Become an intentional bookworm and save your life

And, in between discovering the super-powers of reading, do some push ups

Image by Hieu Le — unsplash.com

Reading, writing and arithmetic.

The three R’s: the basics of education. It was believed if you teach people to read, to write and to calculate, they’ll become civilized. They will be able to rise above insignificance, be good workers, become good citizens. If it only was that simple.

Many of us can’t even remember when we started reading, we just “always could.” Most of us probably don’t know anybody (an adult) who can’t read. We take it for granted. But some 775 million adults (one in five) are illiterate (lacking minimum literacy skills), of which 66% are women. September 8, 2016, is International Literacy Day. Being literate is such a basic human right, and being illiterate violates something so elemental. It is within our power to become better informed; only then can we can act, and change those numbers.

What does reading have to do with push ups? Reading does for the brain what push ups do for muscles: sculpts it and makes it more effective. It is also about balance. (If you have objections against doing push ups, go for a walk, a brisk walk. But never neglect doing resistance exercises.) We can add a fourth R: running and resistance exercises. Then we’ll have a perfectly balanced person!

After mastering the ABC and the 3-R’s, we kept going and finished school. We went to college, started working, got married, had children, continued working, paid our taxes and started to save for retirement. We took the children to their different activities, year after year after year and, stopped reading. We stopped doing many things. We stopped living. Life intervened. We once had dreams. We stopped taking care of ourselves, neglecting our bodies, our minds and our souls. We were always taking care of others, and, in the process lost ourselves.

But we can change that.

What does reading have to do with focus and direction? Reading a variety of books brings new perspectives.

The magic of intentional reading:

1. It enables us to remain students for life, and become masters as well. Don’t think being a student, implies you remain an apprentice for ever. To the contrary. Forget about: Jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none. Reading with intention, reading different genres, including nonfiction, empowers and enrich your life. It enables you to master a subject, and take up the next challenge.

2. Become informed, and stay informed. Such as the facts about illiteracy. Reading wider enables you to think deeper, to consider, to act, take steps, become involved, and, make a difference. Knowledge is powerful: Subject knowledge. General knowledge. Become a teacher. Become able to talk about things that matter. Learn about things that matter. It is estimated, if all women completed a primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths worldwide. And if we add to that a secondary education?

3. Develop your sense of curiosity for life. We live in a complex world, its peoples, countries, science, technology, history — everything is fascinating. Discover! One literally discovers new worlds. Remain intrigued. There are such wonderful things to learn and to master. Discover new worlds. Not only fictional, but real as well. Especially the one you’re living in. Experience the wardrobe in “Chronicles of Narnia” moment. You might even meet Mr. Tumnus himself.

4. It is mental stimulation. Exercise for the brain. Sculpt that grey matter. Mold those neurons, improve plasticity — especially as we grow older. Improve your analytical thinking skills. Start reading nonfiction: psychology, philosophy, science, business and history — it broadens your perspective. It is different from when you were in school: now you can do it because you want to, it’s a choice. You’ll also discover it’s enjoyable! You will improve your memory. Practice makes perfect. Do intricate mental challenges. Learn a new language. Practice every day.

5. It improves your focus and concentration. We are so distracted nowadays — our attention span has dwindled to a few seconds. Most of us are joined at the hip to our handhelds. Reading (even for 15 to 30 minutes) forces you to concentrate. It will benefit your performance at work. It will improve your business.

6. Reduce your stress levels. Who of us don’t experience stress? At work (whether you’re the employee or the boss), it doesn’t matter, our days are filled with deadlines, with demands — with stress. Reading makes you escape for a few minutes. You unwind. You focus. You recuperate. It can be compared with a meditation or mindfulness session, depending what you read.

7. You will stop wasting time. You will use your time more effective. Always have your book/reader with you. Invest in an e-Reader or audio books. Stop stressing about line-ups, a delay at the airport or sitting in waiting rooms. Catch up on your leisure and critical reading.

Save yourself from a boring and dull life, with your brain switched off for the most part:

What can be more soul-deadening than the following existence?

· Get up each morning

· Go to work (8–10 hours), where you hang around on Facebook and Twitter every five minutes (think your boss doesn’t know?) and spend the rest of the time answering emails.

· Go to the pub (or ladies bar) after work (drink 2–6 beers or cocktails.)

· Saunter back home and binge-watch TV

· Snack mindlessly

· Drop into bed at midnight

· Repeat every day until you hit Friday

· And hallelujah, on weekends you can do more of the above, without the silly work-part!

OR: you can start by watching ONE show less, be in bed by 10:00 or 10:30 and read for half an hour. And, consume one snack less.

Start with a reading challenge — you will discover untapped possibilities.

Read at least one book in the next month. (Outside your field of practice or occupation.)

Fall in love with reading again!

But keep a balance. It will be almost futile if I have convinced you to replace binge-watching TV with binge-reading! Go outside too. Get fresh air. Go live. Get some regular physical exercise.

One last thing, concerning those push ups. I was serious. Please do the push ups correct — with proper form. Don’t injure yourself. Here’s a short video, which demonstrates this.

What are you waiting for?

We’ve mastered the three R’s and we’ve added a fourth. Now go.

Go grab a book. Go read. Go save your life from shriveling away in mediocrity and insignificance. Become a thirsty student of life again. Discover brave new worlds. Become informed. Awaken your curiosity. Stimulate your brain. Learn to focus again. You will de-stress and will learn to waste less time.

And don’t forget about the push ups!

Originally published on daniebotha.com

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(In next week’s post I will elaborate on intentional reading.)

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