New Year’s Resolution
Did you know that one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to “read more”? Obviously, that news thrills the soul of any librarian. It’s exciting to know that so many people recognize the value of reading in their lives.
So what’s the downside? Despite best intentions, most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by February.
Why is that? Lack of time? Certainly many people lead hectic lives. Yet more often than not, self-described “busy” people find time to binge-watch Netflix or scroll through social media. Hey, everyone has their way of recharging their batteries after a long day; no judgment. But it’s worth pointing out that time is not the real obstacle to reading more.
The biggest culprit is habit. Think of your brain’s neural networks as road system. The things you don’t do regularly are uncharted territory. The things you do every day – say, putting on your left sock before the right one – form deep grooves in your brain.
You don’t even have to think about your habits; they just happen. But forming new ones? That takes time and effort. It’s like hacking your way through the jungle, then making a path, then making it wider…you get the idea. Most people give up after the first mile in the jungle with their mental machete. It’s exhausting.
Fortunately, there’s a way to “hack your brain” and make this habit-forming process easier. According to B.J. Fogg, author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, the key is to set the bar for your new habit so low you could trip over it – the equivalent of snapping off a little twig at a time instead of hacking the overgrowth. For a new reading habit, set a goal of picking up a book and opening it – you don’t even have to read. It’s pretty hard to find an excuse not to do that simple task!
Next, stack your new habit next to an existing one. You wouldn’t build a new road in the middle of nowhere; you’d add a road to an existing one. Do the same for your brain. Maybe you have a habit of drinking coffee in the morning. As soon as you pour your coffee in the cup (current habit), pick up your book and open it (new habit). You’re using an existing habit to “trigger” your new one, which makes the transition easier.
Over time, build on your habit. Once you can pick up your book and open it without even thinking, then add in “read one paragraph” or “read for 10 seconds.” Slowly add on one more easy step, then another. Find a book that’s easy to read and interests you. After a few months, you’ll find yourself reading regularly without it feeling like a chore. It’s just what you always do – a habit.
If you’re stumped for a New Year’s resolution, try “read more.” Start slow and easy to form a lifelong habit that is truly pleasurable and positive. Happy New Year!
– Botetourt County Libraries