How to Cultivate the Habit of Reading Every Day

In February 2018, when Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket left the ground, leaving a trail of smoke behind it, it was carrying a rather unusual payload. Instead of equipment or a team of astronauts, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk loaded a car into it – his personal car, a cherry-red Tesla Roadster. The driver’s seat was taken by a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit.

But an even more unusual cargo was in the glove compartment. There, immortalized on a quartz disc, lies Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels. Set in a crumbling galactic empire from the distant future, this sci-fi saga sparked Musk’s interest in space travel when he was a teenager. It will now hover around our solar system for the next 10 million years.

Such is the power of books. From the fictional software “Earth” in Neil Stevenson’s novel Avalanche that heralded the creation of Google Earth, to the short story about smart phones that heralded the creation of the Internet, reading has planted the seeds of ideas in the minds of many innovators. Even former US President Barack Obama says reading has opened his eyes to who he is and what he believes in.

But even if you don’t have any grandiose ambitions, reading books could very well jump-start your career. This habit has been proven to reduce stress, improve brain function, and even increase empathy. And that’s not to mention the obvious benefits of all the information that you can glean from the pages of books.

So what are the benefits of reading and how do you join the exclusive club of people who read books for at least an hour a day?

Reading is the path to empathy

Do you have developed empathy skills? While the business world has traditionally relegated emotional intelligence to factors such as confidence and the ability to make important decisions, in recent years, empathy has increasingly been seen as an essential skill. According to a 2016 study by consulting firm Development Dimensions International, leaders who master empathy tend to outperform others by 40%.

Back in 2013, social psychologist David Kidd was thinking about ways to develop empathy skills. “I thought, fiction is something that allows us to interact regularly with other people’s unique experiences,” he says.

Together with a colleague at the New School for Social Research in New York City, Kidd set out to find out if reading could improve our so-called theory of mind – which, in general, is the ability to understand that other people have thoughts and desires and that they may be different from ours. . This is not the same as empathy, but the two are thought to be closely related.

To find out, they asked study participants to read excerpts from award-winning works of fiction such as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations or popular “genre works” such as crime thrillers and romance novels. Others were asked to read a non-fiction book or not to read at all. A test was then conducted to see if there had been a change in participants’ theory of thought.

The idea was that a really good, well-received work introduces a world of more realistic characters, whose minds the reader can look into, like a training ground to hone the skill of understanding other people.

The samples of the selected genre literature, on the contrary, were not approved by the critics. The researchers specifically chose works in this category that included more flat characters acting in predictable ways.

The results were astounding: readers of critically acclaimed fiction scored top marks on every test—unlike those who read genre fiction, non-fiction, or nothing at all. And while researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly how this improved theory of thought might function in the real world, Kidd says it’s likely that those who read regularly will develop empathy. “Most people who understand how other people feel will use that knowledge in a pro-social way,” he concluded.

In addition to improving your ability to communicate with colleagues and subordinates, empathy can lead to more productive meetings and collaborations. “Research shows that people tend to be more productive in groups where they are free to disagree, especially when it comes to creative tasks. I think this is exactly the case when increased sensitivity and interest in the experience of other people can be useful in the process of work,” says Kidd.

Tips from avid readers

So, now that you’ve seen the benefits of reading, consider this: According to a 2017 survey by British media regulator Ofcom, people spend on average about 2 hours and 49 minutes a day on their phone. In order to read even an hour a day, most people just need to reduce the time they look at the screen by a third.

And here are some tips from people who can proudly and without a twinge of conscience call themselves “avid readers.”

1) Read because you want to

Christina Cipurici learned to read at the age of 4. When this new passion took hold of her, she read voraciously every book she came across at home. But then something went wrong. “When I went to elementary school, reading became compulsory. I became disgusted with what our teacher made us do, and it discouraged me from reading books,” she says.

This distaste for books continued until she was in her 20s, when Chipurichi gradually began to realize how much she had missed – and how far the people who were reading had come, and how much important information was in the books that could change her career.

She learned to love reading again and eventually created The CEO’s Library, a website about the books that have shaped the careers of the world’s most successful people, from writers to politicians to investment moguls.

“There were many factors that led me to this change: my mentors; the decision to invest in an online course where I discovered a new educational system; reading articles on Ryan Holiday’s blog (he has written several books on marketing culture and used to be the marketing director for fashion brand American Apparel), where he always talks about how the books have helped him; and, probably, a lot of other things that I don’t even know about.”

If there is a moral to this story, then here it is: read because you want to – and never let this hobby become a chore.

2) Find “your” reading format

The clichéd image of an avid reader is a person who does not let go of printed books and strives to read only the first editions, as if they were precious ancient artifacts. But that doesn’t mean it has to be.

“I ride the bus for two hours a day, and there I have plenty of time to read,” says Kidd. When he travels to and from work, it is much more convenient for him to read books in electronic form – for example, from the phone screen. And when he takes on non-fiction, which is not so easy to understand, he prefers to listen to audio books.

3) Don’t set impossible goals

To imitate successful people in everything is not such an easy task. Some of them read 100 books every year; others wake up at dawn to read books in the morning before the start of the working day. But you don’t have to follow their example.

Andra Zakharia is a freelance marketer, podcast host and avid reader. Her main advice is to avoid high expectations and intimidating goals. “I think if you want to develop the habit of reading every day, you need to start small,” she says. Instead of setting yourself a goal like “read 60 books a year,” Zechariah suggests starting by asking friends for book recommendations and only reading a couple of pages a day.

4) Use the “Rule of 50”

This rule will help you decide when to discard a book. Maybe you tend to ruthlessly refuse to read already on the fourth page, or vice versa – can’t you just close a huge volume that you don’t even want to see? Try reading 50 pages and then decide if reading this book will be a joy for you. If not, discard it.

This strategy was invented by author, librarian and literary critic Nancy Pearl and explained in her book The Thirst for Books. She originally suggested this strategy to people over 50: they should subtract their age from 100, and the resulting number is the number of pages they should read. As Pearl says, as you get older, life becomes too short to read bad books.

That’s all there is to it! Putting your phone away for at least an hour and picking up a book instead is sure to boost your empathy and productivity. If the busiest and most successful people in the world can do it, then so can you.

Just imagine how much new discoveries and knowledge awaits you! And what an inspiration! Maybe you will even find the strength in yourself to open your own space enterprise?

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