How intentional reading will change your life
Have you ever found yourself in the situation of reading one book after another without seeing any change in your life? Do you find yourself with an overflowing bookshelf but without harvesting results in your life? Have you ever finished a book and were left with a sense of confusion rather than a sense of clarity on how to actively improve your life with what you’ve read? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes”, this article on reading with intention might be the missing puzzle piece towards reaching a new standard when it comes to changing your life in a positive way through reading [Reading time: 9 Min]
What does it mean to read with intention?
Reading with intention basically means that you choose your books according to specific goals and problems rather than just by what seems interesting to you right now.
It also means that you don’t have to feel obliged to read your books cover-to-cover. After all, time is our most valuable asset and you don’t want to waste it on pages that don’t bring any value to you in return, right?
The target of intentional reading is to gain clarity about your goals and your biggest challenges on your path towards reaching these goals. Once your intention is set to solving these problems you want to get the right books to find the solutions to these problems. Once you find the solutions it is all about implementing these into your life and taking action! This means that the book has fulfilled its purpose for now and that you don’t have to keep on reading.
I mean after all it’s not about the number of books we have read cover-to-cover but rather about the number of solved problems, implemented solutions and the subsequent positive impact on our life’s. I know that’s not easy, after all we are all somewhat of a cover-to-cover book junky…
How do I find the problems that need solving?
In the last section of this article, I will give you a step by step guideline that you can follow if you wish to read with intention. This guideline includes asking yourself the right questions to gain clarity about your next goals and the according problems and challenges that come with that. Once you have defined these factors you can start looking for the right books and choose the next one specifically with the intention to solve the most effective problem.
What is the problem of reading without intention?
To be quite honest with you: There is none, depending on why you are reading books in the first place. What I mean by that is, that if you are reading merely for enjoyment your intention is to have fun and thus you should choose your books according to that. There is nothing wrong with reading books because it makes you feel like this…
But since you are reading this blog article and we are a community of non-fiction readers I am guessing that you are reading books because you want to improve your life in some way. It may be your finances, your health, your relationships, or something totally else that you wish to improve on. I would also assume that you define yourself as a lifelong learner, right?
Well, if my assumptions are indeed correct it might be quite ineffective for you to read without a clear intention. Because if you want to improve your life effectively you will be wasting time by just reading any book that you stumble upon and if you don’t have a clear guideline that you are following when it comes to choosing and reading books.
If we are reading what seems interesting to us right now or what was recommended to us, we are very likely to just finish the book cover-to-cover, put it back into our bookshelf and leave it there with a sense of new knowledge and pride but without taking action in an effective way. If we will take action, with what we have learned from a book, depends on and starts with the choice of what we read. Once we choose a book based on the clarity of which goals, problems and challenges we have, we actively set the intention to take action just by the way we pick our next book. By setting a clear intention to solve a problem we are automatically framed to look for solutions while reading our next book and we are also predetermined to put these solutions into action once we have found them.
If on the other hand, we choose a book without clarity and thus a clear intention we are likely to read the book without having clear action steps afterwards. Therefore, reading without intention is holding you back if you want to improve your life actively and effectively.
How Reading with Intention Changed The Way I Read
I first started reading non-fiction books on a regular basis during my last year of school in 2017. My journey began when I stumbled across Thomas Frank’s YouTube Channel and watched a video in which he recommended the book The Power of Habit, written by author Charles Duhigg.
This was the kickoff to my journey of self-development, and I quickly began to build up my personal to-be-read-list, based on recommendations on YouTube. I then started reading many of the well-known classics like Rich Dad Poor Dad, How To Win Friends And Influence People, Think And Grow Rich and Thinking Fast And Slow. As you can see, I started reading a variety of books which were addressing all kinds of different topics. This was the beginning of what I would describe as my phase of unintentional reading.
This phase continued shortly after I had finished all the books that I had on my list. One day, I came across a list of recommended books by one of my mentors. I then started reading everything that he had recommended. Again, a very brought variety of different topics and no clear intention to be seen. Looking back, I have to say that reading a variety of books and reading about different topics was a very good idea when I got started, because it gave me a great foundation to build upon. So, reading without a clear problem or goal at hand isn’t always a bad idea, but once I started reading with a clear intention my sphere of reading books was revolutionized.
I never really thought about the approach of reading with intention, until I watched an Instagram story of a very successful doctor whom I was following. He had already read over 1000 books in his life, and he was asked what his most valuable tips were when it comes to reading books. His first tip was to read every book with a clear intention in mind and that you shouldn’t finish a book once you realized that it wouldn’t bring you any value considering your set intention.
Since then, I have picked every book I read based on a clear intention of what I was expecting to learn or solve by reading this book. For me this made books way more practicable and actionable, and it helps me to reap more results from the books I read. This also means that once I know how to solve my problem, I put the book aside and focus on implementing what I have learned. This way I don’t get confused by the amount of learnings I can harvest from a single book, and I can focus one hundred percent on implementing what really matters.
For me this also had the effect of reading with more motivation, attention, and interest, because I always know why I’m reading the book at hand. As an example, it is much more desirable for me to read a book, because I know it might contain the solution to the problem which is currently holding me back from reaching my goals the most, rather than just because it might be interesting.
To sum up, I can say that for me reading with intention is the path towards becoming an effective reader who improves his life with every book he reads. Intentional reading is linked very closely with the topic of just in time vs. just in case information, because you will automatically start reading in a “just in time way”, once you start to choose and read your books with a clear intention. If you want to learn more about just in time vs. just in case information you can do so by reading this blog article right here. After all, these two topics go hand in hand if you want to be an effective reader. Just as the bromance of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski goes hand in hand if you want to bring forth an effective football team that wins championships…
How To Read with Intention – A Step By Step Guide
For me reading with intention is a ten-step process, which I am going to introduce to you in the following segment. Remember that just because I read this way doesn’t mean that it is the only good way to read. Go through the following steps, try it out and stick to what seems useful to you. Without any further or do, here are the ten steps to become an intentional reader:
1. Gaining Clarity.
The way to gain clarity lies within asking the right questions:
- How do I want to live and what do I wish to accomplish during the next 1-2 years?
(I would recommend that you choose a timespan for which you can confidently answer this question
- Which abilities, skills or people could help me to reach these goals?
- Which problems, habits, (missing) skills or abilities could slow me down in this process or prevent me from reaching these goals altogether?
- Of all those things, what is the one thing I could solve or improve upon that would make everything could do easier or even obsolete?
- How do I want to live and what do I wish to accomplish during the next 1-2 years?
2. Finding the right book.
- Which book could help me to put this one thing into practice?
If you don’t know a suitable book yet you can start by looking up the topic on the internet and reading book descriptions or book summaries to identify the qualified ones. Another option is to ask friends of yours for recommendations or to shoot a dm to some of your favorite boogstagram pages.
Once you found and bought the right book you can proceed with the next step.
3. Writing down your intention.
This way you will be reminded what your intention is and hence you will be reading the book with your mind targeted towards finding solutions considering this intention. In my opinion the perfect place to writer your intention down is the first page of the book.
4. Scanning the table of contents for what’s relevant.
This is just to get a quick overview and to determine which chapters will be most relevant to you. How you go about it once you determined relevant chapters depends on what you like best: You can either read the whole book and just focus harder once you reach a very relevant chapter, or you can only read the relevant chapters and skip the rest of the book.
5. Start Reading.
If a section doesn’t seem useful to you, you don’t have to read it. Should you realize that the book as a whole isn’t going to be useful to you, I encourage you to just put it aside instead of wasting your time on it.
6. Marking what is useful.
7. Creating an index for important contents.
You can create this index on one of the front pages. Add an incisive headline and the according page number so it will be easier for you to find the passage again later.
8. Phrasing an answer related to your intention.
Once you found the solution or answer to your intended question, put it into writing beneath your written-out intention on one of the front pages.
9. Put it into practice.
It’s obvious, it’s simple but it is not easy. Nonetheless, if you skip this step, you might not have read the book in the first place.
10. Let’s do it again.
You don’t stop once you found the solution and put it into practice. Now it is time to reset and start of again with step one. This way you will improve your life one challenge, one intention and one book at a time.