At the beginning of this year I set myself a little book challenge. The plan was to read one a week in an effort to continually develop my knowledge, drive some idea generation, and increase my reading speed. The challenge felt reasonable. As if it was well within my grasp. When I started, I shared my intention on social media, knowing this would create a sense of accountability and support me in achieving my goal. Diligently, each week, I went on to share some mini reviews. Nothing significant, just a comment or two and a little image of the book.
All was well for the first couple of months. I enjoyed the experience and I was developing ideas about how I could better support my clients and enhance my business. Yet, over time, the book challenge shifted from an enjoyable pursuit of knowledge to a burden on my time. Rather than simply waking in the morning and reading for an hour or so, I had to put a reminder in my calendar to encourage me. When that failed, I would set myself goals of reading a certain number of pages each day. I refused to go to sleep before I had done this. I would sometimes wake up during the night to find I had fallen asleep while I was reading.
My enjoyment had turned into a chore. Books became repetitive, and I was beginning to believe that very few had new ideas. Instead they were simply repackaging the same concepts.
Yet, I continued for a few more weeks. I listened to my inner speech, in particular my inner critic. There was clear self-judgement suggesting that I couldn’t stop as others would see me as a failure for not completing my challenge. I seemed to be focused on what others thought of me, rather than what was right for me.
This is a bit of a pattern for me. Putting others first, and not standing up for what I want. It seems strange when I reflect on this now. That I had created an experience for myself that led to a perceived judgement from others. Others I had invited in on my terms.
I’m still exploring why I seem to always want to put the needs of others ahead of my own. Some insight suggests that I do this in an effort to avoid hurting them. Even though in many instances, like my book challenge, I’m really not impacting anyone else. It took me a little while to realise that the only person I was hurting on this occasion was myself. That was enough to give me the confidence to take a pause. With the knowledge I’ll return to my books when I feel drawn to them.
The truth is I love reading. I take huge pleasure from learning from the authors and allowing my mind to wander, generating ideas as it does. In fact, I found myself reading more quickly, and taking more pauses to explore concepts beyond the book. The year-long challenge was not completed, but the goals I set were. Maybe that’s why I was struggling so much. I had achieved what I intended and the challenge had become a distraction from what I really needed to focus on.