“Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity” (source)
I had given up hope of becoming a reader. I tried and failed many times. I had a firm belief that it wasn’t for me. I thought I would never enjoy reading until I made a decision, checked my environment, and didn’t give up.
HOW IT STARTED
I have been avoiding reading for a solid 25+ years. Throughout grade school I always avoided it. Reading logs were my worst nightmare. I’d have moments of being interested, like when I had to do a book report on Teddy Roosevelt in 5th grade, where I actually read the entire book. I remember how good it felt to write that report because for maybe the first time ever, I did the reading! Unfortunately, it didn't stick.
High school was hard. I had the belief that I “wasn’t good at school”. Technology grew and online research became more and more popular. I had all the old stories of not being good, not liking reading, I suck at this, blah blah blah. The frustration grew. I wanted to be different. I wanted to sit in a cute little chair drinking tea and reading books. I wanted to be more educated. I wanted to have conversations with friends who would make comments about books they all had read. I was tired of feeling left out. I had had enough!
MAKING THE DECISION
“Without some level of motivation or desire - without craving a change - we have no reason to act” (source). So I decided I was going to be a reader, gosh darn it! It wasn’t the first time I decided this but it did hit me a little differently. Now that I am running a business, I am dedicated to always continuing my education. There was more meaning to the decision than ever before. I chose to identify as a reader, as a business owner, as a forever student. The old stories of “being a bad reader” were outdated & old news. “Once you have a handle on the type of person you want to be, you can begin taking small steps to reinforce your desired identity” (source). Once I made the decision, everything else seemed a little easier.
I also was in a new environment where reading was common. This helped A LOT! I was seeing others read, talking about different books, getting inspired, and seeing from others how possible it is. This can be a slippery slope. Important to note, I was not COMPARING myself to their fabulous reading habits. I simply noticed when they read, what they read, and observed. For me, the environment is a huge key to success. Naturally, humans like to belong to a part of a group or be included. When people around you are doing something you no longer want to participate in it can be more difficult to use self-control and restraining yourself can get exhausting when you’re always having to use it. “The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least. It’s easier to practice self-restraint when you don’t have to use it often.” (source). Remember - set yourself up for success.
TRIAL & ERROR
Full disclosure, I am not a perfectionist. I do like to get things right but I will do it wrong and learn from my mistakes before I read (lol, obviously) about what works and doesn’t work for others. So, I had heaps of books I wanted to read. Heavy, loaded with information, life-changing books. To no one's surprise, I had a hard time picking them up while relaxing on the beach. I noticed that the genre of books wasn’t always appealing or relaxing so I found what I like to call “fun reads”. I think the book was The Golden Compass to be exact. If you’ve read it, you probably relate, I had a hard time putting it down. BOOM! I AM A READER! I read this huge book rather quickly. I read before bed, in the middle of the day, at the beach, sometimes in the morning with tea! I learned that even though I want to read these deep philosophical books if I want to become a reader I need to make it a habit. Mixing in the “fun read” was CRUCIAL for me.
To all those people who can read every night before bed, I don’t relate with you. Sure, there are some nights, occasionally, where I can read before I go to bed but generally speaking it puts me right to sleep, a blessing in disguise I guess. I learned that what may be a common habit for others doesn’t mean it will work for me, so I take my books everywhere. “The truth, however, is that many of the actions we take each day are shaped not by purposeful drive and choice but by the most obvious option.” (source). I make reading an obvious choice! Waiting for an oil change? Got my book! Taking the bus? I’ll read! Arrived early to pick up the kids? Perfect time to get some pages in! If I have my book, I always feel so happy and proud to read it when I get a chance. It also keeps me off my phone which is happiness and joy all in itself! I make reading an easy and obvious choice so it can slip into my daily routine with ease and has a hint of spontaneity too!
DON'T GET BORED
They say once you set your habit it can become boring and less exciting. This is what separates the winner from the losers, just kidding (kinda). I never would have thought I would pick up a fantasy book and enjoy it, but I did and it made reading exciting. I asked my pro reader friends and bookworm people what books they like or what books they thought I may like and found some awesome reads that way! I will even go to bookstores and browse around. Through doing that I learned that, for me, to get a good feel for the book, it’s best for me to start reading the first chapter. Reviews and summaries are nice and helpful but reading the introduction or a few pages of the first chapter work best for me. Find ways to spice it up if you can. Worst case, if you’re feeling bored, that's great. It means you have set this new habit and your identity is shifting. Great job!
Some days I don't feel like reading, shocker. Sometimes It can be hard to find books to read. Often, my mind can be so noisy that I read a chapter and couldn’t tell you one thing that happened. But I decided to be a reader so those things don’t get in my way anymore. If I don't remember what I read, I'll read it again, so what! If I don't feel like reading but have time, I give it a try anyway. If I can't find a book to read, I’ll read whatever is in front of me. I now identify as a reader. Those years of struggle and avoidance aren’t who I am anymore, they shaped me and got me here but I am a reader now. And it’s awesome. It may have taken about a year of experimenting and failures but I'm a reader, not a perfectionist, so I keep going.
Am I a fast reader? The best reader? Flying through books each month? NO. I am, however, reading more than I ever have and that continues to grow each year. I have a little google doc with the titles of the books I’ve read. I feel SO PROUD every time I add another book to that list. Habits tracking has its perks too ;)
There are great books I can recommend if you want to learn more about habits change. Send me an email & I will send you a few of my favorites!