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How to Read Books You Aren’t Interested in but Are Useful for You

How to Read Books You Aren’t Interested in but Are Useful for You

Successful people read a lot. But they don’t just read anything and everything. They read specifically for self-improvement, education and success.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at these stats:[1]

  • Warren Buffett reads between 600 and 1,000 pages per day.
  • Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year.
  • Mark Cuban reads for more than three hours every day.
  • Mark Zuckerberg read a book every two weeks throughout 2015.

As I’ve already stated, these hugely-successful people don’t just read anything, instead they self-educate and self-motivate through reading high-quality content.[2]

Fiction Books Have Stolen the Spotlight

People like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are prolific readers of books that help them to improve their skills, knowledge and understanding. But the average person appears to have little interest in reading self-improvement books.

If you look back at decades of book sales, you’ll see that fiction books tend to be much more popular than self-improvement books. 70% of the Amazon Best Sellers in 2016 are fictions including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition ScriptA Man Called Ove, and The Girl on the Train.[3]

Fiction books are designed and written in such a way as to impel you to continue reading them. There’s a hook or cliffhanger in every chapter that keeps you focused on reading until the last page, so that you can find out what happens next – and what happens at the end.

On the other hand, non-fiction books in the self-improvement field are intended to help you solve a problem or reach a specific goal. In most cases, these types of books are not written in story form (one exception is The Social Animal), rendering them less attractive to the majority of readers.

A lack of storytelling in self-improvement books leads many people to believe that the books are dull or difficult to read and understand.

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Do you recognize yourself in the last sentence?

If you do, then the good news is that you’ve most likely being picking the wrong type of self-improvement books for you. For example, if you’re fascinated by space exploration, but choose to read a technical-heavy, scientific book on the subject – you’ll quickly lose interest. However, if you chose a book that is easier to understand, say an autobiography of a NASA astronaut, you’ll probably love the book – and boost your interest in space exploration.

You could also think of it this way, you’ve just stated to learn piano, but someone’s given you an advanced piano music sheet. Not only will you struggle with the sheet but it may put you off piano playing for life.

It’s All About Picking the Right Self-Improvement Books

So, what’s the secret to choosing the right level of non-fiction book?

Firstly, you need to have some context. That could be a problem you want to solve – or a goal you want to achieve. For instance, if you’re not planning on being an entrepreneur, then you’re unlikely to understand or enjoy the context of a book like High Output Management – even though it’s a highly-recommended self-improvement book.

Get the context right, and you’ll find an ocean of self-improvement books to help you learn and grow. The best of these books will give you clear advice and recommendations for bettering your life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Fiction books and novels can be enjoyable, and often encourage imagination and creativity. However, they’re a less direct way of improving your daily life.

It’s worth repeating. Failing to pick the most suitable non-fiction books can discourage you from becoming a regular non-fiction reader. This could directly impact your chances of developing and growing.

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Picking the Right Self-Improvement Books Starts with A Purpose

If you want to be highly-successful in life, then you must take advantage of the countless wisdom and knowledge available through self-improvement books.

The secret to choosing the most suitable self-improvement book for you is to understand your current situation – and to have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve in the future.

The ideal self-improvement book will be one that fits your current needs, and will be easy and enjoyable for you to read from start to finish.

Let’s say you’re interested in becoming a graphic designer. If the first book you read is aimed at qualified, professional graphic designers, then it’s unlikely to be the book for you. Instead, if you choose a book such as The Non-Designer’s Design Book, you’ll probably find the book a fun and fascinating read. And it’s likely to whet your appetite to read more books on graphic design. Perhaps this time, books that are slightly more advanced.

Picking the wrong book will instantly discourage you from reading and learning more. Picking the right book, however, will spark your interest – and help you find constant opportunities to grow and improve.

Good Self-Improvement Books Will Capture Your Attention – and Boost Your Knowledge

If you haven’t yet started and finished a self-improvement book, then ask yourself what is stopping you delving into the genre? Is it fear of the unknown, or a lack of understanding what self-improvement books can offer?

From my own experience, I can tell you that if you choose a non-fiction that meets a desire or need that you have, you’ll be hooked by the content. And you’ll likely finish the book in rapid time – even though the book doesn’t have a storyline like novels do.

If your purpose of reading is to look for an answer you want, then this will inspire sufficient curiosity to keep you avidly reading until the last word of the book.

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The right book will also be easy to understand, and will effortlessly keep your interest and attention.

Self-improvement books can open up all kinds of future opportunities for you. You’ll learn new things, be inspired, and develop a deep love of practical knowledge and wisdom. And the most exciting thing? You’ll be able to apply the ideas and advice that you learn to your daily life. And once you do this, you’ll be likely to see a trend towards positive results.

You and I are wired to seek progress and results, and when we achieve these things through the help of self-improvement books, then we’ll be naturally encouraged to explore more self-improvement content.

Choosing the Perfect Self-Improvement Book

Hopefully, I’ve boosted your interest in becoming a reader of self-improvement books. And I want to finish this article by giving you some specific advice on choosing the perfect book for you.

1. Begin your search by analyzing your problems

Take a good look at yourself and your life, and identify any problems you’re facing. Perhaps you’re unsatisfied with some areas of your life, such as health, relationship or work issues?

2. Picture the answer you seek

Once you’ve identified a problem (or problems), try to figure out the causes behind the problems. For example, if you suffer from a lack of self-confidence, was this caused by overly-dominant parents or teachers? If you believe that to be so, then keep the problem and cause in mind when you come to choose a book.

Here’s an effective way to help you find out the root cause of a problem: How To Make the Invisible Cause Visible

3. Keep the kind of answer you want in your mind as pick the book

A keyword search of an online bookseller’s listing (such as Amazon), will usually throw up dozens or even hundreds of results. However, you can narrow these results down by:

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  • Reading the foreword – but understanding that this is designed to hook you in to purchase the book.
  • Looking at comments, both the best and the worst reviews of the book. Here’s a smart way to read comments: The Ugly Truth About Comments and Reviews That No One Knows
  • Viewing a sample of the book’s content. (This will give you a feel for the style and substance.)
  • Considering whether the book can give you the answer(s) you need.

The whole process may take you some time but it will be worth it.

After picking the right book, keep your desired answer in mind as you read. Skim through the chapters to see if there’s anything important you should read first.

Some people find that they don’t need to follow the order set in the book, but in most cases, I suggest you try to stick to the original order. The majority of writers will build on their advice, and to jump out of the intended order, can lead to confusion and loss of context.

Having said that, if your problem is urgent, you might want to skip sections in order to quickly find your desired answer. However, if you do this, make sure you have a complete understanding of the answer, even though you haven’t read every single page or word of the book.

Perhaps after finishing your first self-improvement book, you’ll come up with a new problem and seek another answer. This is how you will keep reading (and finishing) self-improvement books – something you had zero interest in before.

Featured photo credit: Stock Snap via pixabay.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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