Oh, reading...quite honestly, I used to dread you. See, I didn't grow up much of a reader - I took a more active approach to entertainment as a child. Preferring sports, video games, or just running around to sitting still, book in hand, diving into a new world, reading was simply not a hobby of mine.
This remained true for many years, that is until college graduation came and went and reality suddenly hits you like a ton of bricks. While school and studying was a thing of the past (🎉), the formal learning process was as well. No one is there to guide you along anymore...any path you want to pursue is up to you and you alone. Scary 😨. Upon having this inevitable, yet existential realization, the idea of reading became instantly more attractive than it had ever been. The reason being that if I wanted to live out the life of my dreams - the life I envision for myself - the learning can never stop. Now, without the system of formal education progressing me along, I had no choice but to move myself to learn. So...if learning was the destination, reading books was the way - the path to the life I desire for myself.
Today, what I want to share with you are the three most important lessons reading has taught me since the decision was made to make it an integral part of my life. So...
Number 1 - Self-improvement is at your fingertips. In your heart of hearts, what do you know you could be better at? What do you want to be better at? It could be something such as getting your finances in order, or, maybe you want to be a better home chef, whipping up meals the family can't get enough of. Maybe you need to develop a certain skill to advance your career. Whatever it is that you identify within yourself that needs improvement, there is a book, likely multiple, out there that can help.
As an example, recently I've become aware that I struggle with thoughtful, intentful listening... So, what books can help me transform from a passive, uninterested listener to one that is caring and sincere? I did some Googling, found some great recommendations, and got reading. I recently read Just Listen by Mark Goulston, and I can already notice a positive change. And, guys...I even purchased a copy of this book after finishing it (I originally rented from the library) and I almost never buy books. The content was simply too good to not have at my disposal at all times! Reading my way to a better version of myself...what a wonderful feeling....
Number 2 - Think deeper than ever before. Surface-level thinking consumes most of our day. What time do I have to leave for work? What's for dinner? I wonder what's on TV tonight? While this is certainly unavoidable, one thing reading has done for me, and no doubt most all readers, is tweak my mental wiring to be more curious. When reading fiction, you're evaluating facts, story lines, character dynamics and invariably predicting what will happen next given a variety of informational tidbits. That's mental depth. Prefer non-fiction? Try something from Malcolm Gladwell...his unusual, thoughtful perspectives are sure to rub off on you.
This curiosity and exploration lends itself well in all areas of life. Finding creative solutions to problems - made possible via deep thought - is always rewarding and often rewarded. The most active minds think intensely, paying little attention to shallow musings. Get reading! Get active!
3. Read books and energy, vitality, vigor, and a zest for life follows. Since making reading a cornerstone of my lifestyle, I have noticed a substantial improvement in my psyche. I feel more "full" - more sure of myself, confident in the direction of my life, and excited to take on each day. How can books, something so seemingly mundane and simple, have such profoundly positive effects on one's mentality? Trust me, I'd be skeptical too if this wasn't the truth for me. The ability to learn, be inspired, escape, and grow that reading provides has connected me with my true self, sharpened and cleared my mind, and invigorated my soul. If you want to experience these feeling within yourself, you know what to do...
I thought I'd offer an example of how this has played out in reality, as I understand this can seem a tad esoteric. I recently read Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson...wow 😯. Knowing our place in the universe paints the picture of our life in a pretty clear light. We are all literally stardust (one of many fascinating facts Dr. Tyson drops on readers)... How can you not feel a renewed sense of energy and passion for life after hearing that?! How can you not be inspired to go out and chase your dreams after hearing how unlikely our existence is?!
So, there it is, folks - the most important lessons reading has imparted upon me. With that said, every journey is unique, yours certainly being no exception. I encourage you to identify what reading has taught you, or what it has the ability to teach you! In any case, a better life is just behind the cover.
👇 If you're feeling so thankful, please feel free to share your very own ode to reading in the comments below!