mnmlist: the dangers of reading

One of the biggest reasons I depart from my minimalist philosophy is reading.

Specifically, reading about what others are doing.

I read a blog post, or a magazine article, about someone doing something interesting: traveling, using a new productivity system, doing a new kind of workout, brewing artisinal coffee, making bread. And then I want to do that too.

And I think we all do this. We all read inspirational things, or hear about them from a friend, and fantasize about ourselves doing the same thing.

This is often a good thing — inspiration is good, right? Learning from others is definitely good. But this inspiration can often cause me to forget about what I’ve learned, and soon I’m heading down a new path, buying a lot of things to support my new pursuit … only to abandon this pursuit when I’ve read something else.

This has happened to me dozens of times. I want to learn Spanish, programming, breadmaking, pizzamaking, teamaking, hiking, Crossfit, ultrarunning, drawing, fiction writing, guitar, history, films, great novels, and more.

Individually, each of these is wonderful. But when I get obsessed with the next new thing to learn about, the other things suffer. I can’t learn about them all at once. Such distraction pulls away my focus, keeps me from doing well at any one thing.

What’s the antidote? Focus. Sticking to something long enough to really learn it. Remembering your priorities. Not getting distracted by every new thing you read.

The answer isn’t to stop reading, but to be more mindful of your impulses when you do read.