Reading Changes Your Brain, Motivation is Overvalued, and How Environment Matters More


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 04, 2023

4 min read


Reading Changes Your Brain, Motivation is Overvalued, and How Environment Matters More


Reading has always been regarded as a powerful tool for personal growth and development. It allows us to expand our knowledge, explore new ideas, and gain insights into the human experience. But beyond its intellectual benefits, reading also has a profound impact on our brain. In this article, we will delve into the ways in which reading changes our brain and how motivation, often seen as the driving force behind success, may be overshadowed by the influence of our environment.

Reading Changes Your Brain:

Books have a unique ability to take us on a journey, both intellectually and emotionally. When we read fiction, we immerse ourselves in the lives of characters, experiencing their joys, sorrows, and triumphs. A study has shown that this emotional engagement through reading enhances our ability to empathize with others. It enables us to understand their feelings and beliefs, ultimately making us more compassionate individuals.

Furthermore, reading has been found to improve our cognitive abilities. Through brain imaging, researchers have discovered that reading enhances our visual and verbal processing skills. This means that reading not only stimulates our imagination and creativity but also sharpens our ability to think and communicate effectively.

The Power of Prescribing Books:

Recognizing the therapeutic benefits of reading, the National Health Service has introduced the Reading Well scheme. This initiative allows doctors to prescribe self-help books to patients struggling with depression. By recommending books that address mental health issues, healthcare professionals are harnessing the healing power of literature to support individuals in their journey towards recovery.

Finding Balance in the Digital Age:

In today's digital age, where distractions are abundant and attention spans are dwindling, finding the time and motivation to read can be a challenge. Many of us find ourselves more engrossed in the process of acquiring books than actually reading them. However, setting aside a dedicated time, such as 30 minutes before bed, can be a practical way to establish a reading routine and wind down from the demands of the day.

Motivation is Overvalued:

While motivation is often touted as the key to success, anthropologist and biologist Jared Diamond proposes a different perspective. In his book, "Guns, Germs, and Steel," Diamond highlights the role of the environment in shaping human behavior. He explains how geographical factors, such as the shape of continents, influenced the spread of agriculture over centuries.

Diamond's insights remind us that our personal characteristics and motivations can be overshadowed by the power of our environment. This suggests that rather than solely relying on motivation, we should also pay attention to the external factors that shape our behaviors and habits.

Harnessing the Power of Environment:

Understanding the influence of our environment can help us design our lives in a way that supports our goals and aspirations. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to consider:

  • 1. Automate good decisions: By automating positive habits and routines, we reduce the need for constant motivation. For example, preparing healthy meals in advance or setting up a designated reading space can make it easier to make healthy choices or dive into a book without relying solely on willpower.
  • 2. Get in the flow: Aligning our habits with the natural flow of our daily routines makes it easier to stick to them. For instance, if you enjoy reading in the mornings, incorporate it into your morning routine. By integrating activities seamlessly into our existing patterns, we remove the need for excessive motivation and make it easier to follow through.
  • 3. Subtract the negative influences: Just as our environment can support positive behaviors, it can also hinder our progress. Identify and eliminate or minimize negative influences that impede your goals. This could involve reducing exposure to distractions or surrounding yourself with individuals who share your aspirations.


Reading not only enriches our minds but also changes our brain. It enhances our empathy, creativity, and cognitive abilities. While motivation is often emphasized, the power of our environment should not be overlooked. By understanding and harnessing the influence of our surroundings, we can create an environment that supports our goals and makes it easier to cultivate positive habits. So, let us embrace the power of reading, while also considering the impact of our environment on our journey towards personal growth and success.

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