A new version of me

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite TV series was Felicity. This show was about a young girl discovering college and herself. Though I was not in college at the time, I could relate to the main character on many levels. Perhaps that is the recipe for good shows: drama, laughter, questionable hairstyle choices and someone on a quest to find themselves.

Growth is painful. Change is hard and there are days you wish it would just stop. Wouldn’t it be great to be sure? To feel like you finally solved the puzzle? As teachers, the pieces are always missing. Each student is a new person who brings us challenges.

Much is discussed and researched about student needs, we tend favor their motivation and neglect a simple element in this equation: ourselves. Low wages, poor working conditions, uninterested students. How can we keep ourselves motivated when there is little perspective of what lies ahead? When ahead sounds like another word for eventually getting expensive and being replaced by a cheaper model, it is time to re-think our career and goals.

A very special person taught me a lot about motivation recently. He started with an activity by Hadfield & Dörnyei (2013), a reflection on our goals as language teachers. We should them separate them in four sets:

  • Easy to achieve;
  • Possible, but more long-term goals;
  • Very hard to achieve;
  • Not really achievable.

Formally revisiting my goals gave the chance to see how far along the way I am or not. For instance, having native-like pronunciation is never going to happen. As much as I would like to sound like Prince Harry, I am proud of my Portuguese speaker undertone.

Hadfield & Dörnyei (2013) argue that creating a vision of an ideal future self will show the discrepancy between our present and ideal self and we will be motivated to reduce the gap between the two. However, for that to happen, the vision has to be substantial, elaborate and vivid.

When setting goals, a common mistake we all make is thinking of our achievements backwards. Our goal is often the result of how that achievement is going to benefit us.

One of the goals from my very-hard-to-achieve list is getting a PhD. However, a PhD is essentially a piece of paper that attests you studied a lot. I questioned myself: what am I really going after with a PhD?

Sounding like an RP speaker was a goal when I first started studying English. I consciously made efforts to learn about and change my pronunciation, trying to reproduce sounds and intonation patterns. Truth is, speaking that way did not make me feel anything, so I stopped focusing on that.

We all know people who are extremely successful, yet miserable and bitter. We have bought into other people’s version of success and this is one of the reasons why we are disconnected. What I would like to propose is that when we create our vision, our core-desired feelings (LaPorte, 2014) are also taken into account.

The conclusion I came to is that a PhD for me is about the feeling of being better able to serve my students by becoming an expert in a certain area and making a difference in the world. It is still a hard goal, but it resonates powerfully with me.

I would love to know what your professional goals are and how they relate to the way you want to feel as a person.

 

References:

Hadfield, J., & Dörnyei, Z. (2013). Motivating learning. Longman.

LaPorte, D. (2014). The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. Sounds True.

Taylor Veigga

Taylor Veigga is a teacher, teacher trainer and materials designer based in Rio. He holds a post-graduate degree in Media-Education (PUC-Rio), a BA in Languages (UFRJ) and has worked in the ELT industry for over 18 years. T's interests include pronunciation, English as a Lingua Franca and language ideologies. Taylor has been a pedagogical coordinator for BrELT since 2015 and is IATEFL PronSIG Joint Webinar Coordinator. He also blogs at https://tveigga.com.

8 Comments
  • Letícia
    Posted at 09:18h, 27 maio Responder

    I’m so glad to know that people whom I think so highly of such as you sometimes go through the same questioning processes as I do! Recently, I’ve been struggling with a goal far less superior than yours: getting my undergrad degree in Languages. I simply can’t stand having to go to school every single day to “learn” about things that, to my mind, won’t make my teaching any better – let alone having to endure long lectures that seem more like huge narcissistic self-reaffirmation sessions carried by overly condescending professors. My folks just don’t get this, but having a piece of paper attesting that you studied a lot isn’t a career goal that appeals to me in the slightest. On the other hand, taking the DELTA course is something that I’ve been considering for quite a while now, and hopefully I’ll be able to succeed at doing it. I guess that in the end, it all boils down to being comfortable enough in your own skin so you don’t have to follow anyone’s agenda but your own.

    • Thiago Veigga
      Posted at 11:32h, 27 maio Responder

      I’m flattered to hear that, Letícia! <3
      I know the feeling. I remember when I was taking a degree in languages there were subjects that felt like a waste of time and some of them were to be honest. At the end of the day the ones that made sense and could potentially make an impact on my teaching gave me the strength to follow through.

  • Henrique Moura
    Posted at 13:43h, 27 maio Responder

    Well said! Congrats on your post. 🙂

  • Ernesto
    Posted at 17:59h, 29 maio Responder

    Thiago, your reflections were so authentic and heartfelt. I have recently debated such issues with my students. Why do we keep buying others` formulas of happiness? I see so many lost teenagers, confused adults and bitter old people who do not know themselves and have not taken a moment to understand and find their own formulas of happiness…their authentic path and the special talents that make them unique…
    In this era of creating and overselling a superficial persona on social media at all costs, people continue distancing themselves from their true selves. It is getting harder and harder to question yourself and clearly understand your goals in life, since we’re being continually bombarded by this preconceived image of what happiness is.

    I used to dream about sounding like an RP speaker, myself. Now I embraced all the flaws in my accent because that is what defines me. I AM a teacher. That is what I should EXCEL at, not at sounding like a native speaker (not to say that’s not a constant struggle, but one has to learn how to channel one’s energy and focus). I am actually a little judgmental sometimes when I see teachers in Brazil or elsewhere trying so hard to imitate a certain kind of tone, accent, intonation, region twang, slang. From a native perspective, it might sound a little ridiculous at times (some people mix up a little bit of RP, cockney, Scottish…) but hey…each to their own…
    Kudos on reassessing your goals through such a healthy process. Stay true to yourself!

    • Thiago Veigga
      Posted at 21:35h, 29 maio Responder

      Thanks for your comment, Ernesto! It’s like someone once said, we have to be ourselves, everyone else is taken. 😉

  • Teresa Carvalho
    Teresa Carvalho
    Posted at 17:41h, 18 junho Responder

    I agree with you 100%, Thiago. Successful people don’t always lead happy, fulfilled lives.

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