Dealing With Inevitable Stress pt.2

Throwback from my Japan days

The best counter for any ideas that impede on a goal you want is to make your goal more vibrant, visual and exciting in your own mind. You have to be able to taste it on your tongue (regardless of what level you are), you have to be able to get excited and fantasize about the possibility of where you might end up, because this gives you a lot of fuel for the varied and repetitive tasks needed to become advanced in a language. You won’t enjoy all of it, but you can make a lot of it fun, or work knowing that what you are doing is getting your closer to an exciting goal.

What i’m going to talk about here is building this fantasy world in your brain. In the same way memorization drastically improved by building a variety of stimulating connections to what you are remembering, we can think about our overall goal in the same way. Think of your eventual goal like its own little universe, where you have all these things you want to see and do, quests you want to embark on and things you want to find and discover. The goal must not be too basic (no motivation) and it must also not feel like it is absolutely beyond you (futile). You need to project large enough where it feels a little uncomfortable but not scary enough to make you stop. In my last post, I spoke about the inevitable occurrence of stress that happens in a massive project like this and a three step process to start shifting that energy and assess where you are and use that as a means to get out of the funk and get excited again. This breaks down the “excited” part.

Set Your Primary Goal

This is the primary goal. The primary goal is usually set based on where you perceive to be (which is fine) and usually broadens/adjusts as you gain more ability in the language. For me initially I said “what if I can play Zelda: Breath of The Wild” in Japanese? It seemed like good starting point, but it didn’t have enough ‘legs’ for all the demands of the language. Zelda is just one game and i’m not going to spend 6 months of hardcore learning just for one game am I? Remember this is 2021 and I’m in Jamaica. For the foreseeable future I won’t be able to travel anywhere (including Japan) and I didn’t feel like making goals about travel (if i couldn’t do it) or anything involving foreign territories if I couldn’t go there. However, you sort of need to have some goals like this to get strong “legs”, as I’ll show you below.

So questions like: What if I went back to Tokyo speaking fluent Japanese? What if i could comfortably play video games in Japanese? What if I made some Jamaican based vlogs in Japanese? What if I made some music in Japanese (I’m wear a musician’s hat also). These three things alone have dozens of components that can all give me ‘legs’ so to speak that support the overall goal.

To keep this goal super exciting and visual, I can expand a bit on each of these just to stimulate my mind as I’m working through the day to day repetitive tasks. Let’s do the first item: For each item, we can do a  few things

1.  We as a question relative to what we want to do with our language ability once we get it.

What if I went back to Japan/Tokyo speaking fluent Japanese? 

There are so many things to play with here. I could make vlogs around town, “SHOPPING IN HARJUKU 2022!” or try and speak to people on the street in Japanese. How about shooting a music video in Tokyo, with a song I made in Japanese? That would be cool. Who would I meet? Where would I go? What would happen being in the country with the language ability? Bars and cafe’s would change, the friends I already  have there (who are fluent) could introduce me to people and I wouldn’t be lost or awkward. The entire experience would be so different and thrilling. Just typing this sparked dozens of images in my mind. Me talking to people, making vlogs, chit-chatting, comfortable, maybe even i’d try and hit up some big YouTube types in Japan and collab, who knows! A goal like this provides a lot of reasons to finish the goal. I’m not saying i’m planning to go to Tokyo in 2022 (it would be nice, but i’m waiting until Travel becomes a bit more standardized and I don’t need a ten inch Qtip shoved up my nose to just exit the airport). But just this ‘idea’ jut like my fantasy about Germany gave me so much fuel.

2. Now we can play with it visually.

One of the coolest things about the internet is that we can really “travel” elsewhere without having to go there physically. If you haven’t seen ” walking tour videos”, tons of countries have videos where a person is walking through a city or town in Italy, Berlin or Tokyo. Sometimes people narrate in your target language. To me there is no better way to now massively reinforce your mental ideas with the sights and sounds of your target country that you experience. I can take a “virtual walk” through Tokyo and remind myself of what I want to do if I go there in 2022 or 2023. I can take a walk through Berlin and fantasize a bit more about my German and so on. The point it, this makes what you are trying to do feel very real. This is different from watching media and skipping through pictures. Slip on some headphones and spend ten minutes there. Feel the area, look at the people and see yourself doing what they are doing. When I go back to studying words and sentences, I will be doing them fully saturated with these ideas spinning around in my subconscious mind. I know that every word I learn, every second spend listening to my immersion and every grammar pattern I practice is taking me closer to that goal.

3. Active Fantasy in your free time

Now that we’ve asked ourselves these questions and we can now step into our territory “In this case Japan”, we can really work on generating this feeling. As I said in the previous article, for some reason in December 2018, I just had this vision about speaking German and I had this very strong set of visuals that stayed with me for months on end. I ‘felt it’ to such an extent it confused me. I had no plans to go to Germany at the time. I wasn’t dating any German girls (or seeking any), in fact, I hadn’t any intentions to learn any language. But this fantasy feeling kept me going quite a bit (and I didn’t have half of the research I have now ). This goes back to wanting it REALLY, REALLY, REALLY badly. Not so much that it is a source of discomfort, but on of continuous, relaxed excitement. When I was learning German unlike other disastrous attempts to learn French, I was constantly curious. I liked learning new words, making small gains and testing my theories. I was very calm throughout the process and just said to myself “I will get there.” My research let me know what was supposed to happen, and I just had to test it. When I watched German media the fantasies activated themselves. I would see myself in the country, walking around, speaking the language, meeting people, making vlogs etc. I must emphasize that I wasn’t particularly happy during this period (nor was I depressed) but I wasn’t where I am now in terms of my personal perspective on these things. This is why I know it works, because there are some core activities that carried a lot of weight despite some of my research based limitations. They carried me psychologically, which I realized is THE most important aspect of language acquisition second to methodology and strategy.

I’ve lived in Japan before, so for me tapping into that visual arsenal is a different kettle of fish but it doesn’t matter. Nothing beats the imagination. An interesting thing about the brain (as studies have shown ) is that the more you imagine you are good at something, the better you start to get at it. By studying Japanese, the act of imagining you are becoming fluent with your work engages the brain’s secret ability to enhance its own learning and perception of it. 

4. Fantasy and Specificity

By tapping into this, you basically ‘reset’ your stress relative to the goal you want. What you want has to be big, bold and exciting. You can’t just “kinda want to chat to people, or watch some anime with subs on.” For most people, you’ll never handle what I call an “Elite” learning routine with those types of goals. Say you want to “chat to people” versus “interview people about their fashion on the street”.

These goals once you get more specific become measurable. Interviewing people requires knowing how to ask questions and also being comfortable expression your own (and counter ) opinions. Interview people about fashion requires a knowledge of fashion vocabulary, more descriptive adjectives, street slang and so on. The deeper you go into the goal the more exciting it can become. Have these broad goals keeps you curious, which is what is even more valuable than method. If you find yourself having no issue pausing a video to check a word, or trying to say something in your mind and then translating it in an AI to see if you were close, then you are curious which means you aren’t bored and you are active.

Getting specific with your fantasy also reveals the things you actually want to do, versus what you think you want to do. I say this because even though my original goal was to play a game (Zelda) in Japanese, I realized that the idea of playing the game excited me, but what I really like is vibing with people, making videos and so on. My passions over the years have been writing, design and film. I just never thought about these things relative to Japanese. In my mind, as the goal expands I start to see more of how these things can overlap (as my ability increases). So let’s make a hypothetical scenario:

TOKYO 2022

Let’s say I make a goal to go to Tokyo in late or mid 2022. I want to speak fluent Japanese, make vlogs, wild out and resurrect my previous “Jamaican in Japan brand”. This is broad. Let’s make it more narrow: I’ll pick topics of interest I can focus on

A) lifestyle B) fashion C) Scene

A – Places to review: Ginza, Harjuku, Daikanyama, Tokyo Tower, Rickshaw, Robot store, etc.

B – Fashion stores, hip districts, going shopping at a store and vlogging it, collab with afriend/influencer and get it poppin

C -Scene -parties, night life. Journeyman videos similar to what I did when I was in Japan just next level. More language, more flirting with girls, hanging with cool people etc.


  1. Vlog at Harujuku fashion district and chat to ten people asking them about their fashion style (in Japanese). Use trendy language, try and be humorous and really have my pronunciation and comfort at a high level. Sound really pera pera.
  2. Do a street photography vlog and document the process of shooting people in Tokyo.
  3. Message 20 stores, tell them i’m a Jamaican Youtube and musician and ask if I can come to their store and make a video (in Japanese of course)

—- what’s happening here is that my future desire is becoming unusually real. Down to the smells and details. Subconscious triggers are being activated and built. My deep inner self is now ready to work even harder at my goal. But this doesn’t just have to be about Tokyo. Tokyo is a BIG goal, which gives it more “legs” and “something to sink your teeth into”. You want your goal to be big, because the brain LOVES big. The brain loves anything that allows it to imagine more.

—- now when i’m doing my revisions and training I can start putting in elements that help me to get where I want to be. I learn fashion terms and common phrases. I still go after my 5,000 word count but make a lot of the sentences fun or interesting or question oriented. I prepare for my speaking phase and spend a lot of time sharpening what I see in my own mind.

—- this type of active fantasy, you’ve heard about it in so many human stories. Emotion, visuals, smells and sounds, even those you haven’t experienced yet are the core things that drive us to do amazing things. What this does is also help to eradicate a lot of mental blocks and really get you back in gear if you feel like you are falling off the wagon.

Fantasy and Action

Action will take 98% of your time. Fantasy can drop into the little gaps of time. Watch a movie set in Tokyo and see yourself there using the language, or even in your local town chatting to some Japanese people there. By studying this language you are on fire and fantasy are the drops of gasoline you drop into the furnace to give it some kick if the fire starts to cool off. Fantasy allows you to experience being where you want to be, at a stage of advanced ability before you even learn one word. When you start gaining massive momentum (the stage i’m at now) you will feel pressure because you still have a lot fo work, but it is THIS STAGE where the snowball effect begins to happen. 

I’ve charted this with German and its happening in the same manner with Japanese. It takes around the same time as well. Life challenges have made motivation tricky, but again, Fantasy starts to give the “vibes back”, like Austin Powers you find the Mojo.

Once you get that, you’ll be very equipped to deal with the stress that comes, take a breath and keep moving.

About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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