Each year, as the remaining months dwindle, I think about goals for the year upcoming. I even get into various categories, like a true nerd, and one of those categories is always reading. In the past, I’ve set goals to read 50 books, 75 books, lists of books, “read at least one ‘classic’ per month.” You know, your standard reading goals. I almost always aim to take it up a notch, to always read more, or at least match what I’ve read in the past.
But this year, as I was writing out and thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year, I wondered if it were possible for my reading to actually hold me back. Working from home, I have a little more free time than a lot of my peers. Not having to “get ready” in the morning (hello sweatpants!) and not having a commute gives me at least an hour or two over office dwellers. And guess what – almost all of that time, in the past, has been given to reading. I’ll also generally read a little bit over lunch. And during the work day as part of my job. And some evenings while my wife is knitting. And most weekend mornings for an hour or two. I’ve spent a lot of time reading in my life.
When I look back at goals from previous years, I’ve often done okay and certainly progressed, but ultimately have generally fallen a little short. And I began to wonder if perhaps my over-eagerness with reading — perhaps even slight obsession? — was hindering my other goals. So I’m going to experiment in 2015. I’m going to resolve to actually read less than I have in previous years. I haven’t set a number, and I’m not sure if I will, but ultimately I want to spend less of my time reading.
It mostly comes down to me wanting to accomplish more with my free time than just reading. I want to write more, I want to craft more, I want to do more woodworking, hell, I even want to just socialize more and spend more time catching up with friends on the phone or over coffee. I don’t want my default activity for free time to be to grab a book and go lay down on the couch in my basement.
I firmly believe that reading should compel us to growth. And at some point, a point which will be different for each person, it no longer does that. It reaches oversaturation. I believe I’ve hit that point. It’s really just a feeling I’ve had recently while reading that “this isn’t contributing to me — to who I am.” If we just read read read forever, what’s the point? Shouldn’t our reading compel us to action in some way?
I recently took the StrengthsFinder test, and like many readers I’m sure, Input was my number one strength. It’s described thusly: “People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information…You absorb the written word like a sponge sops up water. You revel in an opportunity to lose yourself in a book. Time seems to float by when you are the grateful guest of an entertaining or informative author. Your only choice is to finish the book as quickly as possible.” Uh, durrr.
While it’s great to have this strength, even the book warns of the potential downfalls of being an Input person:
“You naturally soak up information in the same way that a sponge soaks up water. But just as the primary purpose of the sponge is not to permanently contain what it absorbs, neither should your mind simply store information. Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.”
“Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you’ll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action. Make a point of identifying the facts and data that would be most valuable to others, and use this information to their advantage.”
I truly couldn’t have said it better myself, and we would all do well to heed this advice.
So here’s to reading a little less in 2015. Becoming less of a collector, and more of a teacher. Here’s to writing a little more, doing things with my hands a little more, working on projects around the house a little more, catching up with old friends a little more, and walking in the morning with my wife a little more.
I promise, however, that when I do read — which will still be plenty — I’ll share it with this most excellent Book Riot community.
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