How I’m Changing My Life This Year (And How You Can, Too)
By Jonathan Lewis on January 25, 2018
Is there some area of your life you’re dissatisfied with? Some area you’d love to make progress in but you can’t seem to figure out how?
For the past few years, I’ve been dissatisfied with how little reading I’ve done. I believe reading is important for anyone. It exposes us to new ideas and can help us glean much-needed wisdom in critical areas of our lives such as marriage, parenting, finances, and our walk with God. But for busy parents, how can we make time to read?
That was the dilemma I was facing.
I knew I wasn’t reading as much as I should be, but finding time to sit down with a book was challenging to say the least. (A little bit later in this post, I’ll share the faulty mindset that was holding me back, and we’ll see how it can apply to other areas of life besides reading.)
People I respect would claim to read two books every week. “Leaders are readers,” others said. I felt guilty. Ashamed. I wanted to be growing and learning, but every day was filled with the routine tasks of life that squeezed out time with books.
Then, as I was pondering goals for 2018, a thought occurred to me. What if I set a ridiculously small goal of simply reading five pages each day from a book on some topic related to my personal growth? And what if I approached that small goal with a fanatical determination to not let a single day go by without fulfilling it?
At first, that goal seems so small as to be almost pointless. What difference can five pages a day make? But on thinking further, I realized that five pages a day adds up to 1,825 pages during the course of the year. Depending on the books I choose, that will most likely be 6-8 titles. Not bad. And if I could manage to average seven pages instead of just five, that would be worth another few books.
Think about that. I’ll be able to read a couple of books about parenting. About marriage. About prayer or Bible study. By the end of the year I’ll be nearly two thousand pages wiser about important areas of my life.
Will I read as many books as the folks who read two every week? No. But will I read more than most people? Absolutely. And I guarantee it will change my life.
The beauty of this approach is that reading five pages a day would take most people only 3-10 minutes, depending on the book and how fast they can read. Let’s split the difference and say it would take an average person seven minutes to read five pages in an average book. Can you spare seven minutes each day? I’m guessing you probably could.
Before I set this new five-pages-a-day goal for myself, there was a simple—but flawed—mindset holding me back. I felt like I had to be able to carve out substantial blocks of time for reading in order to make it worthwhile. After all, there were things I needed to learn! And to learn, I needed to devour as many books as I could.
The result? I read almost none. Ironic, isn’t it? My desire to read as many books as I could was the very thing preventing me from reading any.
In other words, I was neglecting the power of small gains to accumulate into big wins. I was waiting for everything to be perfect before I got started.
Whether you choose to adopt my new reading habit or not, perhaps there’s some other area of life where you’ve adopted this all-or-nothing mentality.
You want to declutter your home, but there’s no way to tackle it all at once, so you do nothing. (How about committing to throwing out two unneeded items each day?)
You want to have a daily quiet time with God, but because you can’t carve out an hour every morning, days go by with your Bible untouched. (How about setting aside ten minutes as a start?)
You want to lose a few pounds, but because you can’t go for a thirty minute walk every day, you sit at home and never exercise. (How about getting a pedometer and committing to a certain number of steps each day?)
I think we probably all fall prey to this from time to time. We’re waiting for everything to line up perfectly so we can finally do something the “right” way. And until everything lines up, we wait. And wait. And wait.
What if you changed your thinking? What if you abandoned this idea that something has to be perfect to be worthwhile? What if you decided to set a ridiculously small goal as a daily habit to move the needle just a little bit? What if you focused on doing just one small thing each day that would accumulate over time and make a big difference?
The key is to make it a habit. If I read ten pages one day, that doesn’t let me off the hook the next day. The point is to make reading a daily part of my life. If I start making exceptions—even for a “legitimate” reason like exceeding my goal the day before—it won’t become a habit. One exception will lead to another and then everything is off.
So what area of life has been giving you trouble? Where have you succumbed to all-or-nothing thinking? What small, daily goal can you adopt to make a difference?