A Change of Heart…and a New Frame of Mind

I wrote recently about how 2018 was my best reading year ever. I somehow managed to finish 75 books throughout the year, and this was despite the fact that I switched jobs and so lost some formerly valuable reading time during lunch breaks and in the evenings. I don’t think I’ve read 75 books in a year ever, and if I have, it was probably in university when most of the books were selected for me by my professors. At the end of 2018, I was elated and proud with my accomplishment, and looking back at the year and the titles of all the books I read, I was utterly amazed that somehow I still remembered them all.

Staring fondly at a very old book in my happy place, The Morgan Library.

But, what’s that saying again? New year, new you. When January 1st, 2019 rolled around, I immediately set my Goodreads goal to 50 books (just like I did in 2018) with the intention of pushing myself to read 75 books this year again…or more, if possible! For some reason though, my mentality toward reading, and particularly toward the reading challenge, was different as soon as I cracked open my first book of 2019. Although as of this moment I am technically 4 books ahead of schedule with my goal, I have had days where my heart and mind just have not been in my book and I have taken a break from reading on these days. However, that reading challenge is always there in the back of my head, whispering about all the time lost when I’m sitting watching TV or browsing Pinterest, and I found myself feeling guilty and almost anxious about not forcing myself to dig into my book. This seemed totally paradoxical to me because reading is meant to be my escape, not an added source of anxiety. I love reading because it takes me away from the burdens and responsibilities of my real life, and to have it become a symbol of stress was incredibly disappointing and worrisome. I also recognized that on the days I “took off” from reading, I needed to because I was feeling emotional or exhausted, and so slogging through a prescribed number of pages of my novel wouldn’t be healthy or productive. I couldn’t fault myself for taking the break, but I also did feel that number flashing in my mind: 50 books you MUST finish!

I’m sort of an all or nothing person, and I’m very goal-oriented, but today I had this realization that something’s gotta give! It’s one thing to be focused on goals and checking tasks off a To-Do List at work or school, but in every day life, it’s simply unnecessary and, for someone with my Type A tendencies, unhealthy. So, with all that in mind, I made the tough (for me, at least!) decision to reduce my Goodreads goal to…1 book. This basically means that, since I have already read 10 books this year, I have officially achieved by 2019 reading challenge. Now, of course, I still want to read as many books as I can this year…but I want to read because I LOVE IT and AM EXCITED ABOUT IT, not because it is an obligation. I would rather use the Goodreads challenge as a sort of counter, to track the books I’ve finished this year and be able to look back at them, than a concrete goal. And while it went against everything I’m about to reduce the number of books on my challenge, I already feel so much lighter and freer to read at my own pace and to sit down with my book when my heart is eager to.

I know a lot of readers feel the same way I do about reading challenges and how arbitrary they can be, and that has definitely given me an extra push to approach reading differently in the future. Like I said, reading is something I have always adored doing, and I never want that feeling of joy and peace to be taken away by a number or a competition.

Do any of you fellow readers feel this way about reading challenges? What is your approach to them? I’d love to discuss with you and get your feedback on my decision!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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