How Reading Changed My Life

After college, I had zero intention of ever picking up a book again. Reading simply wasn’t something I enjoyed, and when I thought about how my life would be as an adult, I never pictured myself being one of those people.

How Books Changed My Life

So how is it that I went from swearing off books entirely to reading 50+ books every year for the past several years? Well, there are three things I get from reading that I can’t get from anything else.

A recent study showed that 24 percent of adults haven’t read a single book in the past 12 months. While that’s a deeply depressing fact, I understand it. I was that person! My eventual love for reading was the result of consistent prodding from the most important person in my life.

My husband Shane planted the first seeds by buying engaging fiction books for me to read so that I could dip my toe gently into the world of reading. Surprisingly, once I got started on a book, I’d get through it quickly, but I still found myself not having enough time to read consistently. Then my brother started raving to me about all the fantastic books he was reading. I was surprised by this—he has dyslexia and had a very hard time reading when we were growing up. But he discovered audiobooks while on the road, and it opened up a whole new world for him.

It was then that I realized that just because you’re not holding a book in your hand doesn’t mean you’re not reading. While I still read plenty of hardcover books and books on my kindle, audiobooks now make up a substantial portion of my yearly “reading.”

The Big Three

Becoming an avid reader has certainly changed my life for the better. There are three major ways that cultivating good reading habits have transformed me—in both my career and my personal life.

1. Always Be Learning

In his best-selling business and self-help classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey states that we should always be sharpening our saw. This means that you should always be working on yourself. And when you’re reading, you’re giving yourself the ultimate opportunity to learn new things. You’re opening your eyes to discover a new perspective or allowing yourself to engage in a new discussion. Reading allows me to dive deep and experience something totally new in a way that is convenient, affordable, and easily accessible.

2. Stay Current

You should always be invested in keeping up with best practices, whether for your chosen profession or just an area of your life you’d like to improve. I find that reading provides me with a new way to look at my work. By reading the things my clients are reading and seeing what they’re spending their time on, I can then have better discussions with them. I can use the books as touchpoints and even reference those who have walked this path before us.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you should only read the latest and greatest books to be “current,” though. Best practices are often rooted in classics. Two of my very favorite books—How to Win Friends and Influence People and How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling—were written in the 1930s and 1940s! And another one of my favorites—The Magic of Thinking Big— was published in 1959.

The lessons in these books are still relevant today. You’d never imagine that they were written over a half-century ago.

3. Dream Big, Then Execute

This last element is all about taking the things you’re learning from these books and actually putting them into practice. Stepping back from your fires (or those of your clients) to look at things from a big-picture standpoint with your new knowledge will ensure you’re implementing things the way you should.

Books allow you to imagine and execute something far beyond what you’re doing now. In addition, I find it so important that you read things you can get lost in. This is where fiction comes into play for me; fiction allows you to get lost in the stories and words and go deep into a different time and place. When you find that first fiction book where you get enraptured with its universe, you’ll start to develop a love for the actual act of reading.

This kind of change might seem like an impossible goal if you don’t consider yourself a reader, but there is so much to be gained from sitting down with a good book (or taking a walk while listening to an audiobook). It will open your eyes, your heart, and your mind to new experiences and opinions, which in turn will improve and enrich you both personally and professionally.

How to Get Started

My recommendation to anyone who thinks they hate reading is to start with something you enjoy—like fashion or sports magazines, or an easy fiction read like the Hunger Games series. If you’re looking for non-fiction books, I would suggest Sales 101 by Zig Ziglar or Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Regardless of how you do it, just start! And then spend 10 to 30 minutes a day reading. Set a daily reading goal, get started, and see if it doesn’t unlock something inside of you.

Until next time—go sell some stuff!

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