How to get the most from your reading (part 3 of 3)
November 23, 2018 / Networking / Greg Atkinson
The fate of the world rests in your hands! Well, alright, that might be an exaggeration. But certainly, the fate of your creativity and what it can do for the world, is in your hands. In part 1 of our Reading Series, we discussed why reading keeps you creative. In part 2, we suggested the type of reading you might want to set your peepers on. In this blog, we talk about how you can get the most from your reading.
It’s actually quite simple. Basically, you want to apply the lessons you’ve read about to your own life. You might not be on an epic quest to destroy a magic ring, but you’re on your own unique quest. And just like any quest, you’ll have metaphorical dragons to slay. You might be in the midst of a tricky business negotiation, working on improving relations with a difficult family member, or making renovations to your house. There are a myriad situations that may not appear creative at first, but are essentially opportunities for innovative thinking nonetheless. So, try some of these:
1) Find characteristics you admire
Your favourite character might not be the protagonist. In fact, what makes many stories so memorable is the cast of wonderfully rounded supporting characters. If a character particularly appeals to you, ask yourself why. Is it the way they keep their sense of humour regardless of how bleak the circumstances are? Is it their quick wit that gets them out of tight spots? Is it their sheer determination and grit?
You may already embody some of the traits you admire, or none at all. The important thing is to clearly identify the characteristics you like. Then do an honest self-assessment on which ones you need to work on.
2) Figure out characteristics to avoid
You might find a character insufferable because of their constant whining. Or perhaps their pessimism brings everyone down. Maybe they’re downright terrible people who genuinely don’t care about anyone else. The characteristics that drive you nuts are likely the same ones you find objectionable in the people in your real life, or in yourself.
Take note of the characteristics that bother you. For example: ‘Quick tempered and reacts in anger’ or ‘doesn’t know when to keep opinions to themself’. You don’t have to rationalise why something bothers you, just be aware that it does. If you catch yourself displaying some of these characteristics, make a note of the triggers that set you off. Then promise yourself to be better next time. If you see these characteristics in others, either help them work through it, or start cutting these people out of your life.
3) Identify hidden dangers
As the reader, you’re privy to information that’s not immediately obvious to the characters living the story. You’re given a bird’s-eye view that makes you very powerful. That kind of omniscience would come in very handy in real life.
Of course, in the real world, you have imperfect information. But even so, you may be ignoring or discounting information that is available. Human beings have a tendency to view situations from one vantage point (usually their own). Thinking about the same situation from different perspectives (essentially putting yourself in someone else’s shoes) may reveal threats and dangers headed your way. Instead of concentrating only on what you want to achieve, understanding what another person wants shows where you’ll clash. And being forewarned allows you to better prepare.
4) Enlist supporting characters
Just as the protagonist hardly ever goes it alone, you don’t have to either. Figure out who your wise sage, trusted confidante, loyal companion, or stalwart supporter is. It might not be someone obvious. You might not even realise that the banter you have with your barista arms you with both the caffeine and good humour you need to face the day. And you might not think twice about your commute. But the bus driver who held the bus for you gave you 10 crucial minutes to prepare before your big meeting. The people you encounter every day help or hinder you on your quest. It’s important to figure out who’s who.
Once you’ve identified your supporting cast, you’ll know who to turn to for help, and who to avoid. You might also appreciate the help you’ve been given more.
5) Identify the lesson
There may be an overarching moral of the story, or there may be small lessons sprinkled throughout the text. A lesson could be something as small as ‘always pack an extra pair of underwear’. Or it could be something as profound as ‘in war, there are no winners’.
Extrapolate the lessons from the story, and translate them into something relevant to you. Packing extra supplies is ‘be better prepared’, for example. Run through your presentation again. Double-check the figures in your books. Apologise one more time.
Reading gives you access to a multitude of worlds, characters, and situations. The lessons you can learn are infinite. So, here are some practical tips on applying your reading to real life:
a) Bookmark, underline, or make notes
Some people have a horror of marking books (and certainly if you’re not the owner of the book, you shouldn’t). But your books (paper or digital) contain valuable life lessons. They’re here to help you learn and grow. So make sure you can find the lessons you need easily, so you can keep referring to them.
b) Make motivating mantras
Although talking to yourself may seem strange or childish, psychological research has repeatedly proven its effectiveness. Talking aloud helps you organise your thoughts. This in turn helps you plan. You can also motivate and encourage yourself through personal mantras. These help you focus your thoughts and stay positive. For example, you could say to yourself ‘Be like Frodo. Never give up’.
c) Work interesting content into everyday conversation
There’s a reason being ‘well read’ is considered a compliment. It means the person has depth, is thoughtful, or has a deep well of knowledge. So, spice up your conversations with choice nuggets from your reading, and move the talk beyond mundane reporting of daily life.
d) Recommend books to people
Some people chafe at advice, but no one has ever been offended by a book recommendation. If you think a particular work could really benefit someone, recommend it. Let the author help you get your point across. If you loved a book, share it or give it as a gift. It’s a good way to introduce other people to a great work and pay things forward.
e) Ask for book recommendations
In the same vein, ask if someone has read anything good lately. Their book choice gives you insight into their interests. And once you’ve read the book yourself, it’s only natural that you’ll want to discuss it and compare notes together. Sharing interests is a lovely way to get to know someone (which is why Kalido has always encouraged this).
In part 1 of our Reading Series, we discussed why reading is so good for you. Part 2 recommended reading material. In part 3, we’ve discussed how to extrapolate all that valuable content and apply it to your real life. And so concludes our series. For now anyway. You never know when we might add another chapter…