For the longest time I’ve had great ambitions to read 30, 40, maybe even 50 books in a year. I set the goal, I started some years strong. I created routines and schedules to fit in large reading blocks. Other years I made lists of which books I would read. Other times I would categorize the list. I got more intentional and more strategic each year.

And no matter how hard I tried, I only read the books that mattered the most to me in a particular year. The ones that resonated with me the most or the ones I needed in order to accomplish another goal. Perhaps the ones that served as the teachers for a particular chapter of my life.

On my morning run today I thought about the goal of reading and something occurred to me. Reading is a means to an end. It’s not the real goal, it’s an activity. Have I been pursuing it just for activity’s sake? Would it mean something to have read 50 books even if I didn’t learn much?

What was the reading for?

What was I really after? Learning. I wanted to learn something that would help me. And if learning was the true goal, then was reading the only way to achieve it?

For the longest time I resisted audiobooks because I considered the act of reading as some holier activity. However, last year I started getting into audio books when some of the books I bought offered an upgrade from the author to include the audio file. I added the file to my phone and started listening to the books on my runs. Then I found myself replaying those same books a few times. Each time, I got a little more out of it. If I had been reading the paperback book, I would have never read it 2 or 3 times because I was so focused on quantity over quality. I saw it as a setback to read a book twice. I needed to move on to the next one. Maybe it was because it was a physical item and I could see the next one sitting there that I felt this need to move on. With digital files, it’s like listening to my favorite music, I can listen to it over and over and think nothing of it.

Setting myself up for learning

Last week I finally signed up for an Audible account. I already finished 3 books. First was War of Art by Pressfield. Second was Atomic Habits by James Clear. Third was Turning Pro by Pressfield. I can’t wait to listen to the first two again. They made a big impact on me and I want to feel that again.

So it took me several decades to finally acknowledge and act on what I’ve always known – that I simply wanted to learn. That’s what I have always gotten from the books I read. Now that I am focused on what I really want, I can embrace all of the different ways to learn!

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