My wife runs a book club. For the past five years on the first Friday of the month she and her friends meet at a local restaurant during dinner time to discuss a book. She always comes home from book club energized by the kid-free time discussing interesting books.
Whenever my wife meets a lady for the first time she’ll ask the question “Do you read fiction?” I’ve seen her do it many times. The question evokes one of two responses. The first response is an emphatic “Yes!” followed by the person listing out the current and recent books she’s read. The second response is a sheepish “No” followed by an excuse.
Lies we tell about our time
Often the excuse that follows the answer is the phrase “I don’t have time to read books.” (Sometimes the person will say “I don’t like to read” but that’s an issue for another blog post.) When I hear someone say they don’t have time to read I exhale slowly, my eyelids close and my head sways side to side. I react this way because that person just told a lie.
The truth is that most people I come into contact with live in the most technologically advanced age the world has ever seen and “discretionary time” is at an all-time high. Yes, even parents of young children have more time than you think! Here are some great suggestions for carving out time to read. Just about everything you could ever need is a simple food delivery or Amazon Prime transaction away. Once basic life sustaining needs are taken care of the rest of the time in your day becomes discretionary time that we get to call the shots on.
For the past several years my wife has read 30-40 books in a calendar year. Several of those books had several hundred pages. That’s a lot! My nieces tear through 10-20 books per year. I’ll read between 6 and 15 books per year. Consider that 23% of Americans didn’t read one book in the past year (Really? REALLY???)
Is there some secret that me, my wife and nieces know that other people don’t. No, there’s not a secret, but there’s a truth to learn by changing the wording of the answer to the question “Do you read fiction?”
The truth about your time
Time’s a funny resource because unlike money there is no inequality. Everyone is the same! Replace ‘read fiction’ with ‘exercise’, ‘ride motorcycles’, or ‘travel to other countries’ and in the majority of cases an answer protesting a lack of time is still a lie. The truth is we all have the same amount of time, and we spend our time on things that matter to us.
When my wife and I were paying off all of our debt we worked hard, sold our stuff, and cut back on expenses to achieve a goal that mattered us. Sometimes we would find ourselves saying we felt poor because we couldn’t do something our friends were doing or buy something we wanted. There was a time in our married past where I was a tragically bad web developer and we didn’t have a lot of money. But, later when I was making more money and we were paying of debt things were different. We had money, but we chose to use it to pay off debt. Continuing to say “we don’t have money” was false. And it caused us to feel shame, guilt, and depression. Choosing is different than not having.
I encouraged my wife that instead of saying “We don’t have any money” we should say “We choose not to spend our money on that.” The emotions of the two statements are totally different! Instead of saying “I don’t have time to read” tell the truth and say “I choose not to spend my time reading.” Relaying a choice is empowering and encouraging.
So when you are explaining to yourself or someone else what you spend your time on answer with confidence: “I don’t do X. I choose to spend my time doing Y.” And if you don’t like what you are spending your time on remember that you can change that!