When I wrote this headline I must admit that it sounded odd to me because the truth is that I’m currently anything but motivated. My TOPIK plans are down the drain for this year at least, my purpose for taking the TOPIK has been postponed indefinitely, and there is really no external reason for me to study Korean every day right now.

Okay, so the external motivation is gone. Clever people may argue that true motivation must come from within so who cares about external motivators? Fair enough. I tend to believe that too, but the truth is that you just can’t stay motivated all the time. It’s simply not possible. Instead I try to create habits. Habits of reading and studying. When it really works you can compare this to brushing your teeth. You may brush your teeth because your dentist told you to or because you really want to, but most likely you brush your teeth at least twice a day because it’s a habit.

These days my habits are quite simple because that seems to be all I can manage at the moment. The fall used to be my favorite season but since tragedy struck me two years ago around this time of year, the fall makes me feel all the feels all over again. Grief doesn’t have an expiration date and even though it may soften over time, your mind and your body remembers and relives the trauma forever. I miss him every single day and I’ll love him for as long as I live. Grieving the loss of him is hard, and life is hard – the pandemic doesn’t make it easier either. But I guess that’s okay because that’s just the way things are right now.

So, when I’m in a rut like I am at the moment, I need to focus on habits and routines. Things that require very little thinking and minimum decision making. To really make this work, I find it helpful to connect each activity to a certain part of the day. For example, when I go for my daily morning walk I always listen to the JTBC newsroom podcast. It’s a great way to stay on top of Korean news and events and it doubles as a Korean listening exercise as well. I usually walk for 30-40 minutes and listen to the podcast throughout. I like listening to music and audiobooks as well, but morning walks are reserved for Korean news.

If I have time later in the morning, I do some light reading with or without note taking. Then in the afternoon I try to do some more focused studying like reading a chapter in my Hanja book, or reviewing a chapter in my old Sogang textbooks. Whatever I do, the goal is to keep at it for about an hour without interruption. If I manage to do that I’m doing okay. I do manage to do so on most days but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m running on fumes more than on motivation. Without knowing when I’ll be returning to Korea or when the world will return to something that resembles normal it’s just hard to care in the same way. It’s hard to set goals that require an open society with free travel like passing TOPIK level 6 or enrolling in a Korean class in Seoul when all of this is off limits. Instead I have created way less significant goals for myself like “finish half of Hanja book by new year” or “review Sogang level 6 books in November”. Working just a little bit each day to reach these goals is way less thrilling than my bigger plans but it helps me stay afloat during these crazy times.

If any of you are struggling with motivation these days, I’d love to hear how you push yourselves forward. Until next time!

P.S. The cover picture has nothing to do with motivation but I discovered today that there are gingko trees in the park near my house. They are called 은행나무 in Korean, and seeing one so close to my home gave me a warm feeling of being comforted.

“Fall in love in fall” Quote by Geonha Lee (이건하) circa November 2016.

1 Comment »

  1. It is indeed impossible to be motivated all the time. This year I’ve been struggling asthma all the time and it has put a real damper on my motivation not just for Korean but alot of things really.

    I do most of my learning by watching dramas with the Korean subs on. I like them anyway so if I’m not feeling well I just watch it and don’t worry about anything I don’t understand. But if I’m feeling OK and in the mood I will pause and write down any words that interests me.

    I do think there is a difference between losing motivation and losing interest though. If you do lose interest in Korean because you want to do something else I guess that is OK, although it would feel like a shame. I wasn’t doing much of Korean at all for months because I wanted to try French. I did that for a while and now I came back to Korean! I guess the things you really love you will always go back to.


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