We can all agree reading expands your mind. It adds knowledge and facts. Plus skills, in some cases.
Great writing can even create new perspectives and attitudes you can embrace.
But can it do more than that?
Rather than just building your brain, can it also build your heart?
What an excellent question, my friend.
It certainly can. A great book pulls us in. It makes the hero’s struggle ours. We feel the conflict and crave its resolution.
Sometimes we understand the emotion, other times we don’t.
Either way, it expands what we feel.
What we can relate to emotionally.
Some folk want to improve themselves, but they don’t really know what that means. I get it. It’s a nebulous, abstract concept.
When someone tells you to “be better”, what do you do?
Well, there are many approaches, of course.
And one is exactly this – to explore how other folk process their emotions. To feel what they feel and see the world through their eyes (and hearts).
Because your emotions color how you see things. A sunny day looks bleak when your heart is heavy.
A thunderstorm is spectacular when you’re bursting with optimism.
So understanding how other folk feel about things is a shortcut to how they think about them.
And reading great writing is a shortcut to that.
The trick here is to push the envelope. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Perhaps you’re already a genius at serenity – handling a paperwork storm at the office as if you were drinking a beer by a lake.
In that case, a book dripping with excitement might be what you need to expand your worldview.
If gardening is the most tedious chore imaginable, find a book where the protagonist adores it.
Where it’s their joy, their meditation, their connection to nature.
Look around you and see what emotion you’re missing. That’s easier said than done – after all, you’ve never stepped outside your own mind before. You might think you know what ‘fear’ or ‘love’ is, without every really feeling it.
This can take a lot of introspection.
Pulling back the layers of your self-deception.
Finding the places where you fake it, where you exaggerate, where you’re numb but have learned to pretend otherwise.
(The best way, in my experience, is to catch yourself feeling confused. If someone else’s reaction to something confused you, that might – and I say might – be a place to explore.)
And once you know where the gray bits are in your emotional palette?
Read books and poetry on that topic.
You’ll probably find them tedious at first. Of course – you aren’t resonating with the core theme, after all.
Stick with it though. Eventually you’ll read something and something inside you will shift.
In that moment, your life will suddenly become richer and more enjoyable.