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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

Reading With Purpose Can Change Your Life

Reading With Purpose Can Change Your Life

As a person working in the advancing, quickly moving online industry, I always try to take the time to slow down and get lost in a book. Yes, there are many resources where I can get information instantly. But these little tid-bits of information filter through, and get lost in the abyss of the subconscious. It leaves me feeling empty, because regardless of the constant flow of information, it’s hard to have a firm grasp on any of it.

There is so much out there distracting us between entertainment, media, and social networks. Our attention is constantly getting interrupted. We tend to choose these little crumbs of instant gratification over the true gratification of indulging yourself in a fine piece of literature.

But when I read, I give myself fully to the book. Whether it’s a story, autobiography, or informative piece, I still allow it to take me elsewhere. I put myself in a frame of mind where I am involved with the processes being described, and am able to get a firmer grasp of the information being shared.

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If your brain does not have to process the information presented, then the information will be lost. So actually reading that small excerpt will ultimately be a waste of time. But if you focus your attention and take an interest in the fact or scenario at hand, such as when you are reading a book, it is likely you won’t forget it.

Reading is the only way you can travel without leaving

Search engines are my best friend. I consult Google countless times a day, and I will bet that you do too. But these tools are designed to help you to solve the most common or shallow issues. When it comes to issues such as life decisions or interpersonal problems, a search engine cannot provide you with a solution that is solid and useful. It can direct you to some archives from people who may have similar experiences, but even those answers are typically shallow and just convey that someone else has the same issue.

In a book, you are able to work through the issues alongside the main character, almost as if you are processing through it yourself in real life. That is, because you are in a way. Whenever this issue arises in the future, you will know exactly how to handle it because you have already experienced that frame of mind.

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Reading is the only way that you can travel without actually going anywhere. It is the only way that you can experience someone else’ life while still remaining yourself. It gives you the opportunity to “mentally travel” as you picture the places and people being described. You are able to experience the hardships of people from a culture very different from yours, understanding how they perceive and handle life. Experience it as your own pain and joy as well because you are a part of the journey.

You can get that sense of transcendence from movies as well. In a sense, yes. If you really throw yourself into the plot and imagine yourself as a part of the story it is possible. But so much is lost because the film makers have already visualized the ideas and feelings for you.

Reading is an investment that will leave your mind rich

Committing to a book is certainly a test of will. The average book will take between 5-10 hours to finish depending on your reading speed and interest in the material. 10 hours is a lot of time, make sure it is spent wisely.

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If you are truly invested in the material, you will absorb and internal the information without even realizing it. Many of us don’t have 10 hours to spend reading, nor could our eyes and minds stay focused for that long. So breaking it up into 1 or 2 hour sessions is just fine, as long as you stay consistent.

Keep it in mind that if you take too long of breaks in between reading sessions, you are going to forget the previous material and need to backtrack. Think about how often you can remember things you read a month ago? When you are not reading constantly , not only will you lose focus and interest, you will have to pay much effort to reconnect the bits and pieces in your mind. It’s better for you to adjust your reading time so you will be committed to read every day.

Ready to take the mental adventure again? Here are some mental notes to find the right book

There are loads of books covering the same topic, so you have lots of options to find one that really appeals to you. You just need to find the genre and writing styles that you prefer, and it is a bit of a snowball effect from there!

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I have grouped books into 3 categories that you can choose from based on the benefits that can be attained from reading them:

1. Pick something that can strengthen your skills

These are packed with knowledge that are consolidate over the years as you read on about this topic or trade. There is scientific evidence that reading for 1 hour per day about a particular field will make you an expert on the subject within 7 years.

2. Go through success stories and learn about the struggles and failures

These will walk you through the challenges and struggles faced by some of your most successful idols. It will help you to humanize the process and realize that the head haunchos are really just people, and they falter too. And now you can get an insider’s perspective of how they turned their obstacles into opportunity.

3. Allow yourself to experience lives that are completely different from yours

The best thing about reading is that you can vicariously live lives that aren’t your own. This will give you insight on other’s life experiences, and help you to be more understanding about people. Reading about the process of other people’s struggles and experiences will help you to prepare yourself in the event that something similar happens to you in the future.

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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