3 Surprising Reasons Why You Can’t Finish the Books You Want to Read.
It is not entirely what you think; And here are ways to change that.
You have the book in hand you wanted to read for a while now. The excitement is there, and so is the intention; you can’t wait to start. But a few weeks/months go by, and you aren’t much further ahead than when the book came in your possession.
The reason may seem simple enough, and it may not be what you think.
You may think it’s procrastination, as that is a viable reason, but that’s not it.
The book isn’t interesting anymore — sure, that’s a great reason, but that’s not it.
The book is too big — nope, not it either.
The 3 surprising reasons you don’t finish the books you want to read are:
1. Your current beliefs.
3. An undisciplined mind.
A book is a collection of life-changing ideas, concepts, themes, and experiences portrayed in phrases and paragraphs (depending on the book, of course).
The author spent a great deal of time creating their book. But, unfortunately, we think flippantly about what a book represents, especially if it doesn’t agree with our point of view.
As Stephen King once said, “Books are uniquely portable magic.”
I couldn’t agree more as books impart specific knowledge, and sometimes that knowledge may not be in harmony with our current philosophy, which can be hard to accept. We, humans, are stubborn creatures and get easily fooled by our thoughts.
“You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool” — Richard Feynman.
Your way of seeing things comes from your life experiences; lessons, habits, and accumulated thoughts up until now.
One of the most critical skills to possess in the information age will be unlearning what we have learned and replacing it with knowledge conducive to personal growth.
However, that is easier said than done as your life experiences produced the person you are today. So how willing are you to accept opinions that contradict your earlier held concepts? Essentially all your confirmation biases.
Many years ago, I used to participate in debates at a Toastmasters group in Toronto, Ontario. One day the topic was “What is more important — love or money? “ So I volunteered for team “love,” speaking from experience of over ten years of marriage at that point.
When the confirmation of roles came up, I accidentally got placed on the “money” team, and it was too late to change.
The debate was in 2 weeks, so I got to work. I read everything I could about money versus love in my research and was surprised by the findings. Fast-forwarding to the debate, I was confident as I understood the love side and now had great info from the other point of view. The knowledge made me formidable, and we won the debate, plus I took home the prize for best debater that night.
I learned from that day on to challenge my existing beliefs as there is always something more to learn.
Remember, you dont have to accept or believe everything, but it is wise to consider other viewpoints and use what works for you.
“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”― John Locke
“You’re not as good as you think. You don’t have it all figured out. Stay focused. Do better.” — Ryan Holiday
A quote from one of my favorite books, “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday.
Your ego gets in the way when you claim to have gotten the gist of the book from only a tiny portion of it. Some books are layered. So think about tasting a cake but only trying the icing. The icing is probably delicious, but you didn’t taste the cake, so how do you know how good it is? Likewise, you miss out when you neglect some portions of a book without considering these phrases or paragraphs could be a goldmine of thoughts.
Keep in mind, some books are superficial, but the ones that offer deep knowledge, like “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Dan Kahneman, “Antifragile” by Nassim Taleb, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, or “48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene, to name a few, are great to dive in.
Sometimes ego makes you believe popular tropes in books change people, but the truth is the phrases and paragraphs throughout the book changes people.
When you read a great book, the build-up of lines, paragraphs, themes, and chapters make for an incredible experience, a riveting literary crescendo.
Please remember that reading is a personal journey, and yours will differ. However, from my experience, every time I checked my ego at the door when starting a book, I finished it with a better understanding of myself.
The ego plays a huge factor in what we learn. Sometimes it is not the issue of the author doing a lousy job writing; it is your ego that doesn’t let you see the clarity of purpose in a book’s message.
Ego prevents you from learning because it tells you that you already know what’s happening and there’s nothing left to see here, and if your belief gets solidified, you won’t learn.
“You can’t learn that which you think you already know.” — Epictetus.
Even as someone who helps people develop a love of reading, I still struggle with an undisciplined mind. Procrastination gets the best of me sometimes but, I am only human.
An undisciplined mind is bent on doing many things simultaneously as it is easy to believe that you can do it all.
That little voice in your head keeps telling you that you can achieve much by multitasking; even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us less efficient.
An undisciplined mind is the over-ambition that doesn’t get curbed.
An undisciplined mind is also your wandering thoughts that do not weigh options before taking action; for example, while reading your book, you end up scrolling on your phone, later on regretting the time wasted.
So how can you finish the books you want to read despite your current beliefs, ego, and undisciplined mind?
It is actually a simple process but challenging nonetheless.
You have to want to complete the book, and wanting to read the book comes from your why.
Why did you decide to read this book in the first place?
When I read great books like “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, “The One Thing” by Gary Keller, and “80/20 Principle” by Richard Koch, I wanted to find the essential aspects of focusing on my priority instead of the next shiny object that seemed important.
I had issues in this area, so it became a primary focus of improvement. I decided I wanted to arm myself with information and practical strategies to apply. I already had the gist of these books but reading them through gave me tremendous incite. Enough to make me not repeat the same mistakes, thereby actually learning.
So, what is your why for reading the book that piques your interest?
If your why is vague, you will toss the book aside at the first dry spot and claim you didn’t learn anything.
Push any ego or biases aside, and remember there are valuable lessons to learn within the material.
They say you cannot judge a book by its cover. Well, when people skim titles, they do just that — thinking they got the gist of the entire book.
The great thing about books is there is always some form of discovery no matter how many times you read or reread them.
My accountant friend bought a bunch of accounting books to read during downtime at work. His coworkers would always say to him, “You are a great accountant; you know all this stuff like the back of your hand. So why are you spending your time reading?” Some even made light-hearted jokes about the extra studying insinuating that he was a bookworm or kiss up, which my friend brushed off.
My friend was looking for a new way to improve his service. Low and behold, he utilized a strategy from one of the books that increased the company’s bottom line by 5% that quarter. It may not seem like a lot, but he was first in line for projects and promotions and received a pay increase after that result.
Knowledge is valuable, but applied knowledge is power.
If you are open to gaining knowledge while reading, you never know what knowledge you can apply to your advantage.
Don’t multitask while reading.
Focus is key. If you are distracted while reading, it will be hard to retain anything. Of course, it’s essential to take breaks now and then during reading, but distractions are another thing.
Breaks are focused and deliberate. Distractions catch you off guard and derail your task entirely, such as responding to that text in the middle of reading your book and knowing you will anticipate the following text. In fact, a study from the University of California Irvine, shows it takes approximately 20–25 minutes to get back into the swing of things after you’ve been interrupted. That is a long time to lose your momentum on a task.
Hold yourself accountable.
“Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else.” — Les Brown
Self-accountability is sometimes underrated as we look for someone to give us a quick formula or hack, and miraculously, we get “cured.”
Accountability is useful because you realize no one is coming to save you, so it’s best to take action and be committed to your plans. Accountability applies everywhere, but I am using it only in the context of this article for reading — remember — If you can start reading, you can finish.
Reading a book is essentially about having a sense of appreciation for other people’s works and writings and reading along with an open mind and objectivity.
It is totally achievable.
You would be surprised what you can accomplish if you devote your time and passion to your aim.
It doesn’t hurt to have a system in place when you read, some people don’t need one, but some require structure. For example, motivation is helpful, but it won’t sustain you for long, especially when the opposite actions are so appealing.
Here is a reading system you can apply;
Pick a time that you want to start reading: morning, noon, or night. And read at that same time daily.
Pick an environment that is conducive to your reading. So it serves as a one-function space. (example, office desk, coffee shop, reading nook, etc.).
Read for a specific page count or time frame (10 pages or 10 minutes).
Do it consistently until it becomes a habit.
Soon enough, you won’t have any issues finishing the books you want to read.
Reading is an investment — as you don’t spend time doing it, you invest the time.
As you keep reading, your knowledge base continues to compound; (depending on your material, of course) and as an investment, it requires you to dedicate your focus and a willingness to keep learning for sustainable growth. And once you are willing, you will be pleased with the results.
As the old saying goes;
“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
All the best.
Writer | Motivator | Reading Habits Coach | Content Creator. Around Me, Everyone Wins!