We all need a little self-motivation sometimes. There’s a reason why the “self-help” book industry is always booming. None of us are perfect, and we could all use some fine-tuning every now and again. Whether you want to focus on your career or your personal life, there’s probably a book for that. As someone who has read more of them than I can count, the good ones have stuck with me long after I close the cover.
If you need a little boost and want to focus inward, these books are what you really need to read if you want to get your life together.
Small Doses by Amanda Seales
If you’re unfamiliar with comedian Amanda Seales, you’re truly missing out. This book of “potent truths for everyday use” is a collection of essays, axioms, original illustrations and photos that provide Seales’s trademark “self-help from the hip” style of commentary, fueled by ideology formed from her own victories, struggles, research, mistakes, risks and pay-offs. It’s a book that will encourage and empower you.
Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett + Dave Evans
What began as a class at Stanford University, these professors-turned-authors put their creative mind map technique into actionable items for the reader. Designing Your Life is a perfect read if you’re looking to focus more on designing your career, with patterns that could be applicable to one’s personal life. The book teaches you how to think more like a designer with an emphasis on prototyping and iteration. The core mindsets to learn are curiosity, bias to action, reframing, awareness and radical collaboration. It also shares exercises that are helpful in guiding you to figure out how to approach the problems you come across in your life and design the right solutions and attitudes toward them.
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
This isn’t a new book by any means, but its value still holds true today. What if 20 percent of your input resulted in 80 percent of your output? That is, what if you could achieve more and do more with less. We all fall victim to life’s time sucks. In this book, Koch’s central theory goes back to the Pareto principle, which is that most distributions in life follow an 80/20 rule. The natural state of systems and the Earth is one of imbalance. By trying to understand this inequality, as opposed to bemoaning its existence, you can profit more in the workplace and in private life. We highly recommend for anyone struggling with work-life balance.
Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho
We’re all familiar with Coelho’s most famous work, The Alchemist, but most aren’t as familiar with its companion, Warrior of the Light. It’s an inspiring little book filled with big ideas. Comprised of short passages that can be read individually as daily meditations or together in one sitting, this is a spiritual guide for the human journey. It offers simple, yet profound passages of intuitive wisdom for fellow “warriors of the light”: flawed humans, who are motivated on a spiritual life path to find an individual way to live a passionate life through faith, determination, love, compassion, awareness and self-discovery.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
One of Taylor’s all-time favorite books, Big Magic is an honest discussion about the creative process. Gilbert’s no BS attitude helps do away with the unrealistic expectations and unnecessary melodrama attached to the concept of “creative living,” and in its place, she asks all people who feel called to create to quietly and joyfully accept their creative inclinations and ideas as gifts from the universe. She reminds them to approach their creativity with curiosity and openness, with playfulness and joy—even when it’s tough, even when there is no Pulitzer, no bestseller list, no call from the Met. Own that creativity, she encourages. And also stay light with it.
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
You can’t truly get your life together without focusing on your anti-racism. Like Angela Davis says, “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” Ibram X. Kendi is one of the most prolific writers of our generation and his words are powerful, informative and life-changing.
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
There’s a difference between essentialism and minimalism. Is essentialism the key to happiness? It just might be. I think we can all admit we’re stretched too thin. We’re all so enamored with the idea of being busy that we forget to be productive. I think this book can best be summed up in one of my favorite quotes: “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
At some point in our lives, we all experience some form of trauma. It’s unavoidable. In The Body Keeps the Score, the author infuses empirical, innovative research with hands-on clinical experience to explain trauma in a clear, authentic way. He emphasizes on incorporating both biology and social relationships into our understanding of trauma, as awful events affect both the body as well as the actual life of a struggling individual. He clarifies many misconceptions by stressing how many victims of child abuse often go ignored when compared to war veterans, and he argues with much logic that we cannot just use drugs to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses. We must treat the whole person.
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
You knew there would be at least one Brené Brown book on this list, right? She has such a way with communicating to the reader tangible, realistic ways to transform your life. For interpersonal conflict, workplace tension or any number of other pain points in our lives, Rising Strong stresses vulnerability and emotion as being the key to solving those issues. Brown is straightforward about how we fail at this: we act out hurt instead of feeling it. We try to guess what people are thinking or feeling and blame them for it—writing their stories for them—instead of staying in our own lane. She talks about the challenge some people have in asking for connection as part of a healing process. Their tendency is to become closed off and hidden, assuming that means safety. The book also talks about compassion, how reaching out costs us nothing: “Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more.”
Ignite Your Light by Jolene Hart
Jolene Hart’s first book, Eat Pretty, completely changed the way I looked at food and nutrition. Her newest book expands beyond just our nutrition and wellness and explores the entire sense of our being. If you’re looking for a comprehensive book to help you get your life together, look no further. Hart breaks down the 13 key energy influencers in your life and how to focus on each one so you can fully thrive. It even has recipes and self-care rituals to help guide you along the way.
The Little Book of Big Lies by Tina Lifford
In this book, Lifford focuses on the three selves: the surviving self, the thriving self and the infinite self. We learn how we are affected by these three parts of ourselves. The ultimate goal is to leave behind the surviving self, because it serves little-to-no purpose in adulthood. Living from the surviving self is what causes problems like insecurities, anxiety and many other emotional issues. We must graduate from the “surviving self” to the “thriving self.” Tina has created some easy-to-model tools for unpacking the baggage that weighs us down and keeps us playing small. Once the bags are unpacked, new stuff goes in, like self-appreciation and a renewed zest for life.
Radically Happy by Phakchok Rinpoche and Erric Solomon
What happens when a seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneur meets a young, insightful and traditionally educated Tibetan Rinpoche? They write a life-altering book. Through three parts, the authors guide readers through Basic Happiness, Interconnected Happiness and finally Radical Happiness, with each section building on itself to form a complete program. We could all use more happiness, right?
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