Reading is one of the most under-appreciated skills in life these days. With shortening attention spans, and people preferring videos over written material, it makes sense why this skill is used less. I’m also fully aware of the irony that I – a writer – am bringing up the fact people are reading less.
That said, I can understand the appeal for short videos that pack a tonne of value in short periods of time. However that’s not what I want to be writing about today. Instead, I want to talk about how reading can help you be a better person.
This isn’t to say you need to sit down and read a 200+ page book. I myself am guilty of buying books and never reading them and preferring articles over them. Reading of any sort can provide a tremendous impact to your life and cause a different impact on you than watching a video.
Reading Provides Growth
When I was younger, the first books I read on a regular basis weren’t self-improvement books. It wouldn’t be until I was in my early 20s when I picked up a self-improvement book. My first actual books were fantasy novels by the author Garth Nix.
Nix had a darker tonne to his writing than J.K Rowling (another author I read when I was younger that I’m sure you know), but the world he built I felt was on the same scale as Rowling. The first book I picked up from Nix was “Shade’s Children”. The world was a mixture of the Matrix and Terminator. It had the dark, mechanized aspects that the Matrix brought along with the main characters having supernatural abilities. All while they fought against various robotic machines that were controlled by overlords.
It’s a book I loved so much I looked at his other work and read through the 7-series books of Keys To The Kingdom.
My whole point in this is that while we like to think of growth as a specific action you can take to deal with a problem – like a piece of advice – growth doesn’t always mean that. Growth can stem from a growing passion for a skill or in some cases an improvement of patience.
One of the biggest excuses I hear from people is it takes forever for them to read a book or even an article. I get that. With more people preferring video content over written, many people’s reading skills and passion for reading have been on the decline.
But the only way that can ever be improved on is through reading. Even if you’re not big on reading books, there is shorter content out there to read. Like this article along with billions of others. All of these things train you to be a better reader.
Not only that, but it can also provide growth in other areas of your life.
For example, politics is something I’ve been reading as of late. But through that world, I’ve grown in various ways. I’m aware of potential issues and even what various “-isms” mean. As simple as that may be, it’s not something that I studied in school. And living in Canada, our current political scene is tame compared to others.
On top of that, there is also the expansion of vocabulary. While articles themselves are going to be easy to read, there may be a few words that you might not understand. Or maybe never thought to use in that context.
Jumping between various topics – especially those you’re not well-versed in – can also expose you to new words too. All of that is still growth and comprehension over a language. It’s not nothing. All of this growth can lead you to be a better person because it pushes you to be growing. A growth mindset is something that a growing person needs.
Reading Makes You A Better Story Teller
The more that I’ve been reading, the more that I’ve been able to have meaningful conversations with people. My job is to provide advice and wisdom to help people grow into better people to begin with. For that to happen, I need to be reading, mulling over my thoughts and applying what I’m learning.
Just today I gave my personal trainer some advice. He’s been skipping breakfast and for the longest time doesn’t do breakfast. I know he’s not a lazy individual considering we’ve been training for a while now. However I do know he’s not particularly active in the morning. After all, his weekday mornings consist of training at 9 am with someone followed by me at 10 am.
While this level of awareness stems from me listening to him and understanding him, there is also neurological aspects to this. I suggested to him to start doing some morning exercises. Maybe not a full body workout for an hour straight but doing some cardio in the morning.
Since he has built a habit of eating later, it’s clear that his brain doesn’t prioritize food early in the morning. Every morning he’s telling himself “I’m not training until later so I don’t need food in me right now.” Even though he knows breakfast is important, his current habits don’t encourage him to eat until later when he’s not coaching.
The thing is, that advice stems from my own knowledge of brain patterns and habits. If I had no such knowledge, I might’ve given generic advice like “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Or “Just eat.”
That advice doesn’t help people at all.
And again, that advice stems from reading.
This entire process stems from storytelling. While it may not be a story in the literal sense, you’re still explaining your thoughts and contributing to the conversation. This conversation is a story and it helps if you have a better grasp of people. You can also contribute more if you have knowledge of various things.
A conversation depends on the understanding of one another plus your own knowledge on the topic. It’s harder to inspire confidence or emotions in something that you’re not too well aware of. Furthermore you may cause more harm than good in certain situations.
For example, when I was in high school and had to make a decision on my career path, my parents gave me various ideas for who I could become. Later on down the road, I feel the conversation should’ve been much different. Rather than giving out ideas for potential occupations to a 16 year old, they could’ve tapped into their own knowledge of who I am. We could’ve talked about goals, my dreams, and got me more on reflecting rather than picking a specific path.
It’s hard to say if that would’ve worked back then, but it doesn’t matter so much now. The thing is, their behaviour was typical for most people when giving career advice to people starting out. “Become [insert occupation here]” is what they said.
That doesn’t mean my parents are bad people. But it shows how much weight can be put into something when you’re going in with little knowledge or understanding.
Prevents Other Mindset Blockades
Our mindsets have to face a number of mental barriers in order to grow. There are so many threats out there to hamper our minds and impede our growth. With the way the world is right now, people have a shorter attention span and focus. And in some severe cases are suffering from too much stress or depression.
Reading provides an opportunity to break away from that while providing other notable benefits.
Yes, there are other avenues to escape, but as you can see already, reading provides other tangible benefits beyond dealing with those mental struggles. The reason videos and streams provide great escape is that your brain takes you to a different world and provides relief that way.
Reading is very much the same thing. Even if you’re not reading a fiction-based article or book, the writers have built a kind of world with their words. A world that you can connect with and start to fill in the gaps yourself. All of this can provide great relief as posts from them provide you with a chance to escape to that world.
In some cases, that world can also provide you with insight to dealing with depression, stress, or even help you to focus more.
Reading Makes You A Master Of Emotions
Another aspect to being a better person is being someone people can aspire to become as well. A better person is someone who can make an impact. They don’t necessarily have to be a leader, but some leadership qualities are important to have.
One of which is empathy – the ability to understand your own feelings and those around you.
Going back to my example with my personal trainer, that was empathy. I didn’t stick with generic advice or chalked it up to him being lazy. I tied it in with my own life and looked at my own knowledge on the matter and gave sound advice.
Reading provides this opportunity as every writer – whether they write fiction or non-fiction – conveys emotions in their words. And the really good ones are able to convey that in a deeper sense. Good writing is where you’re able to feel emotions – even if they are for a brief moment.
All of this is giving you emotional intelligence and making you into a better person as you can now:
- Understand people better
- Articulate your own thoughts and feelings in a concise and clear manner
- And form deeper connections with other people as a result.
Reading Passes Skills And Growth In Many Ways
While reading provides direct help depending on what you are reading, but they provide other things. These things work in the background and strengthen further the more you spend time reading. Even if you are slow reader, speed can come over time. For now, use it as a way to develop your patience. After all, we all have plenty of time on our hands.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon