A stimulus to read


I enjoy reading, but over the last two years I’ve had to build a habit to do it every morning. Movies, on the other hand, easily engross me. I just sit back and surrender myself to a visual and acoustic treat. Unless it’s a really bad film. Then in an attempt to salvage something from the wasted time, I often use it as fodder for mockery a la “Mystery Science Theatre.”

Books are more demanding, though. But the payoff of stimulating ideas is immeasurably greater with reading than with watching a movie. I suppose that may have something to do with pace. Reading is self-paced. I can be more contemplative, even pausing to take notes, or to learn new words (today’s word was “elegiac“). Movies, on the other hand, proceed at the director’s pace, unless, of course, you slow it down or pause it, which I rarely do.

Yet, despite the payoff, in my free time I’m much more inclined to follow the path of least resistance and play a movie than open a book.

And I don’t think I’m alone. You may have the same challenge.

If so, a suggestion from a client of mine may help. She rewards herself monetarily for each book she reads by using a bill as the bookmark. When the book is finished, the bill is her reward to spend or save however she likes. While she doesn’t care which denomination of tender she uses, you may find a motivational advantage to use a bigger greenback to mark your weightier, more challenging, reads.

Another friend who wanted to improve his reading habit, went the other way. Through the website stickK.com he created a goal to read a certain number of books and pay me, his friend, if he didn’t read them. Unfortunately for me, he did. stickK utilizes the idea of a “commitment contract” to enforce a goal of your choosing. When your contract term is up, if you made a financial pledge, the recipient of that pledge, either an individual or charity, reaps the benefit of your failure. You can even designate an “anti-charity” to be the benefactor of your failure. Anti-charities support causes you detest, giving you a powerful negative incentive to reach your goal.

There are innumerable ways to motivate ourselves to read more often. What have you found to be effective?

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