This essay was written by Brandon Monk.
“[H]abit is a great deadener.” – Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
“Every day one should at least hear one little song, read one good poem, see one fine painting and-if at all possible-speak a few sensible words.” Goethe from Dirda, Michael. Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life. New York: Henry Holt, 2006. Kindle. loc 138.
Habit is a harsh word. The habit that makes each day the same is dangerous. Time is disguised in the similitude. The other side to that coin, certain habits open doors. Habits like saving money, regular exercise, and, I would argue, reading, give you access to funds, physical fitness, and powerful ideas that make new adventures possible. Think about it. You can’t take a trip to Italy without the money to get there. You can’t run an adventure race unless you train more days than not. You can’t know a new part of human nature every single day unless you make an effort to expose yourself to new ideas.
I’m not about to re-write the book on habits. There are already great resources out there: (1) 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick; (2) zenhabits. Habitforge.com emails reminders and tracks your progress to keep you accountable as you form new habits. Stickk.com lets you stake money on a particular task and if you fail you get to decide where it goes.
If those sites aren’t your style, why not consider a reading fund. At ingdirect.com you can link your existing bank accounts and automatically transfer amounts each day. When the accounts are linked you could, for example, make a commitment to transfer a dollar a day to a “reading fund” that you can then use to buy books. If you’re buying and reading books you’re forming the reading habit. In the worst case scenario you have a savings fund at the end of the year.
The dictionary definition of habit suggests a focus on the involuntary, nearly automatic, nature of the act. Definition of Habit. Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved on August 29, 2008. Automating the reminder, at the very least, should help. Every time you check your bank account you see the dollar missing and in a real financial way you are told to read.
If you decide, don’t use the money on books throughout the year and instead, at month’s or year’s end, treat yourself to something with the fund. Incentive isn’t cheating, it’s smart.