Have you ever procrastinated on something? Maybe you have a dream or goal in mind, but you haven’t progressed much? You may not be motivated, it seems too hard or you have not sat down to plan. We know what it’s like. As learners and as teachers, we have struggled through procrastination, not meeting goals, and feeling discouraged all along. We have seen how important motivation is when setting goals and keeping them.
The constantly growing globalization, especially in 2020, has changed motivation for studying English. No longer a skill of the elite or privileged, English is a universal basic skill, taken for granted in many countries and creating learning gaps in others. English is considered a requirement, just like math, reading, or driving. This is why it has become such a priority in the global educational system and why it is the “pending matter” for many individuals, companies and organizations. English is practical, easy to learn, and the trading form of communication today.
So why is it so hard to set goals for leaning English?
There are many factors to motivational behavior. The one we want to talk about is called the theory of “possible selves”, researched by Markus, H., & Nurius. Very briefly, it represents the “individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming”, thus providing “a conceptual link between the self-concept and motivation”. In other words, imagining our desired selves will motivate us to work towards our goals.
The future desired self you imagine is carrying your hopes, desires and wishes. If you can imagine that image, you can plan your next steps.
But there are other future imaginary selves that can also influence you (straying away from the psychological definition of multi-personality). If you take the time to be aware of those multiple selves, you will be able to link the gaps and create a plan that is based on the future self you would like to become.
So how does this apply to learning English? Let’s take a look!
3 things to ask yourself when setting English goals:
Think about your English level right now, your level, your difficulties. Be practical by thinking about your level in the four elements of speaking, listening, reading and writing. Think about what you are working on overall in your life right now or in the next one to two years. Are you looking for a job? What level does it require? Would you realistically be able to get the job? How well would you be able to communicate if tomorrow a tourist came to ask for instructions? Or if you traveled to the USA? Write a list of what kind of English-speaker you would become if you kept the same English level you had right now.
2. Who would you like to become?
Does this realistic version of who you would become match the person you would like to become? Imagine, realistically, what your future self would look like if you learned English or had a higher level of English. Would you be more confident as a person?
Would you have a new professional or educational opportunity? Maybe you already have a job, but having a specific level of English would allow you to help your children or be confident when traveling? What would change, practically, if you become the person you would like to become? How could it help your community?
3.Who are you afraid to become?
This is the hard question. It takes courage to admit that we are afraid of not becoming who we want to be. Maybe you’re afraid that you will never learn English and that you will get left behind somehow.
It’s okay to admit this fear, but it does not have to control us. We can take this fear, turn it into a motivating factor and create the necessary plan to help you achieve your English-learning goals.
This 3-step thinking process may seem unimportant, but it is necessary to form the right mindset when sitting down to set your goal. Once you have established what you want and why you want it, it’s time for the practical planning:
Set up your goals for learning English:
Step #1 What is your availability (economically, time, energy)?
Can you sign up for a class? Should you get a tutor? A conversational partner or writing teacher? Specific goals for speaking English? How much time a week can you dedicate to learning English? Who can help you? Do you have a two-month plan? Or a long-term goal?
Step #2 What are your difficulties?
Take into account what factors will make it hard for you to achieve your goals. Think about what discourages you. Do you get home and just don’t feel like you have any energy left? Do you need to change the time of your learning to match your energy? Is the class too far or convenient for you? Do you have support from your family or friends? If not, where can you get support?
Step #3 And last but most importantly, schedule!
Keep an English-learning journal and schedule your time to the detail. If it’s easier to study in the morning, but you only have 20 minutes, that’s okay! Schedule 20 minutes every morning and maybe some extra time in the weekend if you can. Maybe you have two night classes but need time to review between. Schedule that time as well. In order to avoid losing time deciding what to study, plan what you will study during that time.
English learning goal example:
- Mondays @ 9-9:20 Study To Be Verb Tense, Watch Video
- Wednesday @ 19h Speaking Class Online
- Friday @ 9-9:20 Practice Writing Exercise and Ask for Help
In your journal, keep track of what is hard for you (English content, time, effort) and adjust your schedule weekly and accordingly. You can also revise your learning objectives. Our advice is to have an accountability partner (teacher, family, or friend) who can encourage you and ask you how are you doing to make sure you are progressing.
Check out our full talk on Setting Goals for Learning English!