I love reading and I think its importance is beyond measure. The impact it has on our inner lives has been proven to benefit us in many positive ways. So, don’t get me wrong with this post — when it comes to reading, I’m a fan.
Leaders are often encouraged to read based on several studies that demonstrate reading can help us in our work. For example, we use our imaginations much more when we are reading versus when we are watching a video. Additionally, we can relate to the characters that we are reading about and learn through their experience. Anyone who has read a well-written book, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, knows that feeling of wanting to keep reading even though you need to get on with your day.
Needless to say, as a leader, reading is extremely important. However, there seems to be a new phenomenon on social media espousing the achievement of reading a certain number of books within a certain timeframe. Many people read 100 books in 2018 and then shared their top 10. I enjoyed reading everyone’s lists.
And while it isn’t my place to judge anyone’s specific goals, I can say confidently that speed-reading 100 books has nothing to do with putting what has been learned through that reading into practice.
There is a key distinction that needs to be made between realizing something and actualizing that thing. Realizing something is the movement of our attention to becoming aware. While reading, perhaps we encounter something that we didn’t know and we have an awareness that we are learning something new. Or maybe we weren’t aware of how we felt about something and now we have a new perspective of ourselves. These are both examples of realizations, and realization has nothing to do with actualizing it in our daily lives.
Actualizing what we realize refers to the way that we integrate that new-found realization into our daily lives. This is the point where “the rubber hits the road.” This requires a different part of ourselves to engage with what we have realized and to be willing to take the risk to apply it.
Yes, it’s a risk. It’s always a risk because realizing something and then applying it means that we are going to step into the unknown. It means we’re trying something new and different with results yet to be seen. Perhaps this is the real reason we aren’t so quick to apply or actualize our realizations. If we’re honest about it, it’s scary.
So by all means, read! I’m a fan. Instead, let it influence you and actualize what is needed. Maybe instead of 100 books it only takes 10, since that seems to be what most people narrow it down to at the end of the year. Maybe the realization is that it doesn’t take reading 100 books after all, but instead applying the realizations found in 10 books, or maybe even less.