Internalise lessons from books and improve your life
When I was younger, I only read fiction. I thought non-fiction was boring; if I wanted to learn something, I would rather read an encyclopedia (those were the days before the widespread use of the internet). I used to scoff at self-help books, thinking they would have nothing new to offer me.
I outgrew this arrogance of youth when I graduated and started working. With tentative steps, I ventured into the world of non-fiction with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens — a book I thoroughly enjoyed, thanks to its excellent narrative and the mind-boggling amount of information it contained.
It took me a few more years to turn to self-help, and when I finally did, I started out with Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga’s The Courage to be Disliked. I was sceptical at first, but this book totally changed my perspective.
After that, I read a string of self-help books one after the another, exposing myself to new ideas, continually figuring out new ways I could live my life and change my goals.
I read so much that, after a while, it got overwhelming.
I started losing track of the lessons I had learned, and even though I knew something, I found it challenging to apply it to my life.
A few months back, I decided that enough was enough. If I was reading self-help books, I should also figure out a way to internalise the lessons learned and find a way to actually make my life better by incorporating them into my daily habits.
This article is about all the ways I tried to make sure the lessons I learned from books stayed with me for long enough to become ingrained into my personality. I have organised the lessons in a three-step strategy. You can emulate this to make sure all the lessons you learned from books stay with you for long enough to play an active role in making you a better version of yourself.
Try to Convert a Friend
When you come across a unique concept and can’t wait to see your life move forward in leaps and bounds by its application, pause for a moment and try to convert a friend. Talk to them about what you learned and convince them about why they should apply this.
If your friend agrees, well and good.
If they don’t, that’s even better.
There is a quote by Hafeez Khan that says you cannot convince another person before you are thoroughly convinced about the idea.
“If you struggle to explain what is meant to be easily explained than the explanation won’t make any sense, realize its time for a self-explanation.”
If your friend asks for further explanation, you will get the chance of defending the idea, laying out its pros and cons in front of them to make them see your point. The more you dissect it and go through its intricate details, the more reinforced it would become in your brain.
You can’t argue that something is good without being whole-heartedly swayed by the potential it promises.
When you convince someone else to try it, you are repeating to yourself why the idea should be worked upon over and over again. In a way, you are convincing yourself to strive to make it work even harder.
Visualise a Version of Yourself
There might have been times in your life when you would have been much better off if you had known this idea or quote. Yes, you can’t turn back time, but you can create a mental image of how life would be different if you had this realisation back then.
Flashback to the past
When you come across such a life-altering idea, close your eyes and flashback to a time you had to undergo a great ordeal. Visualise a version of yourself who had this knowledge or skill and applied this to get over whatever adversity they were facing.
Don’t just picture the changes. Picture the whole scenario, no matter how painful it might be.
Think of all the ways you could have fared better if the present you (with your new-found knowledge) could handle the situation. And then, imagine all the ways you could have dealt with the blow without having to go through all the trauma.
Imagine the future
Next, visualise a version of yourself in the future which has already internalised the lessons they learned from the book. According to a post by actor and motivational speaker, Jack Canfield, visualisation can help you manifest your thoughts into reality in several ways, namely-
- It programs your brain to more readily perceive and recognise the resources you will need to act when a similar situation comes up.
- It builds your internal motivation to take the necessary actions to stay on the track you so desire.
- It activates your creative subconscious, which will start generating creative ideas to apply these lessons in your life.
- It activates the law of attraction, thereby drawing into your life the resources and circumstances you will need to keep these lessons you learned in your heart.
When you visualise a version of yourself who is already applying these lessons in their life, you are opening up the possibility for your heart and mind to take in lessons and make them a part of your psyche.
Write It Down
After you are done reading the book, write down your version of the lessons you learned from it. Don’t go back to the pages you highlighted or the annotations you made. If you do that, then the author’s ideas might influence your judgement in some way.
Instead, write from memory.
Write about the most important points you learned and focus on how they made you feel. You can add points about how these new ideas contradict with your already-established thought processes and why you think they will work better with your vision, goals, and expectations from life.
When you lay emphasis on the ways the learnings from a book can change your life, your brain remembers the promised positive impact and tries to emulate it at the next opportunity it gets.
Write, don’t type
There has been a lot of research that shows taking notes by hand allows you to remember the content better than typing out those notes on a phone or computer.
- A study established that taking notes using a pen and a notebook results in a better recall ability than typing.
- Another study on the note-taking process in the classroom showed that the students who take lecture notes by hand generally perform better in tests on those lectures than students who type their notes on a computer.
Store your lessons in one place
Maintain a journal or a notebook where you write all the exciting new ideas you learned from a book. I call this a Motivation Journal. This way, all your learnings are stored in one place, and you can access them at any time you feel demotivated.
There should be no shame in going back to those lessons you learned and stored. After all, as the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar quoted:
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”
The Bottom Line
I understand that I am not the first person to write an article about how to apply the lessons you learned from books to your life, and I am confident I won’t be the last.
However, I have shared my story of how I made sure the lessons from books stayed with me, and I hope they will be helpful to you. Summarising, here is what you can do to apply everything you learned from a book to your life:
- Try to convert a friend. When you argue about the idea and find out ways to defend it, your subconscious will be more inclined to believe it and remember how passionate the idea made you feel.
- Visualise a past version of yourself who would have had little or no sadness to deal with if they had access to this knowledge back then. Then, visualise a future version of yourself who has already internalised these lessons and continues to apply them daily in their life.
- After you finish each book, write down the key insights. Rather than quoting the author ad verbatim, focus on how their words made you feel. Maintain a notebook where you write down key lessons from all the books you read. This way, you would have your personalised Motivation Journal you can keep coming back to each time you feel low.
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