What’s Really Keeping You From Fluency

stuck learning languageDo you ever feel stuck in your learning? Or even in your life?

This is a feeling we all suffer from at some point. It can be awful, frustrating, and even tortuous.

When we are learning a language, and we hit a plateau–we feel like no matter how much we practice, we remain at the same level–we barely progress.

The reason why this is such an unpleasant feeling is because we start out learning so quickly. It seems like a huge victory the first time you have a conversation with a native speaker, or the first time that you understand the television or radio.

Soon, however, what were before great accomplishments become commonplace. They no longer seem like something to reward yourself for.

This quiescent period does not have to be permanent, nor should it be. So today I am going to tell you what is really keeping you from fluency and from reaching your true potential in everything you do.

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Who is to blame?

A lot of my friends and students tell me that they would LOVE to follow some dream, to go on some adventure, or accomplish some goal–but they can’t.

Why not?

Because of their job, because of their family, because of money, because of time, because it’s too hard, because of societal expectations or obligations

In a perfect world they would go after that dream, but because of all of these external factors or because of other people, they can’t.

However, what all of these excuses really are saying is, “It’s because of me.”

Think about it, you are the only one who sets limitations for yourself–and we ALL do this. It’s easy to blame everyone else, but it all boils down to fear and resistance. We give ourselves a million excuses (some of which are very convincing):

  • What will they think of me?
  • Where can I get the money?
  • What will I do without this job?
  • I have a family to take care of.
  • I’m tired; I’ll start tomorrow…

Prioritizing Your Values

Stagnation can also be a result of one’s own values.

I’ve met many people who have told me that they would love to travel, but they just don’t have the money. They then continue to show me their latest version of a new fancy smartphone or tell me about the crazy party last weekend (where they of course spent 50 dollars on drinks).

So they say, “I don’t have money,” but what they really mean is, “traveling isn’t a priority.” Be honest, how many times have your spent money on something that you do not need?

The same argument goes for time. How much time do we all waste watching TV (in our native language), playing video games, surfing the internet, or staring at pictures of adorable kittens?

The reason that we do this is simple (even though it might be hard to overcome): A life of comfortable stability is safer than actually following our big dreams, so we resist our desires saying, “someday.”

  • Someday I’ll be fluent in English
  • Someday I’ll travel to far away, exotic places
  • Someday I’ll talk to that beautiful girl at work
  • Someday I’ll tell my idiot boss that he can shove it

You are only guaranteed this one life; don’t live it with regrets.

There are seven days in a week and “someday” is not one of them

How to overcome excuses and live your dreams

Enough of talking about all of the excuses that we know we all make; it’s time to talk about a solution.

There are many important steps that you can take to make yourself more productive and successful (in everything you do!) like setting goals, journaling, exercising, and learning about self-development, but what I’m going to talk about today is something that is absolutely crucial to your growth in anything; it’s simple:

Do things that make you uncomfortable

I did not say that it would be easy, but stretching yourself is the fastest way to get closer to any goal.

Sure, you can stay in that spot where you feel comfortable, but you can only expect the exact same results that you’ve had.

However, if you’ve ever complained because you want things to be different, you want to improve at something, or you want to do something new, then you’re going to have to push yourself beyond your current limits. You’ll have to make yourself uncomfortable.

stretchA metaphor that explains this well is to imagine that physically you are not very flexible and you want to be able to touch your toes.

The only way to accomplish this small goal is to try every day, but it’s not enough to just reach down, you have to push your fingertips towards your toes until the backs of your legs are uncomfortable, AND you have to do this every day.

At first it won’t feel good; depending on your flexibility, it might even be excruciating, but over time you will get closer and closer to touching your toes, until eventually, one day, you are finally able to touch them! Not only that, but if you keep this habit, eventually it will be easy to bend over and hold your toes for minutes, and you can move on to bigger goals, like complex yoga poses.

This is like when learning a language, if you keep doing the exact same comfortable thing, your level will probably stay the same as it’s been. You’ll stay on that plateau. But when you really push yourself to a level of discomfort is when you have the fastest growth, and you learn the most.

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For example, the first time you open your mouth and speak you are terrified about so many things (am I making a lot of mistakes? Do I sound stupid? Is the other person going to laugh at me? Are they bored?), but if you want to get better, then you have to push through that discomfort until it becomes natural.

Here are some examples of things that you can start doing to stretch yourself in English (or other languages):

Remember:

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Call to Action

I wrote this article not to criticize lazy language learners, but as a reminder to myself.

I sometimes find myself wasting time or money that I know could be better spent on traveling and language learning. I have recently had to overcome my own resistance and shyness to talk to people via Skype–but it has been well worth it to help myself conveniently improve languages I’m learning.

I’m not saying that we all need to be completely strict on ourselves, never go out, and sit inside working or studying all the time–not at all. I believe in everything in moderation. However, we have to remember to not let temporary fun get in the way of our dreams or keep us from our higher potential. We need to make those small investments every day that will contribute to reaching our full potential.

If you consistently stretch yourself a little bit, try to be a little bit better every day, then, little by little, you are bound to reach your goals.

If you enjoyed this article please let us know what you think! Take a second to COMMENT below.

22 Comments

  1. Jaydeuk Lee on September 4, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    I recently feel stuck in my learning English and also in my life. This article is very helpful to get over the situation. Thank you so much.

    • Ethan on September 8, 2014 at 8:05 am

      I’m so glad you got value out of it 🙂

  2. Kevin Irah Conwell on September 5, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Great stuff! The “how to” will always be there once the “want to” has been established

    • Ethan on September 8, 2014 at 8:04 am

      Awesome insight!

  3. Ludmila Strelnikova on September 9, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Thank you Ethan for your gentle reminder to stretch yourself in English. Indeed! A little (bit) goes a long way….and you’ll be amazed by the result.

  4. Wescley on September 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you Ethan, great article.

  5. Diego Davi on September 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    As they say… Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

  6. Dina Malkova on September 9, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Thank you Ethan for the simple but really true idea – we need to feel uncomfortable sometimes to improve ourselves!

  7. Felipe Diógenes Ramos Vieira on September 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    I really liked this article, and I think comfort zone is a trap.

    • Ethan on December 30, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Thanks Felipe!

  8. Gilson Roberto on January 9, 2015 at 10:56 am

    I’ve been living this problem almost every day, keeping myself in touch with those ones who are faint hearted and don’t get to follow a study routine, they just give up without trying enough. Whether it was easy, everybody would know another language.

    • Ethan on January 9, 2015 at 11:05 am

      I totally agree with you! You have to be willing to put in the hard work–but that doesn’t mean it can’t be FUN!! The challenge is just part of what makes it so rewarding

  9. Fatma Salt?k on February 26, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    I hope so about learning English,thankfully to you.

  10. […] important thing is to challenge yourself. If you want to learn quickly, the best way to do that is by doing something that seems a little above your level, like watching a TV show without […]

  11. Andrea Niccolò Grossi on September 2, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Very nice article, life beging where comfort zone ends!

    • Ethan on December 30, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      aww yeah!

  12. […] teach at RealLife, you’ll find that you are probably committing (or have committed in the past) many of the things in this […]

  13. Jose Brol on August 16, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    I’ve seen this article simple out of this word, completely amazing. Thank you guys you’re without doubt the best. See you later.

    • RealLife on August 19, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Thanks for reading and supporting us, José!

      -Justin

  14. Atakan Organ on November 28, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s very useful. I’m impressed and inspirited. Actually, I knew about pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone, however I was afraid to tell myself the truth. The article showed me the truth, honest 🙂

    • Justin Murray on November 30, 2016 at 9:51 am

      Aww Yeah Atakan, That’s great! We’re glad it was useful. Have a great day!

  15. Atakan Organ on November 28, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s very useful. I’m impressed and inspirited. Actually, I knew about pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone, however I was afraid to tell myself the truth. The article showed me the truth, honest 🙂

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