Staying Motivated: Tricking Your Brain I love Kanji! I love Kanji! Do you hear me brain?!

    In previous motivation-related posts we talked about setting stakes to help with success as well as how to form good habits. This week we’re going to learn some tricks – and they really are tricks – to help push you just enough to study your Japanese even when you’re feeling particularly unmotivated.

    Keep in mind, though… these aren’t really good “long term” techniques, but if they get you going in the right direction them I’m all for it. Go ahead and try these on other things besides Japanese study too. You’ll find they work just about anywhere where motivation is a concern. Let’s do this thing.

    Imagine the Finished Product

    Clouds as seen from an airplane
    Source: Mattias

    One particularly neat (and easy) brain trick is to simply just imagine the finished product before you start. Say you’re learning a set of kanji. As you sit down to get started, imagine yourself being able to read all of the kanji and associated vocab words. Imagine how you’ll feel when you get done. Feels good, doesn’t it? Ahhh, those feel-good brain chemicals are being released now. Ooh, that’s encouraging me to want to study so I can reach this end goal and be happy, finally!

    This won’t work if you do it all the time, but it’s nice in a pinch. Creating those good feelings that we get from finishing something we don’t necessarily want to do can create a nice association with the actions. If you don’t normally like studying kanji, doing this will slowly but surely turn you into someone who kind of enjoys studying kanji. Them chemicals are teaching you to like it, whether you like it or not.

    Try it out the next time you have to study something you don’t want to. Imagine a nice outcome, and enjoy the feeling of having learned something new. You can read all these kanji that you couldn’t read before! How amazing is that? Oh, wait, now it’s actually time to study them. Strangely, I feel good about it now. Hmmm.

    Don’t Tell Anyone What You’re Doing

    You should give this one a try. Might be hard with past goals that you already have, but with future goals it might be worth a shot. You can even come up with some small goals to try this out on. Maybe your goal is to learn these next 100 kanji? Cool, don’t let anyone know you’re doing it. It’s our little secretsesessss, precious.

    I don’t think this works for everyone, but it’s not going to hurt if you do it a few times to see if it’s effective with you. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t follow through with your goals (aren’t we all?) then this might be for you. On the other hand, maybe you should be setting higher stakes, instead. Mix and match and see how it goes.

    Take Studying Away When You Want It Most

    Stop sign seen from below
    Source: thecrazyfilmgirl

    I’ve written about this before, but I thought it was worth mentioning again. When you’re at the point in your study session where you want to continue… stop. Take the candy away from the baby while the baby still wants the candy (not when she’s asleep). This idea actually came from a Haruki Murakami Book (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running). He said that he would stop writing when he wanted to continue, so that way when he woke up in the morning he’d want to keep writing, and then motivation wasn’t an issue.

    You can use this idea on just about anything else, too, including learning Japanese. Essentially, you’re using reverse psychology on yourself even though you know you’re using reverse psychology on yourself (does that make it double reverse psychology?). If you do this you’ll put down your Japanese studies, then be able to jump right back into it next time, motivation already ready to go. So give it a try sometime. It might be a little painful but it’s worth it if it works, I think. Let me know how it goes for you!

    Other Ways To Trick Your Brain

    A hoop art brain
    Source: Hey Paul Studios

    There are plenty of other ways to trick your brain into wanting to study. Some are:

    • Try changing your environment. If you find that your computer area makes you prone to distractions, go someplace completely different where that trigger does not exist. Move away from bad triggers and you’re left with more motivation to do the thing you want to do.
    • Try changing the temperature to 77°F (25° C). This is supposedly the ideal temperature for being able to focus.
    • Natural light and sun supposedly make you more productive as well. Try to get some sun to get those motivational juices flowing. Don’t get too much, though, that would make you sleepy.
    • Take a nap. Sure, you spend 20 minutes taking a nap (don’t take a longer one, you’ll be groggy), but it’s amazing how much this helps with willpower and therefore motivation. I sometimes find myself staring at my computer screen, hardly doing anything. Then, I take a nap and magically I’m a magic productivity guru once again.

    I'm sure there are lots of brain tricks you can come up with. Feel free to share them with us on Twitter!