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Making Life Changes Through Books

As you can probably tell from my posts, I like to read (or listen to) books on philosophy, happiness, psychology, self-improvement and other, similar media (YouTube videos, songs, movies). As a psychologist, I find myself a bit obsessed by finding out “Truths” about how to live better, more fulfilling lives.

I really enjoy listening to audiobooks – perhaps partly because I don’t get bogged down in highlighting parts like I do with books. Yes, I’m a Highlighter. I always have been. There – I’ve admitted it. I feel better already! The problem I’ve found with highlighting is that it can become too time consuming. Also, here’s another admission that probably holds true for many other folks out there, I rarely ever go back and view what I’ve highlighted! I would imagine that I actually go back to my highlighted markings…well, probably .1% of the time. Yes, that’s a .1…as in 1/1000 times. I wonder to myself, “Why do I spend some much extra time highlighting this “important” information if I basically never go back and look at it again?”

I’ve considered the possibility that the mere act of highlighting certain material makes me reread it, thus making it more likely that I will retain that information better. Still, the cons seem to outweigh the pros for me on highlighting. By trying to highlight so much material when I read…because I somehow fear that I’ll “miss” something…I end up not getting through as many books, or I might even avoid reading altogether because it is a painstaking process. Even with an awareness of this obsessive/perfectionist tendency, I still find it difficult to put down my highlighter. My copy of The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama is highlighted so much that there’s probably more text that is highlighted than is not! Audiobooks have helped me break free of this habit, so I find that I can get through audiobooks more easily than books. That reader just keeps plowing along!

I have discovered one more strategy that has helped me to put down my highlighter and be less obsessive when I’m reading books about life improvement (I think this can apply to other reading genres as well). I try to just learn 1-3 important points from each of these types of books and internalize them – make them my own – and apply them in my own life. There’s no real way to read the countless books about wisdom, life improvement, and happiness and use every little tip and strategy. Granted, lots of the information out there is fascinating and has the potential to be helpful – but there’s no way to use it all. I think it is better to learn just one fact, one strategy, or one quote from each book and use it to improve our own lives than to memorize a 1000 and do nothing with them.

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