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Why people fail in their attempts to learn Chinese?

These three things have something in common: doing exercises regularly, keeping a healthier diet, and learning Chinese.

All of them are easy to start, and hard to maintain.

There are some very simple and effective exercises that all of us can do everyday, such as walking. 

To keep a healthier diet is also simple if we consciously reduce the high content of oil, salt and sugar.  

For people who learn Chinese, the key to a satisfactory learning outcomes is also simple, to stay consistent. (Read more here: The most important factor in the success of learning Chinese)

However, it’s quite common to see people giving up on their exercise plans, healthier diets, or Chinese study after pursuing it for a short while.

It’s not that people don’t know about the benefits. People are all too familiar with the long term physical and mental health benefits these activities can bring. 

It’s not that people don’t want to enjoy these benefits. They started, didn’t they?

So why people fail in their attempts?

One reason is probably that all of these activities need long term effort. Most of us are too distracted to think long term. What happens in the next 8 seconds on mobile feeds have people’s undivided attention.

If you belong to those minority people who have a long term plan, you’ll face other obstacles when you choose to act on your plan. 

These obstacles include a million things that are in your way and people who sabotage your effort unconsciously. Even if you navigate them successfully, you still need to face the most difficult obstacle, your older self.

Indeed, it is very hard to say goodbye to one’s older self. 

Let me explain.

Doing exercises regularly, keeping a healthier diet and learning Chinese are activities that will bring changes to your life. 

Changes are hard because we have a tendency to cling to those good old days, to what we know. It is a self protective thing. “I grew up that way.” “I don’t have any talent in languages.”

To get the benefits of these activities means that this existing protective mechanism has to collapse, because we choose to become vulnerable once again in our lives. “My strength is failing me.” “I feel so inadequate in learning new things.” 

Being vulnerable is a scary thing. And deep in our heart, we’re scared. It’s a feeling we don’t want to admit, let alone accept. This is why the older self has so much power over us. 

To overcome this scary feeling we must admit and accept, perhaps through gritted teeth and tons of resistance, that being vulnerable is ok, making mistakes is ok, and they are both part of a slow transformation process that will make us better. 

Little by little, we’re going to become a different person, both physically and mentally. 

At the beginning, it’s only a new habit.

You need to allocate time and effort to exercises, to choose what to eat, or to learn Chinese. You must keep doing it until it’s part of your routine.

Next, it becomes a new life style.

You need to keep practicing it until you develop a deep-seeded level of confidence in yourself. 

Ultimately, consistent practice will transform you into this new person. You act differently, you eat differently, and you think differently.

From a new habit to a new identity, this transformation will take years to complete.

This is an identity shift and a scary process.

It’s way more comfortable not to think about it.