Too many things do we take for granted, and so many seem so simple to us, despite their complexity.
When I was sixteen, a friend of mine lent me a self-help non-fiction book. In that life-guide, I was able to find information on how to improve my inter-human relationships and generally become a better version of myself.
I would love to share an inspiring story of the changes that happened in my life-attitude after reading that compilation of advice. A memoir on how a couple of pages made me a better person.
Yet, I won’t.
Thing is, I don’t have anything that I could even try to share. I read the book, soared through its pages, cover to cover, gave it back – and that was it! No after-thoughts, not even a shadow of reflection and, what’s crucial, no actions.
To read is not just to form the signs we see into sentences and paragraphs and address a meaning to them – it hasn’t been like that since ancient Egyptian’s hieroglyphs. Reading, be it fiction, biographies, or cooking tutorials, is an art.
Mastering it takes practice. Getting all you can out of books and take the next step on your journey of reading expertise.
1. Have the right attitude
Different publications were created for miscellaneous intents and purposes. Let’s take an example from everyday life, something we’ve all dealt with at some point: instructions.
Once you made the decision to buy a piece of furniture at IKEA, you set yourself a goal far greater than just transporting the item. Your challenge is to assemble the components into a useable item, which might at first seem difficult. Were you to figure it out on your own, you’d either give up after hours of futile effort or leave the task to itself before even attempting it.
No reason to worry, though: IKEA’s got six.
Providing you with a specific compilation of steps to follow (an instruction), you’re capable of doing it on your own. First, however, you must believe.
Have faith in your process and approach the intimidating instructions with determination: your goal to assemble a bed, not fail at it. You will follow the instructions because you know they will lead you to the desired outcome.
Do not let doubts and disbelief even approach you. Starting off by saying that you better leave it to someone else, since you won’t be able to do it yourself anyway, won’t get you anywhere. Guess what – it will make you give up on the task and give up on yourself.
Approach the text with the right attitude. If you want to read something entertaining, then go for it. Have the awareness of the purpose of the words you absorb. You want to study social relations, not only to deepen your knowledge but also to influence your daily relationships? Great, but remember why you’re reading what you’re reading.
Have an idea of what the text’s about and what you want to achieve by getting to know it better.
2. Read mindfully
You must have heard about mindfulness – a meditation practice that has recently been popularized in the West through the influence of public intellectuals, YouTube videos and mobile apps. The idea of noticing self-consciousness is one that aims to help us understand ourselves in the ever-pacing world, take a break from this rollercoaster.
Personally, I find this practice highly beneficial to controlling my own emotions and making sense out of my thoughts. How to implement this technique into your reading habit?
Keep in mind that, despite your age, your time on Earth is limited – no doubt about that. Whether you’re five or ninety-five, there’s a finite number of your days left. And so there is a finite number of books you will read.
Please, don’t get too depressed at this thought. We all share this fate, it’s inevitable. Thus, choose your books wisely. Once you do that, give extraordinary importance to every word in each sentence. Since there are only a few books that you’ll ever read, why waste time having to read them a second time?
If you do one thing, whatever it is, then do just it. Focus on the moment, on the activity in itself, and appreciate the now. When taking a day off, live a day off. Cherish every second, carefully think about what you’re doing.
The idea behind reading a book is that once read, it’ll stay in your head.
3. Act on it
Let me shed a little light on a secret that every writer uses: call to action.
This mysteriously-sounding phrase is a strategy – or should I say a trick – that is widely known among copywriters, bloggers and essayists.
By using action verbs and forming sentences in a very particular manner, a creator’s intention is to make you – the reader – do something. It’s most visible in the niche of marketing, where ads are but calls to action (or CTAs).
Without your reaction in the physical world, words will stay words.
Imagine you wanted to lose weight and hired the best dietician in town to figure out your eating schedule, with whats and whens.
Now, provided the doctor truly is a guru in their niche, their diet is the one that’ll lead you to success, making your body just the way you want it to be. There is one catch though.
The dietary plan, with its restrictions and step-by-step guidance won’t help you achieve your dream body unless you take action. Do as it says, no cheating.
Same thing with that IKEA instructions. Your bed will remain in pieces if you don’t get it together.
One of the things that fascinate me is humans’ ability to learn their whole life. Especially in these fast-pacing times, incessantly updating our brains is necessary to keep up-to-date.
Even those skills you may find natural need to be cared for, polished time and time again, to assure you won’t fall behind the world. Or behind yourself.
Pay attention to what you read, cherish every word and act on what you’ve learned. Save hours of your life and use them for, say, more reading!