A personal development book read ≠ a personal development book understood

Note: I’m taking a little break from my travel insights series – it’ll be back next week.

These days many of us have more time for reading.
And if you had the urge to not only tidy up your house but also your mind, you might have picked up this personal development book or motivational guide your friends have raved about (The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle anyone?!)

This is a post about reading inspirational and motivational books in the personal development category, something I’ve obviously binged over the last years 😉

Over the last months, when working with free apps, I have gotten a lot of ads from an app called ‘Blinkist.’ It claims to get you reading ‘4 books a day’ as it provides you with summaries of them. These books are in the non-fiction spectrum, of course (why would you want a summary of a novel?!)
That on its own sounds fine to me, yet it got me thinking about the purpose of reading.

I’m just ‘wild-guessing’ here that Blinkist assumes we don’t have enough time to read a book, so we need a summary (except that they probably hadn’t anticipated the current situation – let’s leave this aside for this post though!) Fair enough, many non-fiction books have long-winded intros, too many personal stories for my taste and self-promotion for the author. So, yes, give me the handy details!

On the other hand, isn’t the whole purpose of reading to devote time and dive into a topic slowly?
And what’s even more important: If this app makes us read several books a week, does it mean that we then also learn several times as much as if we read one book a week?
I have devoured self-help books with awesome-sounding principles, clapped my hands in excitement, and having ‘aha’-moments, only to finish the book to never think about it again, my head already in the next book that would ‘improve’ my life even more.
With every book I read, I put a mental checkmark behind an imaginary ‘essential books to read to make your life better.’
Did my life change 180 degrees, just like the book felt it had after I finished reading it?

It took me a long time to see reading these sorts of books as ‘exercise books’ or ‘courses.’
I realized how I’d only learn anything if I actually stopped, contemplated what the author had written, and suggested I do, and then try to experience or apply it!

This is the only way to see whether you actually agree with the author’s suggestion and opinion. Because sometimes things don’t work for you and that’s ok and why I guess, there are so many self-help books out there.
The book itself won’t make a change for you though! You are the person who has to do the work and look out for ways to experience what the author wrote about. Otherwise, you’ll complain and think, ‘what a nice idea, but it doesn’t help.’ Or you just continue reading, patting yourself on the back for ‘working on yourself,’ yet not really getting anything out of it. And yes, I’ve patted myself on the back so much….

I’ve just finished reading the book ‘The Willpower Effect’ by Kelly McGonigal, a book that presents the science behind motivation and willpower and how mindfulness comes into play as well. I absolutely loved its insights and you know why? Because the book confirmed some things, I had recently learned about my struggles of instant gratification through social media, food cravings, short attention span, … I had already experienced many of the points the book presented in its scientific explanations, so instead of having new strategies to hear about, I got a confirmation that I’m on the right track 🙂

Anyway, reading the above book prompted me to think about this topic and I hope it’ll make you ponder a little about how you are tackling reading this sort of genre.

On a final note, I noticed how at times, points in a book didn’t make sense to me. I would glance at them, shrug my shoulder and continue reading. Only months or years later would I experience something, that would give me a ‘eureka moment’. Just with many circumstances that happen in life, the real reason behind them can unravel much later. Patience is a virtue 😉 Happy quarantine reading!