The Best New Habit I Developed in 2016
We’re rapidly approaching the middle of January, which means that we’re just about at the point where the New Year’s Resolutionists are starting to peter out. I’m not really someone to make New Year’s resolutions, it’s just not really my thing. I have goals, but they’re not set in stone. The one thing that I’m a big believer in (speaking only for myself, that is) is developing better habits. I don’t want to get into it too deep so I’ll just say that when I pay closer attention to my daily/weekly habits, I tend to perform better in all areas of my life. So I made a list of habits that I felt I was being sloppy with and I each day I mark them off (it’s basically the Ben Franklin thing) and at the end of the week, I look at how I did.
From week to week the habits might change or if one of them really feel like it’s there to stay, I replace it with something else. One of the habits I really wanted to work on last year was reading more. When I was a kid, you couldn’t stop me from reading. I was still pretty active and I played baseball and stuff with my friends every day, but I also read a lot, even into high school. I didn’t read as much in college (did anybody?) and after I graduated I still read, but I might only read a half-dozen books a year. Some years, a half-dozen might have been a big number.
As years went by, I still read and some years I did better than others, but I found myself always having something more important to do. Last year, though, I just decided that I didn’t want to keep making reading something I did when I have time. Even if I was only reading a book every month or two, I still identified as a reader and I wanted to feel about reading the way I did when I was a kid.
Naturally, as a guy in his late forties, I decided to start off with something that was right up my alley—the Harry Potter series. I had read the first 3 books years ago while I was still living in Denver, but I never finished the series. I decided that a goal for last year was to read that series. So I did. I actually started the first book just before the new year, but I tore through the first few books by the end of January. Then the next and the next and so on and by June (I took a break from Harry for a while, it didn’t actually take me that long) I had finished the series.
The reason I chose that series is because I remembered the thrill it gave me to read those books back when I was in my thirties or whatever it was. They were just fun books and easy to get lost in and enjoy. I thought that those would be a good books to reignite that passion for reading. And it worked. I just kept reading. I don’t know exactly how many books I read last year, probably somewhere close to 20 (not counting audiobooks, which I listen to while riding my bicycle in the warm months), which is a pretty good number for me.
I’ve graduated from wizard fiction to books a little more my age (I’m currently making my way through John Le Carré’s George Smiley novels). I have a set number of pages I try to read every day (depends on the book, as some books are very dense with text and some aren’t) and I hit that number every day. Most days I read a lot more, some days I fall a little short, but I’m always reading. The only highlight of the nightmare that was election day this year is that I had the foresight to bring a book with me in case there was a wait. For one glorious hour while the republic was going to hell all around me, I was lost in the world spies during the cold war. Which made it both a welcome escape from the news of the day as well as an eerie foreshadowing of things to come.
I feel like the habit is here to stay because now I find myself stealing five minutes here and there to read. When I’m not reading, I’m thinking about the book I’m reading. And when I’m nearing the end of the book, I’m starting to think about what I’ll read next. At 47 years old, there aren’t a lot of things that can truly make you feel like a kid again, but the way I feel about reading now is the same as it was when I was a little kid reading every Hardy Boys book I could get my hands on.
So with this rekindled passion for reading, I’ve allowed myself two reading-related goals for 2017. I want to read at least 24 books this year. Two books a month isn’t a ton, but it’s a lot for me because I get busy with work sometimes and I don’t want to overreach and fall short. Also, I am going to try to read as much of the Sherlock Holmes canon as I can.
An interesting side benefit of reading more is that I’m writing more and I’m reading more, especially here at Medium. After years as a LiveJournal guy (not so much the past few years) I find Medium to be this great cross-section of news, personal stories, fiction and more. There are a lot of really interesting personalities here and I’m exploring a lot more than I used to. I think I used to stick to business-related blogs and kind of ignored the rest. And as far as writing goes, I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with Medium yet, but I am grateful for the opportunity to publish here.
Thanks for reading.