Reading: An Outlet for First Times and Self-Development

It all started with a fever: Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith. The first “big kid” book I ever read. I was in second grade, and so proud of myself for tackling a 90-page book. Chocolate Fever was only the beginning of my reading journey. It was the start of a lifelong enjoyment of the written word. Books were, and continue to be, my escape. Through books, I could step back in time, travel to faraway lands, learn about others’ life experiences, solve mysteries, and engage in space travel.  

Books offer a world of opportunity and possibilities! You can have first times and new experiences through books and stories and work on your personal growth.

Three growth areas accessible through books:

  • Cognitive abilities
  • Open-mindedness
  • Self-awareness

Improving Cognitive Abilities

In the My Journal of First Times and New Experiences Journal, cognitive ability is defined as “a general mental capability involving reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, complex idea comprehension, and learning from experience.”

Textbooks may be the first thing that come to mind when considering growth in cognitive ability, but there’s a wide world of books out there. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What or who do I want to know more about?

These questions can help lead you to subjects that light you up and ignite curiosity.

For example, as an animal lover, I recently read a book detailing encounters of animal species nearing extinction.

Be More Open-Minded

Being open-minded means you’re willing to challenge your own values, experiences, and beliefs in order to better understand the people and world around you. This is personally one of my favorite motivations for reading. Why? Because it opens lifestyles, cultures, ideologies, and even geographies to me.

Rewinding back to my college days, I recall walking into my Cultural Anthropology class. For the first time, I wasn’t assigned a textbook, only…normal books. Instead of learning about cultures through an academic text, we read about other cultures through the eyes of those who live it as well as through the eyes of anthropologists who ingratiated themselves into another culture.

Our tests in this course challenged us to answer questions through the eyes of someone from another culture. At its core, it was a course in empathy and understanding. It was, by far, the most impactful course of my college career. What I learned about others through our assigned readings are still fresh in my memory today.

In times like these where travel isn’t widely possible, reading about other places and cultures enhances our ability to see things in a different way. And you can also tap into different cultures through watching movies, listening to music, exploring their art, and cuisine. Not being able to jump in a plane and go somewhere is no excuse for not exploring different cultures!

Gain More Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the building block of personal development. Books provide ample opportunities to look inward to discover more about yourself on a deeper level. There’s so much out there in the personal development genre that can aid in developing your self-awareness. From personality to habits to emotions, there’s likely a fit for any reader’s interest.

Personally, I’ve gained a wealth of awareness in reading books on introversion and highly-sensitive people. These are two facets of myself that I was able to research and understand in much more depth through books on these subjects.

Discover Your Next Favorite Read

Do any of the options below describe you?

  • Do you gravitate toward a certain genre of book?
  • Is your desire to read waning or does reading feel tedious?
  • Has it been a while since you last picked up a book?

If any of these options describe you, you’re in the right place. Even if they don’t, keep on reading anyway!

The following are tried and true ways I’ve found to be great avenues for choosing your next book:

  1. Your Local Bookstore – Whether in-person or virtually, bookstore owners and employees are a wealth of knowledge. Some shops offer a stand/kiosk with books recommended by employees. With short abstracts on each title, something may appeal to you that had never appeared on your radar before. Alternatively, you can ask for a personal recommendation. Based on your likes and dislikes, they can pluck a title off the shelf that best suits your tastes.
  2. Online Book Review Sites – These sites tend to be a wealth of information on both old and new books alike. Many times, they include a synopsis of a book, along with a rating. There might be a reading list release with top books of the season. With some sites, there’s a social component where you can connect with friends to have insight into what they’re reading, as well as the ability to personally review and rate books you’ve read.
  3. Personal Recommendation – Have any bookworms in your life? Know someone who always has a book (or e-book reader) in their hands? Chances are, they might have some great suggestions based on their own reading experiences. Tap into them for a recommendation!
  4. The Local Library – A trip to the library might be in order! Consider some of the displays highlighting certain authors or genres. Consult with the librarian to uncover “new to you” book options. Does your library have an e-book offering? Check the library’s site or app to see if you can borrow a book you find out about online or through personal recommendations!

Your Turn

How has reading impacted your life and helped in your growth and self-development? What’s your favorite book? What first book impacted your life? Join us in the #365FirstsChallenge Facebook Group and let’s talk about it.

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