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Effective English Learning – Clarity

Clarity is Vital for Effective Learning

If I had to pick one word that was the key and biggest determiner of real success for any business English Training program or any learning experience, it would be CLARITY.

Clarity is our first core ingredient of effective learning and has to be the first step in the process of achieving any form of genuine and notable success.

What Does it Mean to Have Clarity in Your Business English Training?

In a nutshell, having Clarity means having a clear understanding and knowing exactly what the problems is, what you want and why you want it. Sadly though, most people are somewhat blurry in this.

Tony Robbins uses a great metaphor called the ‘Niagara Syndrome’ that demonstrate the importance of clarity. In his metaphor he uses a river to symbolize life, but in our case, it can mean your English learning or and Business English Training program.

The Niagara Syndrome

What often happens is, most people jump into the river (our English learning or Training program) without even knowing where they want to go. They start the journey without a destination. People quickly get caught up in the river’s current: day to day events, fears, challenges, problems, busyness, demands of other people. When they come to forks in the river they don’t consciously decide, the river decides. They just go “with the flow”. They remain in this unconscious or passive state, being controlled by the river’s currents until one day the sound of the raging water awakens them, and they discover that they’re just a few meters away from Niagara Falls in a boat with no oars. At this point, they say, ‘Oh sh#t!’. But by then it’s too late. They’re going to take a fall. This fall can be disappointment or frustration due to a realisation that they have ended up somewhere they don’t want to be, a realisation that they have spent weeks, months on a journey that has taken somewhere they don’t want to be – the wrong results, bad results or no results.

In each and every Business English Training program I provide, I always ask “what do you need to learn?” or “What are your learning goals?”. Very frequently I am looked at like I am from the moon or asking a question in Chinese. After a long period of silence with blank and confused looks, usually someone utters the words “improve my English or learn some vocabulary” …or something else along these lines. Let’s me make something extremely clear – “I’m here to improve my English” is not clarity, is not a goal and is a freaking waste of time. Vague statements like this only show that you really have no idea what you want or why you are here and at best will only lead to vague sh#tty results.

It is clear many participants attend English Training without thinking in-advance what exactly they really and specifically want or need to learn and why. I guess like many, they simply are not aware of the importance of ‘Clarity’, are on Auto-pilot or are living in their past and stuck in their passive learning school education and therefore expect to be spoon fed information by the trainer are actually quite happy for the trainer to define their learning goals.

Why is Clarity Important?

Referring back to our Niagara Falls metaphor, with clarity, it’s likely that whatever causes the frustration, disappointment or those poor results can be avoided by knowing exactly what you want and making some better decisions upstream.

Before you start any journey or new learning experience, you must be able to clearly see the thing in your mind before you can do it. Having clarity on what you want to achieve and what you want to learn will enable you to then focus your mind, energy and behaviour on what is truly important. Clarity is vital because it is what defines the overall direction and the dynamics of your training or learning program. However, a lack of clarity will put the brakes on any journey to success and only creates chaos and frustration that are the poison to any living goal.

What exactly should we get clarity on?

Goals, Objectives

So, the first questions we must ask ourselves are related to the goals we want to reach. To ensure we can direct our focus effectively and spend our time doing the right things, it is critical here to be as specific as possible. Remember, vague goals lead to vague results! If we don’t have a clear and specific destination, we can’t make effective choices, we can’t effectively use our time and energy…in essence we will be swept away down the river towards the Niagara Falls. To get clarity on our goals, we should ask ourselves these questions;

  • What do you want / need to learn?
  • What is your specific problem / weakness that you want to address?
  • What are the ideal / desired results you want to obtain?
  • What are the ideal / desired results you want to obtain?


So, you want to learn English. Does that mean…

  • Do you want to learn just the language or also about English culture or about the history, the politics, the countryside, the way of life, the food and drink, etc?
  • What exactly do you want to be able to do? What situations, contexts? Who do you want to speak to? Do you want to be able to meet and greet customers, negotiate supplier contracts?
  • Do you want to be able to speak it or write it? Or both?
  • Do you want to be good enough to read a paper? What kind of articles?
  • When do you want to have achieved this by? 
  • Do you want to be able to speak grammatically accurate English or is speaking fluently and communicating your message more important?
Your Definition of Success

Maybe just as important as setting the goal and destination is knowing when you have actually arrived. You need to paint the picture, write the story, envision yourself in the future and describe in as much detail as possible what your definition of success is?

  • What does success feel like, look like, sound like? 
  • What will you be doing differently when you have reached your goals?
  • How will you feel when you have reached your learning goals; confident, assured, carefree?
  • What are your measurables and performance indicators that need to be reached?
Purpose - the big WHY

From my business training experience there are also those (not many) who arrive on day 1 of the English Training and can actually articulate quite nicely what they want to be able to do and what they need to learn. However, despite having clarity on their goals and what they want to achieve and learn, they lack clarity on the MOST fundamental and MOST important aspect of clarity: Purpose. Their Big Why. You see, using a different metaphor – it’ no good investing so much time and energy climbing a mountain, if when you finally get to the top, you realise it was the wrong mountain.

  • Why do you really want to improve your English? Why? What is the cost of not improving your English?
  • What will reaching your English learning goals give you?
  • What pleasure will it give you? How will it make your life or life of others and loved ones better?
  • What pain will it take away from your current situation or foreseen future?
  • Do you really need to improve your English? Why?
  • Will you enjoy learning English?
  • Is there something else you would rather invest your time, money and resources on that is more valuable?
  • Are you learning English because of somebody else’s expectations / demands or is it something you truly want to do for yourself?
  • Why do you want to take your English to the specified desired level? Why is so important to be for example C1 level? Is a B2 level suffice?
  • Can you reach your life goal / career goals via another direction (without learning English)?
  • Are all the answers you have come up with valuable and important? When you consider all the reasons and answers above, do you feel inspired and motivated? If not why not?
Problem and Pain

So, if everything has gone well, you have set your goals, you have a big WHY, an inspiring definition of success and you believe that embarking on an English learning experience is right for you, you are probably feeling fired up and ready to get stuck in. 

But there is one more MEGA important aspect or question to consider and get clarity on before you get going. It is something that I believe is even more important than the goal itself even though very few actually consider (me included) when setting goal and starting new exciting venture. The things that must be considered are generated by answering these questions;

  • What they will you have to give / invest to reach your goals?
  • What will you have to give up to achieve their English learning goals?
  • What pain, problems and difficulties am I willing to face, overcome and endure?
  • What can I NOT do (that I enjoy / could enjoy) by committing to my English learning goals?
  • What sacrifices are you ready to make?

Every time you make a choice, set a new goal, make a change, you are choosing not to do something else from the countless other things you could be doing. You are choosing to prioritise and meet one value over another. E.g. You are choosing to meet your value of ‘Quality Family time’ over the value of ‘watching football on TV’ or your value of ‘English Learning’ over ‘chilling out’. Values are what drives our behaviour, it is what defines us and is what gives value, happiness and fulfillment too our lives. 

This is why for me the biggest and most accurate predictor or determiner of success in my Business English Training or any area of life is not “What do you want?”, but rather what problems, pain and difficulties are you willing to overcome? What values are you willing to let go? 

From the 1000 participants I have worked with, the ones who only expect comfortable, easy, simple learning without the pain, problems and sacrifice, are the ones who make only mediocre progress or quit the training. The ones who expect and welcome the problems and challenges and are willing to face them, are the ones who make the biggest progress and get the best results.

A Clearly Defined Goal and a BIG why is not always ENOUGH

It’s all well and good having a well written goal and even a big WHY. For example, I want to be able to hold conversations with English customers about relevant business topics and conduct effective negotiation because it will allow me to advance my career, provide more security to my family, go on better holidays. BUT, if it means to reach this goal you have to invest 10 hours a week training, which means you have to give up a hobby, or you can’t spend as much time with your family after work, or maybe there is something else really important you want to work on (e.g. get our PhD or complete an accounting course) but you have to put that on the back burner, you now have a tough decision to make and it will ultimately come down to your values.

There are only a certain amount of core values you can have and values you can prioritise. There are only a few big rocks that you can fit into the glass jar. So, ultimately your decision will come down to what you value more. If you value your family time, a hobby or getting your PhD more, then there is no way you can or will achieve your learning goals…that is unless you are willing to consciously sacrifice and give it up and develop the necessary mind-set to overcome the internal conflict that will occur.

Also, a factor is fear. For sure if you want to get great results you have to stretch yourself, take risks, so there will always be situations that you will need to face that might make you feel uncomfortable and nervous. Again, the question you must ask “What problems, difficulties am I willing to face and overcome?”. Again, it comes down to values. If you value comfort, peace, easy life, more than your English goals, growth, stretching yourself, then your English goal is never going to be reached.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you are not willing to sacrifice, give up another activity or value in order to reach your goals, then the only possible solution is to redefine your learning objectives and goals.

In a nutshell

So to recap, the essential steps of getting clarity are;

Define what you really want to acheive / learn?

Fully understand WHY you want it.  Go deep, keep asking why, why, why?

Establish what it will take to accomplish your learning goals and what you must invest (time, resources, energy) and more importantly what must you give up / let go of, to reach your English learning goals.

To end, I want to make something clear.  In order for learning to be effective each aspect of clarity must be defined and understood and be aligned / in-sync with each other.  A weakness or flaw in any aspect will have a big impact on the end results.  For example poorly defined goals will lead to poor choices, wasting time and vague results.  Lack of understanding of the Why or even worse lack of purpose will just result in dramatic loss of desire, enthusiasm and motivation.  I guess even worse would be as already mentioned investing so much time, energy, willpower in attaining he goal and then realising the goal was not important, was just wrong and does not bring any benefit or pleasure to ones life.  Finally having a lack of understanding in your values, what must be given up, or an unwillingness to confront and overcome problems will simply lead inner conflicts, avoidance strategies, lack of motivation and again…poor or average at best results. 

This post first appeared on Business English Training, please read the originial post: here

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Effective English Learning – Clarity


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