Capturing the Confidence to Move Forward in Your ESL Learning

Have you ever thought about the role confidence plays in your life? When have you felt the most confident? And as a result of this, what were you able to accomplish? Well, if you believe in the theory that confidence does indeed help you to accomplish more, then maybe it is time you asked yourself…

                                                                     How do you go about capturing the confidence to move forward in your ESL learning?

Consider what you have done already

Psychologist and author Elizabeth Lombardo claims you need to “…consider the positive things you’ve done, large or small, and focus on that.” In her book A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription of Happiness” Lombardo suggests starting a list. It can be simple like learning to bake bread or planting a garden, hitting a homerun or memorizing a song for the piano, painting a watercolor picture, or writing a poem for someone.

And although her idea of a list is not limited to any one type of accomplishment, how about if you made a list of everything you have done to move forward in your ESL leaning?

What would be on your list?

Have you… studied English, taken an online ESL class, enrolled in a degree program that has coursework in English, gone to a library and checked out English books, found an English-speaking activity to join, fostered a friendship with a native speaker.

What would be on your list?

Find a mantra that empowers confidence

Perhaps you have a mantra. There’s plenty of them out there. They describe you. They motivate you to progress in your ESL study. Replace “can’t” with “I can. I will”. What would be your mantra? Look around you. There are many positive mantras that will motivate you. They will stir you toward action. Look at some of these for an example:

Just do it – Nike

Think big – IMAX

Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. – Survivor television show

I am what I am – Reebok

A mind is a terrible thing to waste – The United Negro College Fund

There is no tomorrow – FedEx

Impossible is nothing – Adidas

I’m lovin’ it – McDonalds

Success. It’s a mind game. – TagHeuer

Expand your mind. Change your world. – New Statesman

Make the most of now – Vodafone

Power, beauty and soul. – Aston Martin

Have you met life today? – MetLife

Keep(s) going and going and going… - Energizer

man dressed casual jumping and smiling  - dynamic wide angle shot

Be energetic, passionate, and excited

Have you listened to the tone of your voice? Do you come across as unsure or do you speak with authority?  Is your voice monotone or do your sentences rise to match your excitement? What facial expressions and body language do you display? Do you look down and appear to be uneasy in conversation or do you look at the person/audience, smile, relax, and then talk freely? What about your word choice? Do you repeat the same words over and add little depth to your sentences and stories? Or do you embellish you sentences with rich description, vary your sentence patterns and captivate your listeners?

What could you do to become more energetic, passionate, and excited when you speak English? When you study English?

Give yourself a push – Remember that… “even eagles need a push”

Stand tall. Put your shoulders back. Take a few deep breaths. You will feel more assured of yourself. Think confidence. Tell yourself that you can do it. Give yourself that push. Remember that “…even eagles need a push” (David McNally, author). It might be just what you need. Have you thought about giving yourself a push? What would it be toward… more weekly ESL study? A night English class or enrolling online in an ESL course?  More time spent speaking English? Taking that TOEFL test or applying to study overseas? Joining that English-speaking book discussion class? Reading a book written in English each week? Watching the nightly newscast in English?  Updating your resume and applying for that job you always wanted or to work at that company overseas? Or to volunteer to give that presentation or to lead a team of employees?  Just give yourself that push.

Model others who display confidence – Become a model of confidence for others

Think of others who display confidence. Maybe it’s a sports player or a movie star. Maybe it is a contestant in some time competition or a game show. Perhaps it is a government figure. It could be s local community member like a police officer or fireman. Maybe a friend, relative or neighbor comes to mind. How about a boss or a business associate, a teacher or a fellow student? What traits do these individuals have that show you they are confident? What can you learn from the way that they cultivate confidence and apply some of these traits and some of these behaviors to your life? Have you ever thought that there may be someone who models you? What do you do to display confidence? How can you model this for others?

Reread compliments – Give compliments

Do you have a spot where you keep positive letters, emails, notes, etc.? When you feel that you just can’t finish that paper for English class, do you have one of your best papers saved so it serves as an inspiration to you that you can write this paper just as well? Or maybe you kept that card from your friend that says he/she is proud of you? Maybe it is that “A” grade you got on an English test?  How about when it’s time to deliver that power point presentation at work? Do you have that letter from your former boss that credits your speaking ability? It might be helpful to post a few of these in a spot that you can see throughout the day or to a container of these “compliments” so you can read them from time to time to help spur you on. What is one “compliment” that you have been given in some form that would help you in your journey to learn ESL?  Can you offer others who are studying ESL a compliment in some form along the way? Who would that be? What would you say?

Physical exercise and improved healthy living habits – “Look good, feel good”

I know that today’s world is very busy and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to fit everything in. Well, how about some exercise each day? Try 10 minutes before work or school and see the difference it makes. Or maybe squeeze a walk in at lunch time or right after work? How about choosing more healthy foods in your diet? You will look better, which in turn will help you to feel better, too. This will make you more confident. What can you do to increase your exercise…to increase your healthy living? … “to look good, feel good”?

Running woman. Runner jogging in sunny bright light. training outside in New York City with skyline and Brooklyn Bridge in background.

Confide in friends

Do you have some people who can help you with learning English? Maybe it is someone who can take an online class with you? Maybe it is a 1-1 tutor or some friends who meet weekly to speak English with you? Maybe it’s an online chat group?  How about some friends you could ask to take a class with you at a local college? Do you have an English-speaking friend you could talk with on the phone?  Maybe you have a spouse or other relative who can be your study-buddy? Sometimes it just helps to have others with you along the way to help you progress in your ESL study. It can make studying more fun. It can keep you more accountable to studying if others are doing the same. Is there someone you could confide in and who could help you in some way to help build your confidence, and in turn to help you with your ESL learning?

Indulge yourself

Learning a language is hard work, but it does get easier.  Remind yourself of that. Why not reward yourself along the way? You know yourself better than anyone. It’s natural then that you know what you like. Maybe a special coffee once a week, or a new item of clothing when you have learned so many new words or you have studied so many days. How about a CD you always wanted or a movie? Simple rewards along the way will help keep you on track to meeting your larger goal. Go ahead and indulge yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Tell yourself you did a good job.

Don’t compare your learning rate to others

It’s easy to get frustrated and compare yourself to others. Don’t. Acknowledge that everyone learns differently. You will always find someone who can learn faster than you.  You will always find someone who does it better than you. Don’t compare your learning to others. Just concentrate on your own learning and be proud of your own progress. Try to expand your own vocabulary. Don’t concern your growth with others. American author, Robert Collier says to “…Visualize this thing you want. See it. Feel it. Believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin.” That is the important thing. Think of what you want and then go for it because “…as long as you know exactly what you want and possess an incessant desire to acquire it, you will prevail. – Think of what you want. What are your goals regarding learning English? What are you most proud of concerning your own ESL progress?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Think of mistakes as steps on your path to learn. The important thing is not the number of mistakes you make while you learn, but that you learn from the mistakes in the process. This in turn helps you to progress. Don’t’ be afraid to make mistakes so this impedes your learning. Remember, mistakes help you to learn.

Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong – Peter T. McIntyre, New Zealand artist and writer

Tackle it head on

What is your goal about learning English? Make sure it is authentic (real to you and something you want).  Make sure it is realistic (something that can actually happen).  Now, think. Take a few minutes and then write down your #1 goal.

Once you have a clear picture of your priorities – that is values, goals, and high leverage activities – organize around them. – Stephen Covey, American editor, author, businessman, keynote speaker

Now ask yourself two things:  What do you think the challenges are along the way (in attaining your goal)? How do you think you can meet these challenges? It might help to write these down, too. List all of the challenges. After each one, brainstorm ways that you will meet these challenges head on. That’s it. Answer these two questions with confidence. It’s okay to have challenges. But how you meet them is important.

Some new research implies that those people who are more apt to be confident in their goal-setting and in actually attaining their goals have two similar thoughts:  1) They believe in themselves (they know they have the ability to do it) and, 2) They know it will be difficult (they know there will be challenges along the way but they won’t give up).

Confidence. To believe in yourself. To know you can overcome challenges. To be able to attain your goal(s).


Are there some concrete steps you can take today toward “tackling it head on” and “capturing the confidence to move forward in your ESL learning?” Write to me using the comments section below and let me know what steps you are taking on your way to learn ESL. Just remember that if you feel reluctant to move forward or when the going gets tough, that you can do it. Which mantra is yours?

Does Tag Heuer’s* mantra work for you? Success. It’s a mind game.

Here’s to building confidence. Here’s to building success in your ESL learning success.

* TAG Heuer S.A. designs, manufactures and markets watches, chronographs and fashion accessories while also marketing eyewear and mobile phones manufactured under license by other companies and carrying the Tag Heuer brand name

 girl and boy pretending to be superheroes

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