Before learning how to read a book effectively, it’s important to understand why you’re reading it in the first place. Obviously, people read for different reasons. Maybe for entertainment, relaxation, or perhaps to learn about a new topic. But when you’re reading in order to grow, personally or professionally, you are reading because of very specific reasons. Here’s the top 8 reasons to keep in the back of your mind:
1. Offers new insights and perspectives
First of all, reading gives you a new perspective on things. In everyday life we normally only consider a single perspective – that is, our own. But through the magic of words and storytelling we can get acquainted with so many more perspectives.
And this is important. The world is not always what you make it out to be, and your own perspective is not always the most accurate or the most useful. Besides, there are so many things that you have not experienced or done; things that you would normally never get your own perspective on. That’s were reading can really support.
Through different perspectives you gain insight. Insight into problems you’ve personally never experienced, but that can help you to grow. It also helps to develop a sense of empathy and humility because there are so many things you don’t know, and so many things you haven’t experienced.
You don’t need to be a CEO in order to get a perspective on the CEO’s life. You don’t need to be a soldier in order to get (some) insight into war and the experience of war. This is high level, but you also don’t need to be a leader currently in order to develop your leadership skills – you can go through the great examples of historical leaders in order to get you started.
Reading about new perspectives helps immensely. They make you consider things you normally wouldn’t. They help you grow because your repertoire of business skills, general knowledge, observations on human nature, or something else, expands.
2. Conveys knowledge and skills
One of the main reasons why people read books is that it gives you knowledge. If you want to improve your leadership skills, there’s book for that. If you want to be a better listener, you can find books for that. And so on.
This is an essential aspect of growth reading. You need to challenge yourself to read books that offer you something new. New knowledge, new insights or new perspectives are great reasons to open up a book.
Books can also help you to develop skills. Of course, every skill you want to develop still requires a lot practice, but reading can be fundamental to skill development itself. For example, if you read a cook book you will pick up on some of the background, some of the techniques, and some of the artistry that goes into cooking. You will still need to practice to apply it yourself of course, but the foundation has been laid (i.e. your frame of reference).
Besides the specific knowledge a book can bring you, it will also bring context to the world. Even though we all had classes in school on history (and maybe even on culture), we don’t really learn a lot from that. But by reading a diverse selection of books the puzzle pieces of history start to fall together.
You will start to notice how things are linked together, and how one cultural phenomena was a reaction to something else.
3. Someone has encountered this before
Although every human being is unique and each of us has their own complexities, I can guarantee you that someone, somewhere has encountered a very similar situation or problem and has written about it.
Stuck in your career? Relationship problems? Feeling uncreative or unproductive? A person much wiser than you has experienced the same, and has even written about it! So why not take advantage of that?
As Bismarck stated:
“Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others’ experience.”
So make use of it! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every situation and every problem. You don’t have to experience everything in practice in order to become wiser or grow as a person. You just need to select the right book that can help you with whatever situation it is that you’re currently facing.
4. Develops thinking skills
Reading books, especially when they’re difficult and slightly “above” your level, challenges you. It makes you think or struggle extra hard. But the more of an effor you make, and the more you claw your way through a story or analysis, the more you will learn and grow.
You will digest the information, think about it, and make your own conclusions. You will find that you agree with some elements of the book, but not with others. In short, it will develop your critical thinking skills which will help you in the application of the book lessons into practice.
On top, when you’ve read a book you will internalize some of its messages. It can be a career message or a life strategy, but you will probably take away something and try to use it in daily life. But before you do this you think about it, you question it, you might try to explain it to others or ask for their opinions. This application reinforces your critical thinking skills.
5. Improves focus and concentration
In the modern world of flashing phones, pop-up notifications, FOMO, multitasking, and other distractions, reading a book is something special. You focus on one thing, and one thing only, which does not have any notifications or distractions. You are fully emerged in the story and you’re ready to absorb new knowledge and think analytically. And this improves your concentration and focus.
But remember: multitasking and distractions (even small ones) are extremely detrimental to your productivity.
So turn off your cell phone. Don’t try to do any other things and just focus on what’s in front of you. At first this might be hard, especially if you’re plagued by restlessness and a lack of focus currently. But persist and resist. And at some point you will find that it becomes easier to focus and concentrate.
And the best thing about all this? It doesn’t just apply to reading. As soon as your concentration improves, you will find you can apply it to other areas as well. Your focus at work might improve, you might become a better listener, et cetera.
So in the world of flashing devices calling for our attention, be the person who can disconnect and who can focus and concentrate.
6. Improves empathy
Reading books, especially fiction, can also make you more empathetic. If you transport yourself into the story, you experience the things that the books’ characters are experiencing, and feel the feelings they are feeling. Maybe the story you’re reading has no reflection on anything in your own life, but that doesn’t matter. Because transporting yourself into the story helps to improve your sense of empathy.
And, who knows? Maybe after reading for a while you might find that it becomes easier to feel with and for other people. Or perhaps to understand their situations better. In a world that is very egocentric and were the focus is on the individual, this is not a bad skill to cultivate.
7. It’s cheap
Let’s face it: books are a cheap source of learning and entertainment. The ratio between the amount of knowledge, skills, and growth you get out of a single book compared to the cost in insane. Even if a book provides you only with one new idea, or one new piece of knowledge it’s still a good deal.
If you learn the basics of a new skill through a book, you’ve just saved yourself money you would spent on a course or on hiring someone else.
If you got one good business idea through a book, you might set yourself up to earn thousands if not millions in the future.
If you got one good piece of advice on how to be better leader or a better person, the costs of the book will be paid of a thousand times during your lifetime.
In short: books are cheap, but the potential benefits can be amazing.
8. Readers are Leaders..?
Finally, looking throughout history there is a clear correlation between people of high achievement and reading. As Truman famously said:
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
And while it may not be a perfect correlation – I’m sure you can find leaders who are not readers – it makes absolute sense that there is a connection between the two. Our lives are relatively short and we cannot experience everything. But we can read about it. And that gives us an edge over those who don’t read because we understand the world, people, historical events, and the importance of certain things better. It helps us to make the right decisions, both in life and in business, and put value on those things that matter the most.
So while it’s no guarantee that reading will help you to achieve the goals you want to achieve, there is also no harm in trying. Many people throughout history have read themselves to high and powerful positions, but more people have probably found comfort and guidance in books on how to lead their everyday life.
And that’s the important part: there are different reasons to read, but whatever your personal reason might be, if you find that it helps, you should continue with it. Reading for growth is something that everyone can try and benefit from.
In short, there are many reasons to read a book if you want to grow or improve yourself. Whether it is to find new skills or knowledge, or if you want to solve a problem you have. Of course there are other reasons as well: it improves your vocabulary, reduces stress, reading fiction before bed can improve your sleep, it can improve your writing skills, memory, or your creativity (and imagination).
Books offer an excellent source of knowledge and can be a real comfort in life. It also allows us to grow beyond our years and our formal education. In fact, if you want to live a unique life, if you want to be more than a number, you will have to differentiate yourself from the rest. And the easiest way to do that? To focus on your personal growth and to educate yourself through the teachings of others.
Convinced of the why? Then let’s delve deeper into the how: How do you read a book effectively and gain the maximum amount of learning from it?
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