Where I'm at - And a Few Goals

I hate New Years resolutions. Let's face it. I've already blown my resolution to write a blog post at least once a week. Here it is, February, and I'm finally getting around to my first post of the year.

I am a big fan, however, of evaluating where I'm currently at in my life and making a few reasonable goals to get to the next step.

Let me emphasize the words few and reasonable.

Looking smart with my SMART goals.
SMART goals are better than STUPID goals

It's my opinion that working on too many goals prevents you from accomplishing anything well.

So, here's where I'm at right now.

I'm still working on Lao. I've wanted to give up on it a few times, but I've been to stubborn to quit.

I do think maybe I could be working on Lao in a smarter way. Currently, most of my Lao studies involves learning vocabulary with the Anki app on my phone. I am making progress, but it's not quick progress. I'm both using Anki flash card decks that other people have created, as well as my own list that I've created specifically for me.

The other thing I do is most Sundays I attend a Sunday school class where Lao is the main language spoken. I do my best to listen and understand what's being said. It's always fun when I can pick out words that I've studied. Occasionally I'll add to the conversation, but not too often.

I'm also still working on German, occasionally, and I've decided to go back to review Esperanto. I study German a couple of times a week on Duolingo, and for the past week or so I've reviewed Esperanto vocabulary every day with Anki.

I'm not too serious about those two languages. I'm making almost zero progress with German, and I'm okay with that for now. And with Esperanto I'm just trying to remember what I've forgotten since June.

Here's how I'm doing with the other languages I know.

English. Man, am I good at English! I speak at native fluency, and can understand most of what I read and hear. This is amazing, in my opinion, because I've only lived in the United States for 94.7% of my life.

I don't plan on spending much time with Italian, French or Spanish in the near future.

So, what are my goals?

A few months ago I was introduced to something called SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

A specific goal is the opposite of a vague goal. Here's an example of a vague goal: I want to learn how to speak Lao.

At what point do you know how to "speak Lao"? When you know 200 words? When you can speak about neuroscience and advanced theoretical physics for 3 hours without using English?

A better goal would be "I want to speak Lao well enough to have a 15 minute conversation in Lao with a native speaker without using English." Nice, and specific. But is it a SMART Goal? Not yet, I'm still missing a few things.

Is this goal measurable? Yes, it is. "Being able to speak Lao" is not a measurable goal. Being able to speak Lao for fifteen minutes with a native speaker is measurable, because you can assign a measurement to it. In this case, you are measuring the number of minutes you are speaking.

Is it attainable? I think so. Lao is difficult for me, but I am making progress. I'm sure that some time in my life I'll be able to have a fifteen minute Lao conversation with a Lao speaker.

Is it relevant? Yes. This goal is goal is relevant to my desire to learn Lao. If my goal was to try 15 Lao foods, that wouldn't necessarily be relevant to language learning.

Is it time-bound? Nope, not yet. A time-bound goal has a deadline. Here's the tricky part. A deadline that is too soon makes our goal unattainable. A deadline too far in the future makes a goal pretty much useless.

So here's my goal. I want to have a fifteen minute conversation, in Lao, with a native Lao speaker, without using any English, by June 1, 2015. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Why so far away? Well, I've started school again. That, plus having a full-time job, plus being a husband and father means I don't have the time I'd like to have to learn languages. But June 1, 2015 isn't so away that I won't have to push myself.

Little goals

One other thing that I've learned about goals is that big goals are best accomplished by completing a set of little goals.

Thinking back to my Esperanto learning project, preparing to create a video really helped me focus on learning Lao.

I thought back then "Hey, I need to do this video thing more often; it really helped me out." But I've only made one video in Lao, and that was only 29 seconds long and it was all the way back on June 24, 2014.

So my little goal that is going to help me to reach my big goal, is to make four videos in Lao, one per month, to help me practice Lao, starting in February.

Your turn

What goals are you working on? Any good advice on achieving your goals? Share in the comments section below.

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