Are You In the “Here-and-Now” or in the “There-and-Then”?

I discussed perfection rules in my Do Your Rules Prevent You From Solving Problems? But, other rules can prevent you from living as full a life as you might want.

When I was in 10th grade, I took French (the language). I wasn’t so good at French. My teacher told me he would give me a C if I promised to never speak French to anyone as long as I lived. I took the deal.

I was 15 at the time.

I kept my promise. It wasn’t hard. I didn’t like French very much. I’d been struggling with learning French since the 3rd grade. I didn’t enjoy it. I found it boring. I hated what we had to read. I hated the practice in class. I knew that what I heard in my head was not how my mouth spoke the words. I found it very frustrating.

I still had to take a foreign language to graduate from high school. I took German for two years, and even received an award when I graduated from high school. Surprised me.

I kept my promise to that French teacher until a few years ago, when I met Yves Hanoulle. Yves is one the many multi-lingual Europeans, who is surprised by us Americans. He’s surprised we speak just one language. He speaks at least three, fluently.

I mentioned to him that I had tried speaking French. I told him the story of my French teacher, expecting him to laugh. He replied, “Are you allowing your old teacher to run your life?”

Huh.

I was not in the here-and-now. I was back in the there-and-then. Why was I allowing someone not in my life, a teacher from long ago to run my life? Why was I allowing a promise I had made when I was 15 to stick? That was not so smart of me.

I decided to work on my French. I am nothing if not an adaptable problem solver :-)

It is surprising to me how much French I remember. Bonjour, merci, adieux, s’il vous plait, I remember those. I practiced saying them until the accent I heard in my head was the same as what came out of my mouth. It didn’t take that long anymore. I have learned something since I was 15!

This past week, we had someone with a French name in PSL. I pronounced his name correctly. First name, middle name, and last name. “Perfectly,” is what he said. He was surprised. So was I.

I haven’t tried to read French. I have no idea what my vocabulary is. I haven’t worked on it. I’ve been focusing on my pronunciation first. Maybe it’s time to get past “L’Epee D’Roland” as I discussed in Learn Something New. Maybe this summer, when my schedule eases.

What’s important is that I am now in the here-and-now, not in the there-and-then.

We are human. We do these things to ourselves. We might not even realize it.

If you are doing something—or not doing something—out of habit, ask yourself: Am I in the here-and-now? Or, am I in the there-and-then? Am I allowing someone else, maybe my younger self to run my life now? Do I want that person to run my life now? If I want this, I can continue the way I am. But, if I don’t want this, I have more options. It may be time to explore those other options, and be in the here-and-now.

6 thoughts on “Are You In the “Here-and-Now” or in the “There-and-Then”?

  1. Yves Hanoulle (@YvesHanoulle)

    Thank you for mentioning me.
    Your words are too kind for me. yes I triggered you, yet you make the mistake that I am fluently in these languages. I actually make a lot of mistakes. More in writing then in speaking, yet I do make a lot of mistakes. Because I’m foreign people accept much more my mistakes. I actually make a lot of spelling mistakes in Ducth (my mothertongue) and when I make mistake in Dutch people accept it less.

    Actually in high school, I had to repass exams both for English and French for 2 years in a row. And the third year I had to redo my year because of French, English and German (my first year German).
    When I went to Germany with my now wife, around 15 years ago, people told me when I used my best German, that they did not understand Dutch.
    And it blocked me for using German. Actually I had been telling myself in high school, I did not like Germany because of the inflections (I hope this is the correct name, I had to use wikipedia & google translate to find this) . Inflictions I hated because it was one of the things that made Latin too hard for me to study.
    In the agile community I have a lot of German friends, so gradually I learned to appreciate the German language.

    What I have noticed as a coach, is that when I speak bad English, French etc, and allow people to correct me and I thank them when they learn me something new. That these people understand me better when I say: making mistakes is OK. I actually lead the way, with my bad language. And of course, at the same time, I become better. I will never become a language teacher. (Even my 11 year old, is already better at French then I am) Yet I am proud that you take me as an example of being good at a language. That means I have progressed a lot.

    y

    1. johanna Post author

      Yves, when I speak with you and read your English, I understand you. To me, that makes you fluent in English. I don’t know what it’s like for the other languages.

      You said something very important here: Making mistakes is okay. It goes back to asking for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

      1. Yves Hanoulle (@YvesHanoulle)

        Thank you. that definition of fluent I agree with. yet that is not the definition I would use to put fluent on my CV.
        And yes, I love asking for help.
        So many people are afraid to ask too much for help, and they do exist the people that ask too much for help. yet most people err on the other side. (including myself)

        y

  2. Yves Hanoulle (@YvesHanoulle)

    Oh, and I can see how we Europeans make it much harder for the US people. we switch to English the moment we talk to Americans.

    In my biased opinion, you never had another language in school. And what I have learned aver the years, is that almost all Americans I know, had French or Spanish at school. so we should stop talking in English to you and expect you to speak our language some more. And then you girls will see, it’s not that hard.
    ;-)

    yves

    1. johanna Post author

      Yves, I learned more in those two years of German than I learned in the eight years of French. I still don’t think I mastered German. My grandmother and I wrote letters in German to each other when I was in college, so I did learn something. But writing is different than speaking. When you write, you have a chance to consider your words, and think about just the right way to say what you want. When you speak, you have to think in the language. I don’t think in anything but English.

      If I’m in Israel long enough when I visit, I sometimes start thinking in Hebrew for some of the common words (excuse me, hello, goodbye, etc.) I surprised myself by talking in Hebrew in the US once in an elevator. The words just came out. But I have so little Hebrew, that was all there was :-) My Hebrew accent is New England, too.

  3. Yves Hanoulle (@YvesHanoulle)

    intersting.
    I find it much easier to talk in a language then to write.
    I hardly write in French. yet I talk it every day.

    Guess I have a different perfection ghost when it comes to writing. probably because in writing it sticks around and talking, just vanishes in thin air…

    y

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