Learning and growing, without the label “useful”

Have you caught yourself saying that you should be doing something useful?
Does guilt tend to creep up when you’re slowing down while your to-do list is still super long?
Or have you realised that you often do things for others, before doing them for yourself?

A couple of weeks ago one of my best friends sent me a long voice message and shared that she had a day off, but she had started cleaning the house so she could feel that she was doing something useful.

I, too, was not working, not because I had the day off, but because I had woken up nauseous and dizzy, and I couldn’t physically concentrate on any written words. Of course when I saw a voice message coming in, I was happy that I could listen to my friend speak. – Yes, I’m busy now!

But then I started mulling this concept over.

  • Why do we have to feel useful all the time?
  • Are we useless when we are not “doing” anything?
  • What about resting?
  • And who defines what is useful, and what is not?

First of all, I really believe we have been conditioned that we need to work hard and that being busy means being successful, hence useful.

Time spent doing “nothing” doesn’t count.

Or worse, slowing down isn’t allowed.

Our cyclical nature

Even though resting is an essential part of any healthy cycle, which we can see in nature.
There are seasons for a reason, it’s not always summer, and there’s no full moon every night.
The sea has currents, and retracts at certain points of the day (and night).

The time of rest is what sparks the creativity and inspiration for later.

In our language practice we can get caught up in wanting to feel useful, as well.

Some of my learners feel bad if they haven’t gone through at least x amount of grammar exercises or have initiated x amount of conversations in Flemish. They don’t see the immediate output, so it must have been a bad week.

But then I hear them say that they spontaneously wrote down a couple of words that they had overheard someone say. Or they even had a dream in Flemish after reading an article somewhere or watching a TV show. Oh and when the neighbour passed by, the whole exchange was in Flemish.

That’s not nothing!

Maybe we need to rethink what we see as “useful” when we’re improving our language.
And accept that there is a lot we can learn when we are not “doing” something, or maybe when we are enjoying ourselves.

Language practice to slow down

More than that, we can even go further and use the fact that we’re learning a language to be mindful.

Here are some of my tips to use your language practice as a way to slow down:

  • listening to music while lying down, really listening and enjoying the melody and the words (oh, maybe this playlist can be interesting)
  • doodling and writing down random Flemish words that you have heard or that intrigue you
  • free-writing in Flemish, meaning you just start writing without an idea or a goal
  • flick through the pages of a nice magazine, a beautiful book, about a topic that you enjoy (have you heard about ‘t Boekske vol goesting yet?)
  • doing a guided meditation in Flemish (you can find many on Insight timer, for example)
  • watch a show or listen to a podcast in Flemish (I’m publishing a list of my favourite TV shows and podcasts here, soon)

Do you remember the last time you did something without a goal in mind, and enjoyed yourself?
How can you give yourself permission to slow down?

2 thoughts on “Learning and growing, without the label “useful””

  1. So true! Zo waar 🙂 Niets doen (of ook iets alleen voor mezelf doen) en me niet meteen schuldig moeten voelen is één van de dingen die ik het meest mis sinds ik mama ben. Ik zal proberen om meer te “let go” (laten gaan?). Hartelijk dank Sietske om me daaraan te herinneren 🙂

    1. Hey Irene! Graag gedaan! Ik zeg het tegen jou, maar ik zeg het ook tegen mezelf, hoor.
      Je gaat proberen om je meer te laten gaan, of om meer verplichtingen los te laten?
      Allebei zijn hele goede voornemens!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *