Half-way through 2018! Time to check our yearly challenges.

We are halfway through 2018, it is time to check our New Year’s resolutions! How are your challenges doing? It is now the perfect time to adjust them if it didn’t work or even drop it all and make a new start with mid-year goals.

As for me, I had a lot of ideas and things I wanted to do for 2018. As I passed the JLPT in December last year, I felt free from learning vocabulary and grammar and thought I could just enjoy myself, so ideas were flowing. The problem is that all these great ideas never made it to the organisational phase. I cannot even say that I have given them up, it is just that I never made concrete plan, goals and schedule for them (for example: listening to more Japanese, watching more Japanese films or drama, even cooking Japanese dishes…).

I guess that the formula “I want to do more…, watch more…, read more…” is not concrete enough. I should have made a list of the 10 films I want to watch this year, for example. Setting a habit tracker for listening to at least 10 minutes of Japanese every day would also have helped.

However, something did work well: my 2018 reading challenge. I am sure that it worked because I made a very concrete plan for it:

  • It was a numbered challenge: I wanted to read a book per month. Setting a challenge with concrete numbers makes it easier to keep in mind. “Reading a book a month” is more concrete than saying “I want to read more”.
  • I knew exactly what I wanted to read: I bought all the 13 books in advance! (I know that there are only 12 months in a year, though). I did not make a haul for the purpose of my challenge, but because I took the opportunity of a trip to Japan to buy a lot of books. I know that it is not always possible to buy a lot of things in advance, but having the books lined up on my bookshelf helped me beyond doubt. If I had purchased the films I wanted to see at the beginning of the year, I would surely have watched them now! But of course, this is easier said than done… what is easy, however, is to make a list.
  • Making a list is similar to having the books on my bookshelf. In a way, it is even more concrete because I also wrote a little presentation for each book when I made my list. This means that I had to spend some time with each book and try to figure out what kind of story it would tell. Just listing items is maybe not enough, identifying each with its particularities is the first step. If I were to make a list of the films that I want to watch, for example, I think that I should also write what the film is about and why I want to watch it.
  • Finally, I posted my challenge on my blog. Accountability is really your best friend when it comes to achieving goals and being regular!

I think that all these steps helped me to go through this challenge safely, while my “I want to listen to more Japanese” stayed somewhere in January. I have finished exactly seven books of my challenge, and I am reading the eighth, so I kept up with my schedule. I also read some other books that were not on my original list.

The most important thing is that reading in Japanese has become a habit. So it worked! For most challenges, what we really want is to create new habits, I guess. In my case, reading a book per month was not as much a goal in itself as a way to change myself and create a new habit.

I will go on with my reading challenge, but now I feel very confident about it.

As for mid-year resolutions, I will focus on turning “I want to listen to more Japanese” into a more concrete plan. I will start by making a list of things that I want to watch or listen to. It will be a good starting point!

I hope you are all doing well with your yearly challenges if you had any. Though I never make New-Year resolutions like doing sport or quitting chocolate, I find that it helps a lot when self-studying a language or anything else. So why not clean up a bit our Winter’s resolutions and even make new ones for the second half of the year?