How to Focus: Your Uniform Determines Your Mindset

Have you ever noticed the way some Koreans recreationally ride their bikes? Or go hiking? Or play tennis or badminton? One of the key similarities you’ll notice among participants in each of these activities is the fact that they all dress up like pros. Even if they’re grannies!

Koreans seem to enjoy “looking good” while exercising:

Korean cyclists
Korean cyclists wear fancy helmets and upper and lower bike jerseys.
Korean hikers
Korean hikers wear the full hiking ensemble and even buy those expensive sticks.
Korean badminton players
Korean tennis and badminton players get decked out in specialized everything.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, it’s just that it’s a fairly foreign concept to me. Why go out and spend money on “special clothes” that have nothing at all to do with your performance?

Where I come from (and when I was growing up), if you wanted to play sports, you just went out and did it. There was no need to buy the “right” clothes. You just went in what you had. But in Korea, there definitely seems to be a market for people who want to dress seriously for their sport of choice. It’s as if professional-looking clothes themselves make up for amateur performance.

But all this about the “right” clothes does bring up an interesting point related to learning Korean (or nearly any other aspect of your life):

The Uniform determines the Mindset

A while ago, while reading an exercise and health magazine (or maybe it was a book), the author said something to the effect of:

If you want to run to lose weight, go out and buy some nice running shoes. Then set those aside specifically for the purpose of running. Never wear those shoes for anything else. Consider this your “uniform.”

When you put on a uniform at work, you immediately get in the mindset of “I’m at work.” Now, when you put on those running shoes as your “uniform,” you can begin to get yourself in the mindset of “I’m exercising.”

It’s a whole different mindset than just, “I need to lose weight.”

I think that’s a great concept. Your “uniform” determines your mindset. When you wear a school uniform (like they do in Korea), you know you’re there to study. When you wear a work uniform, you know you’re there to work. (And apparently,) when Koreans wear exercise uniforms, they know they’re there to play hard. It gives you a totally different mindset than a simply casual event.

Likewise with studying Korean.

Your “uniform” doesn’t necessarily need to be clothes

So, how would you get in the right mindset to seriously study Korean? Are there some special kind of Hangul clothes or Hanbok that would help you focus? I doubt it. But beyond the clothes, there are other things you can do “uniformly to get in the right mindset for studying Korean.

1. Location

Choose a single location (a room, a particular coffee shop, a particular table) where you can focus intently on studying Korean. After studying in that particular location for a while, you’ll start to quickly get into the right mindset every time you approach it.

2. Time

Choose a particular time of day to study. Do you work better in the morning, after lunch, or at night? Set aside a certain time that you’ll be able to maintain on a regular basis for study. And if you need some extra time to pump yourself up for study, start thinking about what you’re going to do during that time about 30 minutes in advance.

3. Drink of choice

This one always helps me focus. I used to choose Hawaiian instant coffee to help me focus. Then it was Korean green tea. Then Country Time Lemonade. Regardless of what your drink is, set it aside as a “special” drink that you only drink when you study (and make sure it’s tasty). Then, you’ll want to study more frequently, and it’ll be easier to focus when you sit down to do so.

4. Music

I used to hate washing dishes. But now, I love it because I’ve chosen to listen to Dave Ramsey whenever I do them. The show helps me focus. I can’t listen to anything with words while I study though (far too distracting). But some nice traditional Korean or classical music will help get your brain in the right state.

5. Notebook

Choose a particular notebook in which to gather all your study notes, ideas, writing, and vocabulary. As the notebook fills up, it’ll give you more and more motivation to continue filling it and continue studying.

The right mindset = Enjoyment + Consistency

The key to making your “uniform” study habits work is a fairly even blend of enjoyment and consistency.

Even if you don’t enjoy the studying aspect, by choosing a location, time, drink, music, and notebook that you DO enjoy, it will make your studying far more bearable – even enjoyable! But you’ll never make much progress if you aren’t consistent. And if you don’t stick to these things (like putting on a “work uniform”), then they’ll also begin to lose their enjoyability quickly.

Where do you study and when? What do you like to do to get in the right mindset to study?