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In this diary study, the author draws from journals written over the course of 8 years working as an English instructor at a Japanese university, with the aim of documenting the influences on her desire to invest effort in the self-study of Japanese (what she refers to as the ecology of effort). An ecological perspective reveals the idiosyncratic and fluctuating nature of motivation due to daily contextual, personal, and emotional factors that interacted in unpredictable ways. One point of interest to researchers is that important ecological and relational influences on and emotional reactions to language learning cannot be uncovered with traditional motivation research. A second point of interest to adult language learners is that when full-time language study is not possible or desired, dabbling is an excellent way to stay connected to active but low-pressure language learning and to maintain a sense of wonder at the miracle of language.