How to Use Your Willpower to Drastically Improve Your English

As an adult, learning a new language is one of the hardest things to do.

Your brain will always tempt you to do what is easiest and stick to the language you know and understand fluently. [1]

However, improving your English speaking is also incredibly valuable!

It can help you advance in your career.

Allow you to understand more books, music, movies and TV shows.

Help you travel to more places and communicate effectively.

And many more!

That is why you must summon the willpower to immerse yourself in the language and truly master it.

So I worked with online ESL teacher Paul Austin to create a framework to help you effectively use your willpower to drastically improve your English!


Learning English is like building a house. You need raw resources like bricks, cement, wood, etc. You need an organized plan of how you will build it. And you need to put in the time and effort that it takes to get it done. 

To learn English, you need 3 things as well:

1.    Raw resources – This is what you listen to and read.

2.    Organized plan – The strategies and techniques you use to study English.

3.   Time and effort – The consistent practice that it takes to master the language.


First identify the content that you want to become your raw resources. 

Which Raw Resources?

The raw resources that you need are simple and freely available to everyone! Simply by listening to English podcasts, TED talks, movies, and TV Shows; you can get an ear for how to speak the language.

Even reading blogs like this will subtly help you understand how to use proper grammar and communicate ideas effectively. The more you immerse yourself with these raw – and often free – resources, the more you will understand the subtleties of the language.

But make sure these resources are fun! Find content that you enjoy and may actually help you achieve other goals besides learning English. This will help you find the motivation to use them consistently. [2]

How to use them?

You should listen to the same resource at least 4 times to fully understand and grasp it. 

Shift your focus with each listen:

  • 1st learn the overall message
  • 2nd the details within the message
  • 3rd new words or phrases
  • 4th pronunciation and accent

Repeating this process will be immensely useful for all of the reasons listed here. 


Next comes choosing a plan that will help you reach your goals. There are several options you can choose.

Private lessons with native speakers

This is the best option to help you become fluent. As long as you can afford it, it will give you the hands-on learning you need to reach your goals.

You can find the private teacher that’s best for you here.

Language exchange websites

This is where you connect with someone via email or chat to practice speaking each other’s language. It will work, but it does not quite direct you to fix your issues the way a private teacher would.

You can find language exchange options here.

Speak out loud to yourself

Speaking out loud in English and recording it will help you identify your areas of weakness. However, this is obviously not the best option as you may not be able to detect your own mistakes.

A great way to start this is to listen to a native speaker communicate an idea. In your own words try to communicate that same idea and record it. Then go back and compare your recording to the native speaker to see where you can improve.

There are obviously many other options for your plan such as classes, schools, etc. but they are quite expensive and usually take longer to achieve improvement.


This is where many fall short in their efforts to learn English - and it is where your willpower is crucial to your success. 

To stick to your organized plan and be consistent with your raw resources, you must:

1.    understand that learning English is a marathon, not a sprint. 

This is a commitment for the long-term. You won’t be able to master a new language overnight. It takes months and years of consistent practice.

Ask yourself where you want to be with your English one year from now?

Once you have that direction, break it down to what you need to do every month in order to get there. Most people quit after 2-3 weeks, but it takes at least 90 days to see serious improvements.

So commit for the long-term, but focus on simply making progress.

2.    Focus on consistency, not intensity

Do not set yourself up for failure by trying to practice English for hours every day. It is much more important to make sure your practice is sustainable. Even if that is only 15 minutes per day, a year of 15-minutes/day will bring you much closer to your goal.

To ensure you are consistent, build a habit of the same English routine every day. I recommend doing it in the morning, because that’s when you have the most willpower. Stay consistent and it will become easy. [1]

So start small, do something every day, and try to plan for the morning.

3. Write down your purpose

There are many reasons to want to learn English. Whatever yours is, make sure that you write it down. 

When you remember your purpose, you tap into a special form of willpower known as “Want Power”. This gives you the same burst of energy that you feel when you watch a motivational video or hear an inspiring story. [3

It gives you the belief and motivation that you can do this!

So determine your purpose and write it down so you can see it everyday.

4.   Find friends to learn with

Friends have a phenomenal impact on your willpower. They can hold you accountable to your goals and be there to motivate you when things get hard. [4]

You don’t want to let them down. So you will find extra motivation to make sure that doesn’t happen. This will also make the process of learning more fun and even help grow your friendship. 

So find friends who want to learn English as well and set your goals together. 

5.    Self-monitoring

The final technique you can use to ensure you learn English is to being monitoring your progress.

Simply writing down the podcasts you listened to, the movies you watched, the time you spent speaking out loud, etc. will subconsciously motivate you to improve. [5] 

If you spent 15 minutes yesterday listening to a podcast, you will want to beat that by spending 16 minutes today. If you have a chain of days you made progress, you will not want to miss a day.

So write down your daily progress in a notebook or excel sheet and make sure you are consistent!


Improving your English is tough, but it is worth it. You will make more money, you will be able to travel more places, and you will be able to enjoy more movies, music, and blogs (like this one :D).

To ensure that you meet your English speaking goals: find the raw resources you want to listen to, create an organized plan, and use your willpower to put in the time and effort it will take to become a fluent English speaker.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!


  1. Gailliot, M., Baumeister, R., DeWall, C., Maner, J., Plant, E., Tice, D., ... Schmeichel, B. (2007). Self-control Relies On Glucose As A Limited Energy Source: Willpower Is More Than A Metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 325-336.
  2. Baumeister, R., & Tierney, J. (2011). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. New York: Penguin Press.
  3. McGonigal, K. (2012) The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York: Avery.
  4. Wong, N., Levy, D., & Narula, J. (1948). Framingham Heart Study: An Enduring Legacy. Global Heart, 1-2.
  5. Hollis, Jack F., Christina M. Gullion, Victor J. Stevens, Phillip J. Brantley, Lawrence J. Appel, Jamy D. Ard, Catherine M. Champagne, Arlene Dalcin, Thomas P. Erlinger, Kristine Funk, Daniel Laferriere, Pao-Hwa Lin, Catherine M. Loria, Carmen Samuel-Hodge, William M. Vollmer, and Laura P. Svetkey. "Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 35.2 (2008): 118-26