The power of books – how fiction becomes reality.

Looking for some inspiration to help you along the path to achieving your goals? Then look no further than between the covers of your favourite book. I have always known that being  an avid reader had a big impact on transforming my life and healing my past and many people such as Oprah believe the same. Books can literally create magic and here’s how.

A new study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University shows that when we identify with fictional characters we subconsciously adopt their behaviours, thoughts, feelings and emotional responses in a phenomenon they call ‘experience taking’. According to the study which was recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: ‘When you “lose yourself” inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character.’

This can be good or bad news depending on what kind of books you read! It also means you can make a conscious choice to choose a book with a character which might help you in your current situation!

Interestingly enough, the researchers found that same kind of emotional identification and experience taking didn’t happen when watching characters in a film. It appears that the first person narratives in books provide us with that all-important window into the characters soul – we share in their emotional response and if they encounter set-backs on their path, these can provide us with insights on how to deal with them should we encounter similar ones. There’s also the knowledge that if these did not deter our protagonist, they won’t stop us from achieving our goal either. – reaching our goal usually requires us to think and act in a way differently than we have in the past. As Albert Einstein so aptly put it: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’

There’s no doubt that choosing a role model can assist us in making the changes we may need to do in order to attract what we want. We choose someone who has achieved what we want to do and then imagine how they must think and act differently to us in order to have attained this goal and then model our behaviour on theirs. This can often work very well but there can be disadvantages. For one thing – you may know of someone who has achieved what you want to – but you may not like or approve of their methods for getting it. You may choose a role model only to find they are not what they appear to be when they topple from their pedestal (a risk when we choose a celebrity as a role model), or else you cannot think of anyone who really inspires you that you want to model yourself on!

Books give us more freedom as we can create the outer edges of the charachter. It doesn’t matter what genre you enjoy reading. And your literary ‘Goal Model’ doesn’t necessarily have to be on the exact same path as you are. You might identify with a character because they have certain qualities you feel you need to adopt in order to reach your goal – self confidence, for example. Or they may have to overcome certain limitations – physical, financial, emotional – that you can identify with. You can then literally step into their shoes and in doing so their lives, their responses, the results they achieve – become yours. I would hazard a guess that books also create faster neural pathways which help dig into our charachter the qualities we seek .

We all know that by changing our behaviour and thoughts, we change our world.   Just like the saying ‘you are what you eat’ it seems we are also what we read!