What I’ve discovered about personal development and reading books

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In my experience, there are only a few ways to engage in personal development.

Reading books is one way to encourage ongoing personal growth.

But according to a study conducted by The Jenkins Group in 2003:

  • 42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.

You can read more about these stats at a website called Mental Floss.

To me, those are some terrifying stats. But at the same time, this would suggest that those who make reading a priority are at a distinct advantage.

If you’re on a path of growth, then reading is probably already a part of your routine.

Should I Read Books or Listen to Book?

If possible, I would encourage you to do both. But I understand how busy a life can get.

If you’re finding it difficult to find the time or space to read, then it may be worth investing in audiobooks. But you should know that listening is a very different activity than reading. Both are valuable in their own ways.

Even if you’re someone that has trouble reading, because of dyslexia or lack of practice, I would still encourage you to read. It’s not the speed or quantity of reading that matters — it’s the quality of reading and absorbing of information that’s going to change your life and career.

One of my mentors is not good at reading. But because of the value he sees in it, he does it anyway, every day for 15 minutes.

What are the Benefits of Reading?

If you read about a specific topic for 30 minutes every single day, you can become an expert in your field.

Here are some additional benefits to reading:

One of the primary benefits of reading is that you can learn about a variety of subjects. Personally, I used to read a book per week, but depending on the book, it might take me longer to get through.

Sometimes, I want to take my time to absorb the information, and at other times I’m reading a long book.

But like I said earlier, it’s not about quantity of reading — it’s about the quality of reading that matters.

A good book can fire you up. Over the years, I’ve read many books that have had a huge impact on me. How about you?

Not every book I read is inspirational or motivational. Not every book I read is exciting or inspiring. But it’s worth going through the pile to discover the gems.

Great books may challenge you in one way or another, but that’s just a pull to be better, and that’s what personal development is all about.

Whether you’re an artist, creative or entrepreneur, you need fresh input to stay inspired. If you rely too heavily on the creative wells you’ve been drawing from for years or even decades, eventually they will dry up. And then you’ll start to feel like you’re just rehashing old ideas over and over again, which you probably are.

If you want to avoid creative stagnation, you need to read material that challenges your point of view and doesn’t just affirm it.

Many people have accepted the idea that your mental faculties deteriorate with age. But I don’t believe that this has to be the case.

I think it’s a tragedy when our elders don’t have the opportunity to pass on their wisdom from a life well lived. I, for one, would love to hear their thoughts — their regrets, their victories, their life lessons, and so on.

Regardless, reading is one of many activities that can help you stay sharp.

What Should I Read?

All reading is beneficial, but not all reading is geared towards personal or career growth. So while plunging into your favorite novel is not a bad thing, you’re not necessarily going to find principles and ideas that you can apply to your life.

There are plenty of great books out there, and there isn’t a shortage of top 10 posts recommending books. But I’ll throw a few out there anyway, in case you’re lost:

  1. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  3. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Conclusion

Hard to believe, but reading is fast becoming an art form. This is unfortunate, because some of the most valuable information is tucked away in books.

In the age of instant gratification, many people try to find shortcuts. But unless it’s a “smartcut” (via Shane Snow), it’s just cutting corners. And cutting corners isn’t smart.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, start reading. You’ll be amazed at how you grow.

In closing, here are a few questions to guide your personal development journey:

  • What are you reading right now?
  • Have you read any books that have inspired you? If so, what were they?
  • Do you feel inspired to start reading again? If so, what commitment have you made to reading more? What kind of reading schedule will you put yourself on?

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