The habit that changed it all for me was reading.
Back in middle school, I was placed in a remedial reading class where every other day I was forced to skip lunch with friends to go eat with a reading teacher.
I wasn’t too thrilled, especially when my history teacher popped his head in to flirt with my reading teacher because I felt embarrassed looking stupid in front of him (I prided myself on being smart in his class).
Fast forward to my freshman year of high school.
I went to go live with my Aunt in a new town and go to a new school.
As the new kid on the block I didn’t have many friends, but at least I wasn’t forced to eat with a teacher anymore, although I probably would’ve preferred it to the awkward early weeks where I didn’t know where to sit in the cafeteria. I was miserable. My life revolved around going to school and then coming home to play video games.
To add fuel to the fire, my english teacher assigned us a book report, but at least she was nice enough to let us choose our book. I chose the biography, His Excellency: George Washington based upon my interest in history.
I was such a slow reader though that 10 minutes into a book I’d need a nap.
Slow readers get bored more easily because we are reading at less than 250 words per minute (w.p.m.) while the human brain can think in thousands of words per minute.
When I finally finished the book I felt a huge wave of accomplishment. The sort of feeling I got after beating a video game, except better, because this was harder!
“The hard is what makes it great” — Tom Hanks
I then made a conscious choice, “I could be miserable and play video games or I could be miserable and read books so that someday I could be better situated to be happy.”
At a time when I felt powerless, I believed strongly in the quote my teacher had pinned to the classroom wall, “Knowledge is Power!”
To keep the ball rolling I then read another book by the same author, Founding Brothers. It was the first book I read in years that wasn’t required school reading.
I then read another book on the American Revolutionary Era and then another until I felt like I mastered the era. I then moved onto the next era in American history and then so on and so forth until 5 years later I finally got up to the modern era.
I also got into reading books and blogs about self-improvement. A study showed that reading self-improvement books was linked with lower levels of depression. I also didn’t have the greatest male role models in my life, but books helped me overcome that.
“You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” — Jim Rohn
I spent a lot of time with Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson by reading about their lives, which helped put my own goals and struggles into perspective.
If Abraham Lincoln could find hope in the midst of the bloodiest war in American history then I could do my math homework.
A lot of great men and women were avid readers. Theodore Roosevelt would finish a book before breakfast and John F. Kennedy was notorious for always carrying a book/newspaper. He never let a minute go down the drain, even on the toilet.
If you’re serious about making reading a habit then consider setting a trigger. In other words, pick an existing habit of yours, like brushing your teeth, to let you know that after you’re done brushing you should read.
The trigger I used was… “AFTER I get home from school, I WILL eat a snack and read.”
By the end of my freshman year of high school I succeeded in making reading a habit and by my junior year of high school I scored in the 95th percentile on the reading section of my SAT and 99% on my english regents exam.
I tell you not just to brag, but also to say, “If I could make it a habit then so can you!”
It all starts with opening a book.
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