One of the habits I’ve been working on nurturing over the past couple of years is that of reading on a daily basis. To be honest, it hasn’t gone well.
I have a tendency to read regularly for a month or two, then to give it up entirely for a month or two, then to pick it back up. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I want to break this cycle of inconsistency.
Reading is important to me for several reasons:
- It’s a good way to learn new things; expand my horizons.
- It’s an analog activity. I read real paper books, not ebooks, and it’s important to me that my brain be engaged in these sorts of analog activities.
Ok, so there are two reasons with a lot of sub-reasons nested inside those two overarching reasons, but I feel like I’m getting off-topic. The key is that I want to read, for reasons, and I need to make it a habit.
Make the Habit Easy
What I realized earlier this week is that I’ve been making this habit needlessly hard.
In the past, I’ve viewed this habit as a good way to work my way through books that will educate and inform me in various ways. While some of these books were also genuinely interesting, many I read because I thought I should read, not because I genuinely wanted to read them.
Key example: Jordan Petersons’s 12 Rules for Life. I know lots of people enjoyed that book (or found it annoying). I found it rambling and impractical, but I trudged through it anyway, and then had no interest in reading at all for two months.
I do think there’s something to the idea of using an ingrained habit to do something hard–like read a book that feels like more of a chore than a pleasure. Once the habit is truly engrained, perhaps I can use it strategically in that way. However, the first key step in the process is to build the habit, and rule number one for building habits is to make them easy.
Rules for Reading
So what does all of this mean? It means that for right now reading needs to be a pleasure, not a chore! I haven’t stuck by this habit long enough to consider it “engrained” and until I reach that point I need to keep things light and simple.
Having thought about this for the last couple of days, I’ve landed on the following rules I’ll apply for the time being:
- Only read books I genuinely want to read. This may mean I need to buy new books every few weeks. That’s ok. I hereby officially give myself permission to buy new books as needed.
- If I start a book and get bored or lose interest, it’s ok to close it and move on to something else. I hereby give myself permission not to finish books that I don’t enjoy.
- It’s also ok for me to read multiple books simultaneously to keep things interesting. I hereby give myself permission to read any book I want on any day and have it count towards my daily reading habit.
The key thing I’m trying to accomplish right now is to train my brain to expect a few minutes of reading to wind down each day. So step one in that process is to build the habit. In the interest of giving the habit a fighting chance, let’s keep it fun.