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When You Start To Read More, These 10 Things Will Happen

When You Start To Read More, These 10 Things Will Happen

I have a confession. I’m an addict.

It’s almost a lifelong thing, really. Since I was a kid. I should be embarrassed… but I’m not.

I should get help… but I won’t.

I’ll just go back to the bookstore. Back to the library. Back to my endless queue of ebooks. Back to my stuffed shelves.

They know me. They love me. I’ve got everything I need here. Why would I stop?

And why wouldn’t you start? When you read more, life expands. Here’s how.

1. You will find a safe way to escape when your own life is depressing, overwhelming, or just boring.

No need to turn to drugs or alcohol. Save your money. Get a library card, or start downloading some of those thousands of ebooks in the public domain. Get wrapped up in a story. Get lost in another world. Get into a character’s head and out of your own.

It’s instant. It’s economical. It’s portable: your own personal escape route when things get to be too much.

And who’s going to look down on you for reading a book? You smart thing, you. I won’t tell them what’s really going on. Promise.

2. You find out that you have a family.

Okay, I know. You have parents and maybe siblings, and maybe a whole slew of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and whatnot.

Or maybe not.

Maybe you do feel alone in the world, bereft.

Whether you’re a literal orphan or you simply feel like you totally don’t fit into the family you’ve got, becoming an avid reader is a way to find the family you can fit into.

It’s a worldwide, totally open, and really awesome family.

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It’s the family of readers. Book lovers. Literary addicts. Bibliophiles. Become one of us, and you have an extended family that you can find anywhere. There’s a signal, of course, like a secret family handshake. Just pull out that latest book and read it. That’s all it takes.

We’ll see you.

We’ll know.

We’re always nearby, whenever you need us.

3. You will become part of a timeless, global conversation.

Books are the way that the past communicates with us. And books are the way that we communicate across cultures and national boundaries, across social lines and class divisions.

Books let us enter into each other’s lives and worlds in a completely unobtrusive but immersive way.

Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Have you ever wanted to be someone else, to go somewhere else, to experience some other life than the one you got?

Books, baby. What are you waiting for?

4. You will learn to talk pretty.

Reading is the most painless way to improve your vocabulary, spelling, and grammatical proficiency.

Did you catch how I just spelled “proficiency” without even looking it up?

Yeah. That comes from reading.

Read more, and you’ll be able to snicker smugly when your friends post status updates with egregious spelling errors. You can correct their misuse of common words. You can be the Grammatical Tyrant you’ve always dreamed of being.

5. You will look forward to lines, layovers, and waiting rooms.

This could be the biggest turning point of your life, actually. Instead of tapping your foot impatiently, huffing and sighing like dyspeptic cow, or otherwise displaying your wrath and frustration in a socially acceptable way, you can simply… read.

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Whatever book you’re currently lost in should be with you, in your pocket or purse. Pull it out and you’ve got entertainment, companionship, and intellectual stimulation. All in one handy portable package.

My friend Leigh says that reading gives her “the ability to be happy anytime, anywhere, even when waiting ridiculously long amounts of time.”

That’s a superpower everybody needs.

6. You will be a nicer person.

You might not care about being a nicer person, but the other people in your life probably do care.

Reading, as my friend Christine put it, “allows me to experience another’s emotions, which in turn makes me more sensitive to those around me.”

And she’s right.

Maybe you’ve never been a victim of racism, abuse, or poverty. Maybe you don’t know what unrequited love feels like. Maybe you find it easier to criticize than to sympathize.

Reading won’t take that away entirely (my Criticize-O-Meter is still in good working order, even after decades as an avid reader) but it will help you to slow down a little bit on the judging.

And speed up a lot on the empathizing.

Because when you live other lives through books, you begin to see the other lives happening in the world around you. The lives you know nothing about.

And you begin to have a little more understanding. A little more interest. A little less “us versus them” and a lot more “we’re all in this together.”

7. You will learn stuff.

Even if all you read is fiction, you can learn quite a lot about cultural influence, relationships, history, fear, human psychology, the various expressions of spirituality, the effects of war, the way robots will definitely take over the world, and how superheroes manage to keep their capes clean.

All very useful information.

Want more? Branch out into non-fiction. Biographies, history, current events. No, just kidding; skip the books on current events. Read history instead; you’ll learn more about current events that way.

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Philosophy. Psychology. How-to books. Memoirs. Science. Exploration. If you’re interested in it, you can find a book about it. Probably you can find an entire section of books about it.

And hey, if you can’t find a book about it, maybe you should write one.

8. You will discover that you were dumber than you knew.

In the time prior to your avid reading addiction (also known as “The Years Which Must Not Be Named”), you thought you had a pretty open mind, didn’t you?

Go ahead, you can admit it. I won’t laugh.

You thought that you knew kind of a lot, and that you had a broad perspective on life, and a pretty accurate view on the world and how things worked.

And then you started reading.

Maybe the first few books weren’t such a big deal. They probably kept you safely in your comfort zone. But then one of the members of your new reading family gave you a recommendation.

“You’ve got to read this,” she said. “It’s so great. Really.”

So you did.

And you realized that something you thought you knew—really knew, truly and certainly—was not right at all. You felt the edges along your mind begin to crack open a little bit.

You felt a little light seeping in and you started seeing the interior of your mind the way it really was: dim, dusty, and crowded with a lot of assumptions.

You kept reading, and the more you read, the more those cracks opened up. One by one, those assumptions slipped and slid out of the cracks. The light grew. The air cleared.

You started populating your mind with different things: images, conversations, perceptions, insights, data. Poetry. Fragments of lives you didn’t live, but somehow experienced through a book. Emotions that didn’t belong to you, but that you felt just as strongly.

Real things, from the real world, instead of that crumbly old stack of assumptions and expectations.

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9. You will be more creative.

As you fill your mind with fresh material from all these books, something wonderful starts happening.

Your mind wakes up.

Creativity is really all about making connections. The creative people in life, the ones we admire for their ingenuity, are the ones who can make those connections really well. They have a broad database of knowledge, and they don’t bother keeping the categories separate. They let poetry seep into science. They let faith and history hang out together.

They understand, in fact, that all those categorizations are imposed. We put labels on things so that we can feel like we understand them, but sometimes the labels are counterproductive.
Reading helps you tear the labels off.

Reading helps you to fill your mind from as many sources as you want, and then let all of that beautiful stuff mingle and mix in anyway it wants.

10. You will become more imaginative and less afraid of being weird.

When you read books that are the product of someone else’s imagination, you start to trust your own imagination, and use it.

What a great idea! Using that brain, in all of its crazy, unnerving, glorious potentiality.

Reading will help you do that. If you feel like your mind is strange, start reading. After a few runs through the world of surrealism or science fiction (or surrealistic science fiction), you will feel like the most normal person in the world. Who are these crazy people who come up with these weird, fantastical ideas?

Of course, you’ll want to read more. So you will. And then your own imagination will start to blend what you’ve read with the real life you’re living, and you’ll add in your own unique collection of information, experience, education, and personality. Who knows what will result?

Don’t you want to find out?

Why don’t you have a book open yet?

Featured photo credit: David Blackwell via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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