To achieve mastery at something, you should invest 10,000% of yourself into right? That also means reading every next business book, marketing tip, or other non-fiction "how-to" starter guides on how to be better at your career. While I really enjoy these types of books and gain a lot of new wisdom and learnings out of them (Switch is probably my favorite book like this), there is a lot of value to curling up with a good fictional story from time to time.
Reading Fiction Makes You Socially Smarter
The same way a flight simulator helps you learn how to navigate a plane, reading fiction could help you simulate different social situations. Living in certain situations vicariously through characters in a book, you are able to navigate how these personas handle different challenges and situations presented to them throughout stories.
Neuro studies show that when you recognize an emotion in a fictional character, those same emotional neurons in your brain are triggered to mirror those emotions. This mirroring helps you become more empathetic and ultimately more socially intelligent. It helps people be able to connect with something larger than themselves, which helps them connect better with people in social situations.
As career paths lie just as much as how you are able to handle social situations as much as it does what you know, this building of social intelligence is a vital key to success.
Helps You Become a Better Storyteller
Whether you are in marketing pitching a client, a new grad vying to gain full-time employment or just trying to communicate as a leader to your employees, storytelling skills are crucial. I work in a field that completely relies on your ability to tell a story (though most call it "convey a message"). Fictional books thrive on compelling story telling, keeping readers locked in to keep turning the page.
Keeping your audience captive, even if it's just a powerpoint deck that pitching new business, has to have this same level of compelling storytelling. If you lose your audience in the room, there's no way you'll win that business (or the new job or that organic social media growth etc).
Honestly, your brain needs a break once in a while. Fiction, to me anyway, doesn't put my brain under the same type of stress that work does. I remember in college when I took a semester-long class on CS Lewis, reading one book of his a week. If you've ever read anything CS Lewis that isn't a Chronicles of Narnia book, you know how deep and thought provoking his writing can be. Needless to say, one book a week was like a mental bootcamp for me on top of all the other schoolwork.
About halfway through the semester, we got to read a fiction book in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The book took me about two hours to read - and I really enjoyed it. Taking that time to just go on a mental vacation helped me power through the rest of that class with an A. Just like you need rest when exercising or cross-training on a bike or swimming when training to run, you brain needs to switch up. Reading fiction still gives your brain that exercise without burning you out.
What about you? Does reading fiction help you?
What are you reading right now?