Language Blog

How Habits Work (and how to apply it to learning Spanish)

So I used to struggle with being consistent at practicing my languages. I had a goal to learn one, but my practice was very “on and off”.

But then a few years ago, I read the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg (it’s great!)

So basically the book explains how habits work – and how our brains are always trying to take shortcuts by turning our actions into habits.

Think about how, when you wake up, you probably have a specific set of actions you take out of habit. Unfortunately, for most of us, this includes snoozing our alarms a few times and then scrambling to get out of bed!

Habits work by using a habit loop – Cue -> Action -> Reward

So what I didn’t previously understand, is that to make an action a habit, you need to have a specific cue which precedes it.

So if I tell myself, I want to practice spanish for 1 hour every day – that is not enough! An important question to ask is when will I do this? If I don’t have a cue – I will never be able to make this a habit!

So what I did instead which created a habit was telling myself that I will practice for 1 hour every day after dinner! So this made dinner my cue for practicing! So every day, after I finish my dinner, I remembered, now I will go and practice Spanish.

After a few weeks of doing this, my action became automatic, that I never had to think about it and I would automatically go and do my 1 hour of practice after my dinner.

So figure out for yourself, what will you make your cue before your action?

Will it be finishing dinner? Will it be getting out of bed? Will it be brushing your teeth? Will it during you lunch time? You just have to pick a cue which will be associated with that specific action!

As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit!”

So get this book, The Power of Habit, and learn how habits work and then apply that knowledge and it will literally change your life! (including improving your practice of Spanish)

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