I’ve been there. I was addicted to reading self-help books. I really read a lot of them, too many. Besides reading, I had a double subscription to the Audible app because I listened to audiobooks during my commute and while preparing meals. Every morning, while walking 20 minutes to my office, I was listening to an audiobook. Then for 20 minutes in the evening on my walk home, I was still listening. And then, after dinner, I was reading up to an hour every night. During that time, I learned a ton of things. It shaped me into the person I am now.
But there is one thing that I realized. As I was reading all these books and learning all these great ideas, strategies, and principles, I was always promising myself that I would come back to them. I would come back and apply them to my life. Now, if you’re reading a physical book, it’s not so hard to do that, as long as you make notes in the book. But what about audiobooks? It’s almost impossible to come back to these ideas and strategies to apply them. Yes, there is an option to make bookmarks in the Audible app so that you can get back to the best parts. But let’s be honest, no one really does that. At least, I didn’t do it. It was way too difficult and time-consuming.
As I was reading all these books, I always had this feeling of anxiety. Every day there were more things that I wanted to do. There were so many things I wanted to improve in myself. There were so many great ideas I wanted to do something with. But I couldn’t! Every time I was thinking about getting back to a book, I would pick up a new one and learn something new that I would inevitably also want to apply to my life.
This was an addiction. I was spending hours every day reading and only five minutes a day doing something with all of the knowledge. It was overwhelming. I began to wonder what other people did.
Understanding How People Read Books
I asked some of my friends how they read books. I asked them what they do to apply ideas from the books they read. Sadly, there was no surprise—most of them were reading books and not doing much with the knowledge they gained. Only a few had enough willpower to take extended notes and actually come back to these notes to use them.
That was not an acceptable answer for me. Coming back to your notes at an undetermined point in the future is actually procrastination. If there are ideas in these books that you truly believe in, you should act on them, not just dream about acting on them!
For example, if you read that you should focus on being productive instead of busy, you should evaluate yourself every day to determine if you are really being productive. You should ask yourself if, instead of being truly productive, you are just filling your time to feel productive.
Applying this idea to your life requires changing something in your personality. It’s not just a habit. It’s not just a thing to do. It’s accepting that the old version of yourself did not have this quality, and creating a new improved version of yourself that possesses the quality.
To Follow a New Idea, Build a New Self
At first, when we read a self-help book, it creates a kind of chaos inside of us. There is this new idea that comes in and disturbs the carefully created order in our mind. There are two ways our brain can act on the idea. The first way is to ignore it and say that it won’t work because it’s not something we need. In this instance, our personality stays safe.
The second way is to allow the idea to change who we are. We can allow for a moment of chaos to create a new truth inside of ourselves.
The beginning of this change happens when we read a book. The book puts us in a proper mindset. It gives us the context, the story, and the vision of what these changes might mean for us. This mindset is very important. Without reading a book, we might not be able to envision ourselves following these new ideas. And this vision is the foundation of changing anything inside ourselves.
We must read books with complex ideas. And let’s face it, generally, ideas in books are complex. Otherwise, there couldn’t be an entire book centered on them. So, when the idea is complex, we require time to transform ourselves. And if we do not give ourselves the time to work on this idea and process it, we might never adopt it.
This one idea, be productive instead of busy (which is taken from The 4-hour Workweek by Tim Ferris), is a simple idea. And you probably believe you could apply it immediately. Yes, you can. You can ask yourself this question: Am I doing this to keep myself busy, or am I really being productive right now? You can ask yourself this question in 10 minutes, in an hour, and so on. Asking this question is good because it will help you realize how much you actually keep yourself busy instead of being productive. And now I will ask you: Is it enough? Will you truly begin living by this idea if you ask yourself this question for one day?
My guess is that in one week you will forget about it. You see, it’s not just a habit that you can create. To be successful, first, you must establish the mindset in yourself. And as you probably already know, establishing a mindset takes time.
The New Way of Reading Books
Let’s create a new metric to determine how much you read. It shouldn’t be about how many books you read per year, but instead how many ideas from books you take into your life.
If you tell me you read 52 books last year, I say, “Meh.” If you say that you are happier, have better relationships, or that you got promoted because a book inspired you and showed you how to grow, then I’m impressed. See the difference?
There’s an App for That
Books are not created to be actionable. They talk about taking action; however, a book is just a book. That’s why I decided to invest all my savings and create an app that would do the book reading for you (or even replace the books all together!). I decided to solve the following problems:
- Finding the most important ideas in the book
- Understanding what steps should be taken to follow those ideas
- Providing daily reminders to take action
- Creating an evaluation that would confirm whether you have truly acquired a skill or habit
We processed over 100 of the best self-help books in our application, SkillMentor. Currently, we have over 40,000 users, and we are constantly working to improve the app. To some extent, it’s free to use. However, if you are serious about personal growth, then you will need a Pro version to remove all of the limitations. The Pro version is completely worth it, because it’s much, much cheaper than buying all the books you will have access to in the app. The app will get you in the proper mindset for growth with its detailed summaries, and it includes a concrete to-do list for all the best ideas.
Agree with me? Leave a comment!