The connection between riding a Peloton bike and learning a language may not be immediately obvious, but it’s there. Physical training and language learning may exercise different parts of the body, but both require a certain level of commitment to push through your plateaus, as well as a willingness to be honest with yourself when it comes to why you’re pursuing the goals you’re pursuing and just how motivated you are, exactly, to make it a priority.
Chase Tucker, a Tread instructor at Peloton and somewhat of a motivational leader for the public, joined the Babbel team over Zoom recently to lead us in some light exercise and answer a few questions about how he maintains his motivation. Here’s what we learned from him.
Q: I know you started at Peloton in a setting where you had all those people working out with you, all that energy, and now there you are, in front of the camera, and you just exude positivity. What’s the secret? How, two years into this pandemic, are you doing that?
A: Fantastic question, because you’re right. When the pandemic happened, everything came to a screeching halt together with any chance we’d be able to teach in front of an audience. The cool thing was, before I’d ever worked at Peloton, I’d already practiced speaking just to a camera — just teaching, providing my energy to no one. So maybe that makes me crazy, but I was used to practicing in front of an empty room. I’m able to express and share energy regardless of who’s there, what their energy’s like, if there’s anyone there at all, because of the practice that I’d had beforehand.
And so I think that, combined with the knowledge that it’s not about me, it’s not about what’s fun for me. ‘Cause yeah, sure, I was used to being near Christopher Street in Manhattan with people I’d fist bump or say hey to, but it wasn’t about me. It was about “how do I make it so that the one person who’s on the other side of the screen watching right now, that they get everything?” They gave me their time, they’re here. They gave me their attention, they’re giving me their precious resources of attention and time that they’ll never get back.
So in summary, I think that what allows for the practice, what allows for the preparation, what allows for the reminder that it’s bigger than me, what allows me to exude energy in a way that I’m focused on one person on the other side of the camera — in one word, I would say it’s “clarity.”
And clarity, when we have it, allows for a frictionless flow of energy from where you are right now to wherever you need to be. Whether it’s getting the task at hand done, whether it’s achieving that project, whatever it might be. It’s gotten to the point now that every time I hear someone say, “How do I get motivated?” it’s not necessarily a red flag, but it’s an indicator that, OK, this person simply lacks clarity. Because when you have clarity, there’s no need for motivation.
An example: Imagine right now that you’re sitting on your couch at home, watching TV. Your wife or husband is upstairs, asleep, the kids are in bed, you’re just chilling and binge-watching Breaking Bad, and then all of a sudden a fire alarm goes off. And before you can even question where it came from, the flames start erupting from two different directions, and all of a sudden it dawns on you that your house is on fire. It’s about to go up in flames right now. I want to pause this mental exercise for a moment. Do you need motivation to get off that couch? Motivation is the last thing you need. You have clarity. Physical energy, emotional energy, spiritual, mental energy. Those gates are open, and you’ve got a frictionless flow of energy. Whatever you gotta do, you get up and go. It has nothing to do with me. I gotta get up and move.
Q: Athletic training and language learning have one thing in common: They both really need good habit building. What are your thoughts on how to build a great habit for language learning, for athletic training, really for anything?
A: Great question. I love this. You’re absolutely right — I’m an avid language learner myself. Spanish is my strongest second language, followed by French — my mother’s first language — and I dabbled a little bit in Mandarin Chinese over the pandemic, and then I was like, “Alright Chase, you have to just focus on one at a time.”
And so actually, I was going to use that as my first piece of advice. When it comes to habits, less is not more, but less is better. The fewer things you have to remember to do, and that have to get done in order to build the results you’re building the habit for, the easier it will be for you to do those habits. The less you can forget to do, the more energy and focus you can apply to those habits.
The second thing I’ll say about habit formation is this: One of the things I like about Elon Musk is the way that he thinks. When the rest of the market is thinking, “Oh, this is what we should do,” he doesn’t hop on the bandwagon and just start doing that too. He thinks, “OK, well let me just assume nothing and start from square one.” And that in part is what allows him to achieve the level of innovation in a short period of time that other people will never achieve in their lifetime.
One reason I bring this up is because if you ever hope to achieve strong, solid habit formation that lasts, that you can actually adhere to and that doesn’t waste your time (as a mentor of mine says, trial and error is the most time-consuming, expensive, headache-inducing, and painful ways to learn anything), then the first principle of sticking to a habit is to assume nothing, and simply start from, “Okay, what is this habit? Let me reverse engineer this and start with the last thing I should worry about. What is the belief I’m basing this whole intention on? What does that belief allow me to feel that will then allow me to take action, that I can then think about the options available to me, and then from that bucket of options I can pick the best high-impact activities that will allow me to achieve the most with the least amount of effort and time.”
And then by the time you do another exercise like that, you have maybe one, two or three habits that are frictionless for you to perform. And then you can create the greatest amount of impact on moving the needle forward in the shortest amount of time.
Q: How do you keep commitments, or get your clients to do that, even when you or they don’t feel like it?
A: I’ll start by just voicing the distinction that it’s a spectrum. There are levels of commitment. On one hand, there’s the maximum level of commitment, like, “Nothing will stop me, it’s do this or die.” And maybe no one has that level of commitment for language learning, like, “I’m going to learn this or die trying.” At the opposite end is complete apathy. I wouldn’t even say it’s apathy, it’s complete lack of awareness. Like I’m not even aware enough of the thing to have a commitment to it.
I think I can best explain this by showing how I approach it with my clients. So for starters, before we even start working together, I help them identify their level of interest. It’s my job, as a coach, to have a gate where I don’t let anyone in who’s not committed. So I do that by asking questions, finding out what their problem is, their challenges, their experiences, how long they’ve been experiencing those challenges, what they’ve tried in the past to overcome those challenges, and then by the time I’m done asking those questions, I ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it to you to change this right now? How much of a pain point is this for you?”
When you make a commitment to yourself [that’s not coming from an authentic sense of alignment with your motivations], you might then potentially betray yourself by failing to do what it takes. When you do this, you’re telling yourself, “Hey, this is important to you,” and then your actions are saying otherwise. You’re lying to yourself. You develop a certain level of learned helplessness and lack of trust in yourself, and that’s a really bad place to be.
My number one piece of advice would be to ask yourself, “Is this really that important?” and don’t judge your answer. Be honest with yourself. There is power in owning that maybe the pain isn’t too high. I have other priorities, I have other things going on. That’s fine. Own that. There’s power in that. Otherwise it just feels inauthentic. You’re incongruent. Nothing but good can come of that conversation with yourself. The quality of our lives are determined by the quality of the questions we ask ourselves.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.