Slowly Comprehending

I have a bad habit of rushing through books really quickly. On the surface, it might appear to be an advantage to be able to read quickly, until I admit that I’m not able to retain much of what I read because I go too fast.

Despite the fact that I know I have to slow down, putting it into practice has been a big challenge. When reading a book that I want to learn from (like Daring Greatly, The Four Loves, or For the Love, for instance), I have to force myself to read each and every sentence slower than my natural pace and underline things that strike me as particularly meaningful in order to try to absorb more of the material before moving on.

In a similar vein, I can rush through life without pausing to absorb what I’m learning or pay attention to what I’m doing. I can get caught up in the day-to-day routine of working out, scheduled quiet times, work, making dinner, running errands, and going to bed only to wake up to do it all over again. It’s all too easy to look back and not know what I’ve been doing with my time and my life as a whole.

In the midst of trying to slow down to absorb lessons I’m reading, I’m also having to exercise greater self-control and careful selection of what I read and when. I can’t keep storylines straight if I read more than one novel at a time, unless the settings, characters, time periods, and plot are vastly different. I also can’t focus as well on gleaning knowledge from nonfiction if I’m reading more than one book at a time. I like having both a fiction book and nonfiction book on my proverbial nightstand (it’s more likely that one or both are actually ebooks) so I can pick and choose based on my mood. I think having a regular stream of both keeps me balanced. I can read for the pure enjoyment of it, and I can read to learn and be challenged.

As I am intentional about choosing what types of books I read when and limiting the number of books that I read at once, I ought to be just as careful about choosing what to invest my life in. If I try to do too many things at once, none of them get the proper attention and energy needed to be done well, and everything suffers as a result.

I need a variety of pursuits, both those of pleasure and those of learning, to be a well-rounded person. These require different approaches, which has opened my eyes a bit to the realization that different types of situations in life also demand different types of responses from me, and learning to balance both in the right quantities at the right time is key. Too many tasks (or books) on my plate will overwhelm me and take away my enjoyment of any of them.

When reading novels, I still breeze through them at a pretty quick clip, but I’m less concerned about that habit. I’ve discovered that it ultimately comes down to my motivation for picking a book up– do I want to learn something, glean some truth, change some habits, be enlightened? Or do I simply want to be entertained by a good story? If I find myself craving the latter, I don’t worry too much if I finish a book quickly. In fact, I see it as a sign of a well-written novel if I have a difficult time putting it down and finish it in a short time span.

Setting limits in my reading habits has made me realize that I should probably be better at setting limits in other areas of my life as well. Without them, I’m likely to just rush through life, much like I would rush through a book. And in the case of both life and books, there is significantly more enjoyment found when I slow down and enjoy every step of the journey.

And as I get better at slowing down to read and absorb what I’m reading, I’m intentionally making time for rest. Hurried reading isn’t restful, but pondering and taking time to properly digest what I’m reading actually requires me to set aside time to just relax and read. I hope you, too, can cultivate the ability of slowing down in life (and maybe in your reading, if you’re like me) to truly enjoy the journey.

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