How to Grow Yourself if You’re Not a Reader

Reading has not always been a comfortable activity for me. I’m a slow reader and I get caught up in reading sentences again and again until I get the concept, in an obsessive and compulsive way. So I totally understand when someone says that they don’t enjoy reading. I am not a natural reader, but I’m a natural learner, and reading books is a skill that I developed over time, like any other skill that you can learn.

Initially, I started reading as a kid because my best friend was a voracious reader, and our school put a big emphasis on reading books. I chose to read as I did not want to be left out and wanted to fit in. Now looking back at it, I’m so glad that the habit of reading was instilled in me at such an early age. I still remember vividly some of the first books that I came across: the short versions of Sherlock Holmes, Robinson Crusoe and The Invisible Man. One of my best childhood memories is me having a long, thin book of Peter Pan that had beautiful images and wonderfully crafted storytelling. Books are an important part of my life!

And a few years back when I started reading personal development books on a daily basis, I realized that the pros of reading weighed far more than the cons that we have to face. I talk to a lot of people about reading and the most common excuse they have is that they don’t have enough time to read. I used to be one of those people, but now when I hear that, I smile and say: “We always have time to read, trust me!”

To the uninitiated, if reading for some reason is an uncomfortable activity for you and you simply don’t enjoy it, I want to put out some options through which you can get better at it. In addition, I would like to recommend some alternative options for you that are available out there that can help you immensely in your personal growth journey. We are living in an era of great technological advances, and learning has never been so easy before. Here are my top suggestions:

1. Listen while you read: A couple of years back, I experimented with this and it worked magically for me. When I read, I don’t maintain a continuous pace and cannot progress smoothly. Maybe this is the perfectionism in me, but I tend to read the lines again and again until I understand it fully. Unfortunately, because of this, reading was almost similar to a painful process for me as I always felt drained after a session. One day, I experimented with listening as I read, and I could read in a single flow without any exhaustion and taking any breaks. I finished around 60% of a novel in one single evening and this totally blew my mind. From then onward, I always listen to a book as I read it. I use Kindle and Audible, and usually, if you buy a Kindle, there are many times to you can get an Audible narration for a small additional price. When you read and listen at the same time, you are totally immersed in the material and that helps you achieve a flow state. There are some times when an audio version is not available, and it’s totally fine. If they book is worth reading, you will read it regardless. Another added benefit of listening to audio while reading is that you can amp up the speed at which you listen. For instance, you can listen to a 1.5x speed and that will automatically speed up your reading. Make sure you select a speed that is comfortable for you and so that your comprehension is not compromised.

2. Daily Meditations books: There are certain books out there that have small passages for reading every day. These are enriched with wisdom and can be a great learning resource. If you don’t enjoy reading but still would like to build a discipline of reading a little every day, these are your best bet. Some examples are:

  • Daily Stoic
  • The Language of Letting Go (this is mainly oriented towards people who have addiction and codependency issues, but I think everyone should read this book, it’s a great source of wisdom and knowledge!)
  • Yoga 365

3. Speed reading course: I personally have never taken any speed reading course, but many people have benefited from it. For me, I give a lot of importance to comprehension rather than speed. I observed that when I increased my speed of reading, my natural ability to comprehend was compromised. I prefer to read at my own pace, and I embrace the fact that even if my reading is slow, I know my comprehension is solid. Once I am able to comprehend, I can remember that fact or detail for a very long time, that is how I operate!

4. Listening to audiobooks: If you are someone who is fantasized by the notion of reading but when the thickness of a book intimidates you, then audiobooks are the best options for you. Some of us learn by listening. Previously, I disregarded listening to an audiobook as not a real form of reading. And I disregarded it for a long time. But then there came a time when I had a very long list of books to be read and didn’t know how to read all of them with a busy lifestyle. I experimented with listening to audiobooks available on YouTube and I enjoyed listening to them. Unlike what I thought, I was able to retain a good amount of information. And I could listen to them whenever and wherever I wanted. Mobility is a great asset when we listen to audiobooks. Later, I gave Audible a try and have been hooked to it every since.

I would suggest listening to an audiobook first and if you really enjoy reading it, you can buy either the physical or Kindle version of the book so that you can use it as a reference whenever you like. Also, there are a lot of great resources such as courses, speeches and other information that are available on Audible. You can get a free trial of Audible and if you enjoy it, you can continue with your membership. There are some other options available as well besides Audible that you can explore, but for me, it has worked out the best so far. If your budget does not allow you to buy audiobooks then you can hit your local university or public library. The downside is there may be a long wait for the audiobook of your choice and the book may not be available, but still, it’s a great option.

5. Book summaries: There are some great websites and apps out there that provide summaries of the books. My favorite so far has been the Blinkist app. It is available in both listening and reading formats. They have a yearly membership fee, but if you enjoy learning new things and the non-fiction genre overall, then this would be a great investment for you. In addition, both Kindle and Audible have book summaries of various books that you can invest in.

6. Blogs and subscriptions: These days blogs and subscriptions are a great way to learn on a daily basis. The best examples that come to my mind are Seth Godin’s blog and the DarrenDaily series by Darren Hardy. I recommend these for high-quality wisdom on a daily basis. There are some other great blogs like The Minimalists, The Four Hour Workweek blog, marieforleo.com that add great value through their email newsletters. Tim Ferriss sends out a bunch of great recommendations through his weekly ‘5-Bullet Friday’ emails. Last, but not the least, you are always welcome to read articles on my blog and subscribe if it adds value to your life.

7. TED Talks: There are some talks that have a life-changing impact on me. They are available for free and gives us the opportunity to learn from people who’ve had a wide variety of experiences in their lives. Some of the revelations are eye opening and challenge some deep-seeded beliefs that we have.

8. Online courses: There are tons of websites that offer online courses, that are a great way to consume information. Some of them are free, while some have different levels of memberships and course fees. Some great options are Lynda.com, Coursera and Creative Live.

9. Podcasts: Although podcasts have been for a while, I just got into them recently. I think they are a great way to learn new information that can enrich your life as an alternative to reading. Along with the benefit of having access to the podcast episodes wherever you go, they are much more personal. You can listen to them while doing any kind of activity, and if you like the host(s), after listening to few episodes it almost feels as if you’re building a friendship with them. The interactions are free-flowing, and there are a lot of podcasts that feature great and informative interviews. Some of the questions asked by an audience member may be the same as you are currently asking in your life. Listening to podcasts is a great way to learn and bring positive changes in your life. Some of the podcast shows that I recommend are The Minimalists Podcast, The Chase Jarvis Live Show, Good Life Project, The Creative Penn, Success Talks and The Tim Ferriss Show. I will have more recommendations as time goes.

10. YouTube: This is the best media to learn and it will work great for you if you’re a visual learner. I learned a lot about blogging, using WordPress and other tools through YouTube. You can search for anything and everything there. Also, sometimes the learning process is fun and interactive so that’s a big plus. I can say YouTube has been a big contribution to my learning process. Like podcasts, when you subscribe to a channel that really resonates with you and helps you improve your life, you form a great relationship with them. Also, as you can see the other person, it’s similar to having a personal mentor.

The beauty of YouTube is no matter where a person resides he can teach and learn from wherever he is and seek the best resources that are available globally for free. This makes it one of the best global learning platforms. Like all great things, using YouTube is a double-edged sword and we must be able to control our urges of clicking the videos that are purely for entertainment and get sucked in them. Time is of essence, and it’s our responsibility to use it wisely and YouTube is no exception.

11. Netflix: You may be surprised, but I am not referring to the countless entertainment options that you have on it. There are some amazing documentaries available that you can watch and gain tons of wisdom from. Some examples are: I am not your Guru by Tony Robbins, Minimalism, Forks over Knives, and Food Inc. All the documentaries that I have seen so far have been very educative, and I highly recommend watching them in you’re a visual learner and already have a Netflix membership.

12. Social media: It is not only for sharing your photos, connecting with your friends and planning your events. In fact, if used wisely, it can be a great way to learn. Twitter is a great way to connect with like -minded people. If you’re a visual person, I recommend Instagram and Pinterest. Pinterest has a great feature where you can make boards and keep them secret if you like. It’s a great resource if you want to make digital vision boards, bucket lists or simply gather some important information.

I mainly use Facebook for personal use, but I also use it to become part of the groups that align with my interests. Most of these are closed groups so it’s akin to putting yourself in a giant room with like-minded people, all linked with the same passion or hobby. It’s a great place to exchange ideas share your experiences and thoughts, and get feedback on your work. It’s also a phenomenal place to learn about the new developments and technologies surfacing in the respective field, as well as some effective tools and strategies that you can incorporate into your life and business.

13. Interacting with people: I’m a learner, not an introvert. I enjoy my time with books but I also reserve blocks of time in my day where I can just go out to meet and interact with people. If we pay attention, all conversations are peppered with few nuggets of wisdom. All we have to do is be aware and take note of them. When we talk to other people, we get a better understanding of how life works. We are better equipped because we gather different experiences in our conversations. We can learn a lot from other people and their mistakes. It always pays off to be a better listener. I would not encourage you to believe what someone says blindly, even though you trust that person. As the Russian proverb goes: ‘Trust, but verify!’. You can do your own research but your conversations can be a good starting point.

If you don’t enjoy random conversations and are an introvert, you can people watch instead. We can learn a lot about people through what they wear and the body language they exude. I love people watching, and I encourage you to do so. I like to observe and study behaviors of people I come across (maybe this is something I picked up after reading Sherlock Holmes as a kid). Simply through people watching we can learn a lot about how people think and how they perceive their lives. These may occasionally teach us some valuable lessons if we are observant. In short, I would highly suggest listening to other people, building connections and learning from their mistakes. It’s great for both your personal and professional growth.

In fact, my second blog, Going with the flow, is all about interactions with random people that I meet and some street photography. You can check it out here if it piques your interest: http://www.goingwiththeflow.net

14. Traveling: It is hands down one of the most beautiful and life-changing ways to learn. When we explore a new country or culture, we get out of our comfort zones and learn some valuable things about ourselves. We get to experience things we have never seen before, and we meet people with completely different beliefs than ours. This helps open up our minds and to adapt to situations that we aren’t used to. Traveling is also a great way to build self-confidence and self-reliance. Often we keep ourselves guarded in our own city as we are comfortable and we have all the resources available to us, but when we travel for a short time to another part of our country or the world, we get a chance to break the monotony and embrace something new. We all have fear of the unknown, but traveling can help in banishing it. Contrary to our beliefs, we end up gathering experiences and memories that we cherish for our entire life.

With so many alternatives to reading amongst us, you don’t have any excuse not to grow yourself and focus on improving your life. Now is the best time in our entire human history to grow with so many technologies available to educate ourselves. We are living in a great era for our personal expansion and I sincerely hope you will invest in yourself and make a good use of all the resources that surround us.

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