Reading With Purpose
Originally Published on BlindAlive October 11, 2015, by Lisa Salinger
I have been an avid reader for most of my life, and when I’m not enjoying a good novel — what some call escapism fiction — I’m reading books about self-improvement. If you were to live with me, day in and day out, you’d think those books weren’t doing me much good. The really unfortunate thing is that, for the most part, you would be right.
I will often be inspired or excited by something I read, and I have the very best of intentions to make it a part of my daily life. Then, I get really busy, or involved in a time-consuming project, or I read another motivational book, and all the fantastic, useful information I’ve read gets shelved, if you’ll excuse the bad pun. What good is it if I spend my time, and sometimes my money, on a book I think is the very epitome of transformational advice if I don’t put it into practice?
I’ve given this some thought lately and wanted to share some things I am beginning to do to get the most from my current reads.
I started by making a list of the memorable books I read but had never implemented. I did not browse through my download history, but just wrote down a few titles I read at some point in the past. Thinking of them made me feel a sense of regret that I had not done more with the material. I came up with three books, which I plan to reread in the near future. To keep this from being an obligation that leaves you feeling flattened, try limiting yourself to five or fewer books.
I resolved to listen to the author. When I come across phrases like “Practice exercise,” “Don’t read on until you’ve done this,” or “Make a list,” I’m actually stopping to do it. I know that if I say I’ll come back to it, or I half-heartedly make a list in my head instead of actually capturing it somewhere, it won’t happen. I’m sure the author did not just build in practice exercises for no good reason. It is likely that these same activities were used by the author to become successful in the areas about which he or she is writing. If I’m investing the time to read the book, I can at least make time to try what the author suggests.
I’m learning to slow down. Sometimes, a book contains so many practical and helpful suggestions, I read it through without stopping. It’s the equivalent of gulping half a gallon of cold water on a hot day. It will do some good, but the real benefit comes from taking it slowly. Now, I try to reserve my reading binges for fiction and take the time to live with a helpful book for a couple of days, or even a couple of weeks so I can really integrate its practices into my daily life.
Finally, I’m learning to take notes on what I read. This doesn’t mean I need to write a complete outline of the book, but I should at least jot down anything I find particularly helpful. I am reading more audio books than ever, and while they are great, it is sometimes hard to go back and search for that sought-after bit of information. Taking notes gives me quick access to those parts of a book I value most. What’s more, the act of writing things down helps to cement them in my mind.
Have you ever been so caught up in a plan of action or a premise that you don’t see its faults? Critical thinking has not come naturally to me but is something I have had to cultivate. I find that distilling the premise or plan outlined in a book to just a few thoughts or sentences is like shining a spotlight on it. The flaws are made more visible, and the gems shine like the jewels they truly are.
Do you have a strategy for implementing what you read that I didn’t mention here? If so, please feel free to email support@BlindAlive.com and share it, or post to our Facebook group. Here’s wishing you a happy, transformative reading experience!