Many years ago, I spent several hundred hours writing an e-book that would become the precursor to NativShark. During those hundreds of hours of writing, I almost quit about a thousand times, because there was a voice in my head telling me that I was going to fail.
Evil Gremlin Voice:
- Why are you even trying to write this? Nobody's going to buy it.
- "Even if someone does buy it, they're going to email you five minutes later telling you that it sucks.
- This content's not actually going to help anyone. It's a waste of your time even trying to write it.
I'd met this little gremlin before, back when I was trying to learn Japanese.
Evil Gremlin Voice:
- You'll never learn Japanese. Why are you wasting your time studying it?
- Even if you keep studying forever, you'll never be good enough at Japanese to get a translation job or work at a Japanese company.
- All of your friends are learning Japanese faster than you. You suck at learning languages.
- Look at how good that person is at Japanese. You'll never catch up to them. You should just quit already.
It's so hard not to listen to that Evil Gremlin Voice. It lives inside of all of us, and it knows all of our weak points. It knows when we're most vulnerable to quitting, and it knows exactly what to say in order to make us doubt ourselves, lose confidence, and ultimately choose to fail.
Somehow, though, I did manage to learn Japanese, and it helped me to realize that this Evil Gremlin Voice doesn't know anything. Actually, I can silence this Evil Gremlin Voice (a little bit, at least) in other aspects of my life by using a various number of non-self-limiting mental constructs.
How to Deal with Self-Limiting Doubts
I don't really know of any specific solution for completely eliminating the Evil Gremlin Voice, but here are a few tactics that have helped me tremendously.
1. Get a Support System
In the early years, every time that I have ever quit working on this site, the thing that brought me back was a Thank-You Email from one of my readers. Every. Single. Time. They were my support system — people who believed I was doing something valuable. It's something I should have sought out when learning Japanese.
2. Name the Gremlin
My Evil Gremlin Voice has a specific name, and it starts with a J.
I has the same name as a woman who did some truly conniving, evil things in order to hurt my parents.
In short, it's the name of a woman who made my mom cry, which we all know is an unforgivable sin.
I don't like the word "hate," but let's just say that I don't want to go anywhere near this human being, and I certainly don't want to listen to anything that she has to say. As a result, if she is my gremlin, then I am not going to listen to her. In fact, I'm going to do the polar opposite of just about anything she says.
3. Visualize What You Will Do In Response to the Failure
I have found that this is extremely helpful. Usually "doubts," "fears," and all that other gremlin-voice stuff is vague and dark. I suppose because we don't want to think about it.
But visualizing the feared failure in detail gives us an opportunity to develop an action plan should it occur.
As an example, from when I was writing my first book:
- Gremlin Voice: No one is going to buy your book.
- Response Plan: If no one buys it, then I will make it better and better until people do start buying it. At the very worst, I could make it free, and at least I will have helped a lot of people to learn Japanese.
- Gremlin Voice: People won't think this is worth the money.
- Response Plan: Then I'll offer a 100% money-back guarantee and send immediate refunds to anyone who isn't satisfied.
- Gremlin Voice: This content's not going to help anyone.
- Response Plan: Then I'll give everyone free lifetime updates, and I'll keep improving this content more and more until they believe that it's worth way more than they paid for it.
- Gremlin Voice: This book is going to be a failure. You're a failure!
- Response Plan: If this book is a failure, then I will learn from the failure. At the very least, I will have put my heart into creating something that I truly cared about. All I really need to do is help at least one person to learn Japanese. If I can do that, then this will all have been worth it.
Visualizing failures and then creating response plans for each of them is a great way to avoid choosing to fail. After all...
Quitting is not failing. Quitting is choosing to fail.
Failing is a good thing. It's just like making mistakes in Japanese. But nothing good comes from choosing to fail. It just fuels the Evil Gremlin, making it even more powerful for the next time I doubt my ability to accomplish something I truly care about.
I hope that this article can help some of you to stay motivated when you lose confidence, especially if/when you doubt your ability to master Japanese. At such times, I recommend chatting with other learners in our community.
You got this, yo. No problem.
Just keep swimming,
p.s. If you want help with the actual Japanese learning part, NativShark is the place to go!