It was a particularly bumpy flight. I was trying to get to the Algarve to boost my Vitamin D, having lived on a steady diet of rain for months. Over the Bay of Biscay, we were bouncing around the sky like a table tennis ball in a Jacuzzi. I distracted myself, reading 50 flash cards to master phrases beyond ‘Gosto Cervega’ (I like beer).
Long Haul: It had been a long slog. Night classes in Marino College for over 3 years. Wrestling with the grammar (masculine and feminine nouns). Mastering the Russian sounding pronunciation. But I was determined not to quit. There is something about jacking up that communicates ‘loser’ and I’m programmed to follow through. Incorrectly programmed in this case.
Data Capture: When I reflected on all of the effort to date, there were a couple of uncomfortable truths. Firstly, I was not enjoying learning the language, dragging myself to the weekly classes and resenting the ‘15 minutes a day’ which had to be invested. Secondly, in Portugal I was barely using it as almost everyone in the local area speaks English. But once started, I was on some pre-recorded mission to succeed, like a human lemming jumping off the side of a cliff.
For what? Behaviour is endlessly fascinating because everything you do has a psychological payoff. Discovering the payoff is usually the key to understanding motivation. So, why was I really learning Portuguese? To impress Linda or the kids when reading the local menus? No, that ship has sailed. Would conversing with the pool attendant about the weather, make me seem somehow sophisticated, a winner? More uncomfortable perhaps, but a definite maybe. Realistically, I was driven by some inner need to impress, rather than to learn something that would actually be useful. As soon as I figured it out, the ‘what to do next’ was simple.
Stop It: Sometimes it’s ok to throw out those old mental programmes laid down in childhood. Decide what you want to do, rather than being steered by a dead hand. Accept the fact that, as the CEO of your own life, you’re in charge now. And the really good news is that you can do what you want (provided that you accept the downside i.e. if things screw up you carry the responsibility).
Move Over: Now, where’s that Bruno Mars song that I really want to learn? (the Lazy Song seems particularly appropriate in this context). Let’s make learning fun again! I have enough grief in my life without personally adding another layer. The central point: forgoing the need to impress others lifts an enormous burden from your life. In the words of that great American philosopher Dr Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
PS Kids joke of the week.
Q: What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?
A: A stick!