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Episode 20 Transcript

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Hello, I'm Olender, and this is PoLoop Angielski Podcast. For more materials for learners of English and the transcript of this episode, go to my website,


So we've got 2023! Are you buzzing? Are you full of energy, or maybe you are, just like me, and you find a New Year's Day, a bit depressing. Just a tad. The night before, you'd had one too many. So you woke up with a hangover. Then it dawned on you that you are technically a year older, a year closer to the finishing line. You took stock of your life, and your life achievements didn't look as impressive as you'd imagine them to be at this point of your life. Really depressing. There is, however, something even more depressing about this day, a New Year's resolution. I've always thought that New Year's resolutions are a bad idea. They simply don't work, the promises that we make to ourselves on January the first. The usual ones are to give up booze, to give up smoking, to lose weight, or, for example, to put more effort into learning English. Great, isn't it? Well, the problem is that on the first day of January, all of these plans look relatively easy. After the festive season, you're fed up with eating, so the idea of losing weight doesn't come to you as a challenge. You also had too much drink. So you might feel that quitting booze for some time is also relatively easy. And you might feel a bit bored as well. So the idea of getting down to studying English might sound like an attractive prospect. Well, at least to some of us. One week later, however, things will look different. And you'll firm resolutions to make a change in your life will seem less firm. I heard somewhere that one in three of us will fail on a New Year's resolution within the first seven days, and two thirds will completely give up on them within the first month or so. So what's my advice when it comes to New Year's resolutions? Don't make one, at least not in January. January is a pretty dark and dismal part of the year, and the unsuccessful attempt at keeping you resolutions might dampen your spirits even further. However, if you insist on a fresh start this month in terms of improving your English language skills, at least try to go about this in a different way. One of my favourite quotes is by Henry Ford, who said, "If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got". So, how to do things differently this year. The best advice I found comes from "The Atomic Habits", a book on habit formation written by James Clear. So here are my top tips based on what I read in James Clear's book. Follow them and I'm sure you will increase your chances of keeping your New Year's resolutions dramatically.


Tip number one, set realistic goals. You won't be able to become fluent in English in a month, you know that. Actually, don't even think in terms of goals, but rather in terms of a system and changes in it. Break the big goal into smaller, easy to do and easy to measure daily tasks. For example, start spending 30 minutes a day reading or listening to something in English. And if you know that 30 minutes is too much. Make it 15. Think not about you today when you have a bit more time, but think about you on the busiest day of the week. This will really help you to set the right target, the realistic target, and translating your big goal into easy regular actions is extremely important in the process of forming a habit. It's much easier to keep your daily promises than to stick to your long-term elusive goal. It's much more difficult to wriggle out of them.


Tip number two. Try to piggyback on your existing habit or activity that you enjoy doing. A piggyback is something you can give to a child. You take them on your back and start walking or running so they have fun, so they have an enjoyable ride on your back. What I mean by piggybacking on your existing habit is using the activity that you already do to help you keep you resolution. For example, if you love reading about cars, read Jeremy Clarkson's reviews about new models in English. If your thing is watching real crime stories, start watching them in English, maybe first for 15 minutes and then increase this amount of time until you are comfortable with watching the whole episode in English, maybe first with subtitles, and then without them.


Tip number three. Sticking to a new habit is much easier in a group. So joining a class and being part of a group who is coping with the same challenges as you is really motivating. We are always wondering what will others think of us and we are more likely to stick to our new habit if our effort is appreciated by others. And a group may also help you establish a more positive identity. Instead of seeing yourself as a failure, as a rare case of someone who doesn't speak English very well in the world, in which everybody speaks this language perfectly, at least that's what you think, you might be able to change your way of thinking and start seeing yourself more positively as someone belonging to a group of people who are working hard towards achieving their goal.


Tip number four. Expect bad days. As I explained in the episode 18. Acquiring a foreign language is a hard job. So no wonder there will be days when you feel like it's not worth the effort, especially at the beginning, in what James clear calls the valley of disappointment when you work hard but still don't see the results. When you expect things to be tough, you are more likely to overcome the difficulties. Try to stick to your daily routine. Instead of reading a few articles in English, read one, but do not stop completely.


Tip number five. Create the environment in which sticking to your resolution will be easier. Set cues that will remind you to perform your daily actions. For example, set the language on your mobile phone to English, bookmark your favourite English dictionary in your browser, bundle a daily routine activity with doing something in English, for example, listen to a podcast in English while walking your dog or cooking. If you spend a lot of time on social media, use social media for learning English, for example, by following PoLoop Angielski on Instagram, where I still post daily 'relevant today' phrases and other bits and bobs that I hope could be part of this English-language-resolution-friendly environment.


Okay, so these are only five pieces of advice based on 'The Atomic Habits' written by James Clear. If you would like to get a more detailed understanding how to develop good habits and quit bad ones. You can find a link to the book in the notes to this episode. You might even want to read this book in English, I guess. One chapter a week. How about that? But please don't make a New Year's resolution out of that. Do it because you want to do it, not because you have to. Happy New Year, everyone, and hope to speak to you next week. Bye!

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