
BJ: Well, you are welcome. And helping people learn languages is really important work. I mean, when you learn a language, you’re able to connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise, you’re able to do things you couldn’t otherwise, travel, experience — it just opens up a different world. And so I think it’s a wonderful thing to be helping people do.
Lori: Yeah. Oh, thank you so much.
That brings us to the end of this two part conversation with Dr. BJ Fogg. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did recording it!
You’ve learned about the motivation wave, that it’s totally normal for motivation to go up and down over time. You’ve also learned that when motivation is low, we can only do easy things. When motivation is high, that’s when we can do hard things. To find out more, I encourage you to watch the video of BJ’s talk that I’ve linked to in the transcript.
To get the most English learning benefit from this conversation, make sure to download the transcript for this episode so you can read along to check your understanding. The transcript also has notes about the language we use in the conversation, including vocabulary explanations and example sentences.
You can find the transcript at betteratenglish.com/transcripts.
Until next time, have fun practicing your English! If you have questions or suggestions about what you would like to hear in these podcasts, I’d love to hear them. You can find all the ways to get in touch with me at Betteratenglish.com/contact. Bye for now!
Download the transcript for the bonus vocabulary lesson.