Nowadays, people seem to talk a lot about mindfulness, but what exactly does this word mean?
Before you reach out to your translation app, let’s do this right. Let’s check the dictionary, shall we?
According to the Oxford dictionary, the word ‘mindful’ is an adjective that means conscious or aware of something.
Perhaps, you think that this is quite obvious when it comes to learning, ‘how is it possible not to be mindful of learning?’ but in this post, we will talk about a different kind of awareness, a much deeper one.
Are you aware of how far have you come?
Often, students tend to focus too much on the future and the things they will do once they become fluent. Unfortunately, this excitement will fade away as things get more challenging; for example, they have a disappointing day where they needed to explain something but are unable to find the right words, etc. It can happen to anyone, after all, sometimes, we even fail to explain things in our mother language.
Focus on what we can get is essential, but it isn’t as important as how far you have come. So let’s take a moment to answer the following questions:
- Do you remember when you first tried to communicate in English? How did it go? Did you manage to understand what the other person was trying to tell you?
- Do you remember your first class? Could you understand what your teacher was trying to explain (if they were speaking in English)?
- Do you remember that feeling of feeling lost and confused in your first couple of classes?
- Now, do you realise that you are being able to read this article without translating it?
If you did this exercise right, you probably have a big smile on your face right now. Am I wrong?! I guess not. Take a second and pat yourself on the back, give yourself a big hug and remember that your English might not be the way you would like it to be yet, but it isn’t the way it was when you first started to learn. Acknowledging your accomplishments is as crucial as focusing on the next steps. So, If I were you, I would give myself a big hug. To be fair, If I were next to you, I would hug you <3 You are awesome!
Are you aware of your business?
Most of my students have a busy life. Most of them work, have kids, husbands/ wives, bills to pay, a horrible boss, sometimes a terrible work environment and on top of that: they are trying to learn another language. You might think that you are only one more in this world, but you are not; you are a hero! Finding time to learn when surrounded by chaos is remarkable, so I don’t mean to be repetitive here, but I must congratulate you again.
You might be aware of all these things you are doing, yet you blame yourself when you feel like you are not learning fast enough or studying enough, so here is a quick exercise that can help you to lower the pressure of everyday life:
- As soon as you get up, drink a big glass of water. After drinking it, close your eyes and be thankful. Thank your body for keeping you moving; thank it for the movements of your legs, arms, hands and all your other members. Thank your brain for keeping all your memories, for helping you to learn even when it is so overwhelmed. Thank the breath in your lungs – breathing is an essential process to lower any anxiety, so don’t forget to breathe – and last but not the least, thank the day that you are about to start, thank it for the things it will bring to you and all you are about to learn. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.
Life is busy for all of us so remove any frustration or pressure that might come your way while learning. You don’t have to learn ‘tomorrow’. Learning, whether it is a language or how to be a better parent, is an endless journey; we never stop learning.
Are you aware of what matters?
Some people say: I want to be perfect; I want to speak excellent English. Well, I admire the willpower of all these people, although I don’t get their motivations. When I first became a teacher, I thought that I wasn’t good enough. I think it is good always to feel like you are not good enough if it encourages you always to become better; after all, there’s always room to improve. I used to think that I wasn’t the person for the job because of my fear of making mistakes. Until the day I realised that no matter what language you speak, mistakes will always happen. Portuguese speakers who have been teaching Portuguese for decades make mistakes, so why can’t a Portuguese speaker make mistakes in another language? I am not encouraging you to pet your mistakes and raise them as your own, but not to feel bad when making them. Nobody improves without mistakes; you cannot become better in anything without them. So let’s take a moment to focus on what matters when you are learning:
- Think about the last time you spoke English. Did your mistakes stop you from being understood?
- Think about all the English mistakes that you used to make. When you learnt about them, did you try to stop making them?
- Think about all the mistakes that you make in your language. Did they stop you from speaking your language at all?
In the learning process, mistakes matter not. The most important thing when you are learning is not how you sound but how you feel. Fluency doesn’t mean speaking perfectly; think about all the people you know in your country. Some of them have no education, and they might have lousy pronunciation, reading skills or a lack of grammar knowledge, yet they are fluent. You cannot say that they are not. Fluency is the ability to speak or write a language easily and accurately; in other words, it’s all about being comfortable with communication, and it has nothing to do with making mistakes.
From now on, try to remember these things when you feel overwhelmed by learning English or any other language. Forgive yourself more, don’t demand anything from your brain. Instead, ask politely. Be thankful. Your body and your brain might not learn at speed or in the way you wish, but they are doing the best they can, so be thankful for being able to, even if slower, learn. Remember how far you’ve come. Be proud of yourself for in the middle of this chaotic world, putting your learning as a priority. You are awe-inspiring!