Reading as a Powerful Way to Grow

9 min read

Have you ever wondered why people act and think in certain ways? Why life happens the way it does? How it would be so great to understand more how our interactions with others work and how we can we can improve them?

If you ask yourself this kind of questions, chances are you stumbled across the concept of self-development at some point. If you never heard of this term, then you will definitely find this article useful!

I have always felt that these questions are fascinating, and that the answers could potentially help to live life to the fullest. The human is such a complex and unique system, which can bring so much to our lives when we better understand it. The way we think, the way we process information, or how we handle our emotions are all examples of processes that often happen subconsciously in our minds and can affect us in a thousand ways, both positive and negative. However by being more aware of these mechanisms happening inside of us, we can always strive to learn from every experience and take the best out it.

The other interesting aspect of the human is not only how he feels and think individually, but also how he interacts with other humans. Indeed, everyday (even during these covid times…) we have to communicate with others, maybe at work with colleagues, maybe with someone close to us, or maybe just with the cashier at the supermarket. In each of these interactions, as simple or as unimportant as they may seem, there is always something to learn from them. We often tend to not be aware of small details, we tend to misinterpret what others say, but this can be different! When we learn to communicate effectively with peers to understand how we feel and how they feel, many opportunities are created through this process and it can help both parties grow tremendously.

So if you feel like all of this is important to you too, you are at the right place! 😉 I will share with you how reading books in particular helped me through this never ending journey that personal growth is and how it can help you too.

What self-development can bring to you as a person

Many people will still wonder why should one care about self-development. “Isn’t it a waste of time in the end? Shouldn’t I focus more on my work that is due tomorrow? I don’t see how learning about this can help me get where I want, it all seems so abstract”.

I strongly believe that understanding humans in their almost infinite facets allow to empathize, sympathize, and be happier overall. We all have sets of values which mean a lot to us. It could be that one of your value is respect. Respect others even though they are different from us for example. I am sure you have a set of such values (which you may not be aware of), and you try to live your life by these values. However as humans, we always make mistakes and sometimes fail to be the person we want to be, mainly because we do not understand ourselves and others as much as we would want to. That is when self-development comes into play, as a way to help us grow in such a direction. It has the power to help us first understand what our values are, and how we can live by them and find our purpose.

From my experience, there will always be times when we fail to be who we want to be, and that’s fine. Let me share something that happened to me not so long ago. One of my most fundamental value is “to help others”. By this, I mean taking time for others, talk and listen to people that matter to me, and help them grow in their own life as much as I can. That’s all great, but even with this willingness to be connected to others, I ended up spending more and more time on work and so on my own without sharing much with others. Slowly, I became more and more selfish without even realizing it. I failed to understand people around me even though I thought I did, I distanced myself from them and was not the person who I wanted to be. But thankfully, life always finds ways to show it to us, and sometimes through painful moments we finally understand we became different and that changes must occur, that self-development has to take place once more. In my case, through this tough times, I was and still am given the opportunity to learn and grow from it. So whatever you may be living, I assure you there is a positive side to it.

In life, there are basically two ways we learn: either through our own experience or through the experience of other individuals. Usually, we tend to better remember things that happen to us, but we can also be really receptive to ideas of other people, and we can learn just as much from what they lived.

There are many ways one can learn from others. By exchanging with peers, watching a video, hearing a podcast and much more. Today, I want to talk about one way that has always had a tremendous impact on my daily life: Reading.

7 books I would recommend to anyone

I want to share with you some books that had a big impact in my life in many ways. They all treat about different kinds of subjects, but I always feel like they complete each other. By reading one of them, you may well understand much better what is meant in another one.

So here is the list, with a short description for each book and a link to where you can buy it.

1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (by Stephen Covey)

You can buy it here.

This book really presents fundamental concepts in personal development. It introduces the reader to seven “habits” which will give you the ability to evolve from being dependent to independent, and from being independent to interdependent.

The 7 habits are:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. First things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize!
  7. Sharpen the saw

The first three allow you to become independent, the next three teach you how to become interdependent, and the final habit shows you how to continuously improve. For more details about each specific habit, I can only advise you to read the book!

You will learn what values are, how to find yours and how to organize your life so that you live by these values.

2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (by Mark Manson)

You can buy it here.

I really enjoyed reading this one. The author goes the opposite way of most books I read, in the sense that it breaks this idea common to self-help books that we should always be positive, … . For the author, life is hard and that’s fine, it does not mean we should be afraid of it, or care too much about everything.

I like the way it is written because it is brutally honest and contains (a lot of) profanities which makes the reading easy, funny, and very interesting.

You will learn how not to care about many things which may be always on your mind. You will learn to not give a f*ck, and start living your life to the fullest!

3. The Lessons of History (by Will and Ariel Durant)

You can buy it here.

With this book, you will go through the history of humanity, viewed under different angles. It explains what lessons we can learn from the past, what lessons humans seem to not want to learn, and much more.

Going through history focusing on geography, wars, biology, race, religion and more, this will give you an interesting overview of the evolution of the human behavior. You will learn in particular that even though behaviors change, the nature of human is the same regardless of time, which can be quite surprising.

4. Inner Engineering (by Sadhguru)

You can buy it here.

This book probably contains much more content which is related to spirituality, and it is thus also really interesting.

The book is intended to be used as a guide to help for personal growth, and goes in such small details of our daily life that are beautiful, but which we may not even sense. For example, it presents how the simple act of eating can be one of the most wonderful experiences. I really liked this part because it really displays how happiness is everywhere around us when we pay attention.

The author also talk about his own life and his spiritual journey, and writes about very inspiring personal experiences he had.

5. Man’s Search for Meaning (by Viktor Frankl)

You can buy it here.

This book is very particular, because the author writes about his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. We discover what horrible things prisoners had to live there, like working barefoot under the snow with almost no food. How can one possibly have faith in life under such circumstances?

Viktor Frankl surprises the reader by showing incredible mental strength through times none of us would have liked to live. He tells how he survived all of it, and how even with such memories he was able to continue his life and grow from it.

You will learn many life lessons by reading this book, such as the fact that no one can ever take your freedom of thought.

6. The Art of Loving (by Erich Fromm)

You can buy it here.

This book and the next one are a bit different, in the sense that they treat the subject of love.

It start from the premise that love is an art, and that as such it can be learned. The first part of the book is about the theory of love, where the author goes in detail about how love really is an activity, and that there are basic elements common to all forms of love, which are: care, responsibility, respect and knowledge. In this part of the book, we also learn about the different types of love (brotherly love, romantic love, motherly/fatherly love and love of God), and how love is perceived in today’s society.

The second part is dedicated to the practice of love, and is much shorter because in the author’s opinion one can practice love only by living it, and there are no tricks or “how to do it yourself”. Love is a personal experience and thus can not be taught. However, one can still learn what concepts to apply to learn any art, and in this case the art of loving. Some of them are discipline, concentration, patience and supreme concern with the mastery of the art.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a completely different perspective about love. You will learn that love is not something that happens out of nowhere, just a feeling, but it is an activity. One has to put conscious effort, one has to be active if he wants to love. This in turn will probably change the way you see your different relationships and how you want them to be.

7. The 5 Love Languages (by Gary Chapman)

You can buy it here.

This book will make you discover the concept of “love languages”, or the ways in which you express and feel love. Everyone has his own primary love language, and the author explains that through the years he found out that 5 such languages seem to represent the different ways people love. The love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

I let you discover what each of these languages is about by reading the book. After that, we are told how important these love languages, in particular how it is important to understand our own primary love language and that of our partner, so that we can be in a relationship which is healthy and where both people are happy because they feel loved.

Many of us express love for our partner in our own love language, but they may not see it as an act of love because their love language might be different. Imagine if your partner feels loved when he/she receives gifts from you but you show your love through physical touch. It just does not work! The book offers many examples of couples at the brink of separation, but who were able to make it by discovering each other again through their love languages.

So by reading it you will learn to get closer to you partner by first learning and then speaking his/her love language.

5 tips to read books most effectively

Be careful about self-development!

Finally, I would like to write a few words about the negative aspects self-development can bring. So far, it seems that self-development is the key to happiness and understanding others, but you should be careful about a few things.

Self-development is something one can easily get lost into. It is easy to feel like you have to improve every single day, otherwise it is a failure. But that’s not true. It takes time to understand new concepts you come across, it takes time to change the way you see life. When personal development becomes an obsession, take a step back and try to see how you ended up here. Chances are you became a little selfish, so try to reconnect with people around you and do the things that really matter to you.

Another big mistake you can make after reading a few books, learning new concepts and applying them successfully to your life, is to think that you know everything. You believe you know how things work and how you can always succeed in every interaction you have. I was there at some point, and trust me this thinking is just plain wrong. This type of knowledge you get through personal development is a never ending journey. Yes you get to discover new things, but it would be foolish to think you know more than this or that person. You may feel like you want to teach people about these things, but remember also that everyone has something to teach you.

There is always something to be learned to understand others more, to do small acts of love to people around you. Take a step back regularly and check if you are really focusing on what matters to you. It is fine to sometimes be lost, but it is not fine to go blindly in a direction because you feel you “should” know which path to follow. Acknowledge your unsureness, take the time to do some soul searching without too much pressure. In the end, taking things one day at a time, living in the present, and doing what makes you and others happy may be the most rewarding things a human can achieve.

Let me know what you think about the article and if you have any comments, that would really help me improve the quality of the articles. What books have you read that changed your life? What are the biggest lessons you learnt from a recent event in your life? I would be really interested to know about it!

The cover photo was taken by Tom Hermans from Unsplash

An Introduction

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