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I grew up in the early 2000s. At a time when technology development was accelerating at a high speed, I was raised by parents that emphasized board games, outdoor activities, and books.
At the time, I felt left out. I was the last one of my friends to get a cell phone, which I hated. But today, I look back on my childhood with absolute gratitude. Now, I am thankful that my tech-less home gave me the space and tools to discover a passion that has stuck with me to this day: words.
I’ve always loved to read. I devoured A Series of Unfortunate Events in first and second grade, and by fifth grade, I was attempting to get through The Odyssey. (That, unsurprisingly, wasn’t a success, but I did try.)
Sadly, the time I spent reading gradually decreased as I went through high school, then college. School, friends, and — most heartbreaking of all, social media — always came first.
Then something happened that made me rethink my relationship to reading.
Earlier this year, I came across an article by Benjamin P. Hardy. The focus of this article is how important early morning hours are for designing a fulfilling life.
What floored me was what he wrote next:
“If you want to quickly set yourself apart in life, you should make it your first priority to read lots of really good books. If you spend 1–2 hours per morning reading, you’d read 50–100 books per year. Do this for 5–10 years, and as they say, you’ll become an ‘overnight success.’”
This was a wake-up call. How much knowledge had I missed out on in the years that I’d barely read a single book? I wanted to make a change.
My schedule is full to the brim, and I’m not too keen on waking up at 5 a.m. every morning as Hardy suggests (it’s a routine that makes sense for some people, but not me personally). What I could do, however, was scale down his advice to something more manageable — something that would fit into my routine easily and naturally enough to stick.
At Thrive, we call these “microsteps,” and this was the perfect opportunity to bring reading back into my life. I decided to read for a minimum of 15 minutes every day, and more if I could spare the time. It was a small enough commitment that I felt I could accomplish it, and I enjoyed the freedom of possibly reading more if that felt right for me on a certain day.
In just a short time, this resolution began to positively impact my life in various ways, including my mental health, knowledge, self-image, and overall well-being. It was a simple change, but it has paid back in dividends. Here are some valuable things I learned from it.
Stepping away from the “hustle culture” mindset was harder than I expected!
One thing that surprised me right away was how unnatural it had become for me to just sit and read — to take even a few minutes away from work, studying, or other “productive” tasks. I found it difficult to quiet my mind enough to focus on the words in front of me. Worries about work and responsibilities would immediately begin to distract me, along with the nagging feeling that I was wasting precious time.
It was shocking to realize how out-of-practice I was at taking quiet moments for myself; over the years, I had programmed my mind to not just prioritize work, but to actually feel guilty for spending time on other things when there was still work to be done! Taking these 15 minutes daily became an important way for me to show myself that I not only could, but deserved to, make time for self-care.
Even a small act of self-care goes a long way.
Simply setting aside a few minutes for myself was rejuvenating, and boosted my mood. Whether it was first thing in the morning, in between meetings, or right before I went to sleep, I could count on my reading time to re-center me.
My favorite time to read is in the afternoon — the middle of my day, amid the other tasks that demand attention. It serves as a refreshing break and helps reset my mind so that I have more energy and motivation to continue working.
Reading lots of new books exposed me to exciting new ideas.
Just as Hardy promised, reading daily allowed me to get through more books, and in doing so, I encountered a lot of valuable new ideas. Some I agreed with and some I did not, but I value all of them for increasing my knowledge and opening my mind. In a way, this activity reminded me that without textbooks and exams, learning can be exhilarating.
It’s OK to fall off the wagon — as long as you get back on.
I was upset with myself the first time that I missed a day of reading. I beat myself up because I had been busy, and I had prioritized other things. In my mind, I’d been on a successful “streak,” and now that I’d missed a day, all of my efforts up to that point were erased.
But the reality is, slipping up sometimes is part of the process, and it’s only detrimental if you never recover. It certainly doesn’t erase the effort you already put in!
I learned to simply start the next day where I’d left off. Practicing forgiveness and perspective are skills that spill over into numerous other areas of life, and now I look at it as part of the process of learning, as well as an opportunity to improve.
It’s important to honor your authentic self.
While it’s totally normal to change over time, there’s a difference between changing internally, and changing your actions based on your circumstances.
For instance, I didn’t stop reading because I stopped enjoying it (an internal change) — I just felt that I no longer had the time for it (a circumstantial change). In truth, I had stopped making reading a priority when it became difficult to do so.
One of the most important things I learned by undergoing this “journey” to read every day is that if something matters to you, then make time for it. Investing in yourself, and your passion — whatever that may be — is part of what makes life fulfilling.
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