Let me ask you this. When you walk into a bookstore, where do you head first? The travel section? Poetry? Murder mysteries?
Well, for me, the path is always the same: self-help here I come. While I love a good forensic thriller (I was obsessed with the book version of dr. Temperance Brennan long before Bones became a tv show), nothing can compare to that floating feeling of inspiration I get whenever I’m turning the pages of a personal development book.
I clearly remember reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly for the first time. In between fits of ugly crying, my mind was blown: “How did this woman climb into my head and put down in words exactly what I’m thinking and feeling?”
And that, my friend, is how my love affair with self-help books began.
Without further adieu, let’s get to the 6 personal development-themed books that changed my life. They massively helped me better myself and helped me work on freeing myself from mental barriers and fears.
Let’s do this.
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Brené Brown - Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Brené Brown is my spirit animal. Period. Daring Greatly is the book that set me out on my personal development journey. Reading this book shaped my understanding of what shame really is and how it affected my life in a negative way. There might or might not have been several aha-moments along the way. ;)
Brené is a scientist and teacher and it shows. The concepts in this book are rooted in 10+-years of scientific research. Daring Greatly is the go-to book for anyone who wants to live a more authentic and courageous life. She’s shown me what it means to be truly courageous and that vulnerability really (honest, REALLY) isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s the birthplace for connection and creativity.
Tara Mohr - Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead
You’ve probably heard the term ‘playing big’ thrown around. Tara Mohr coined the term and I love, love, love her definition: “Playing Big is being more loyal to your dreams than your fears.”
Playing Big is a framework for making the journey from playing small - being held back by fear and self-doubt - to playing big, which is taking bold action from the inside out to pursue what you see as your calling. Tara takes a unique approach that blends inner work and practical skills training.
Elizabeth Gilbert - Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Big Magic is a book about creativity and all the things that stand in the way of creative living. I've written before about how perfectionism is a creativity killer. And, luckily for me, Elizabeth agrees.
This book is a must for any creative who wants to learn how to untangle fear, perfectionism, and creativity and let their creativity shine.
Shawn Achor - The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work
This guy is dynamite. Shawn Achor is a funny, charming, wickedly smart writer and speaker. And The Happiness Advantage is not your typical happiness book.
When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, most people assume the same formula: if you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you'll be happy. The problem with this way of thinking? Well, only about a decade of research in the field of positive psychology proving that this formula is backwards.
Shawn describes happiness as “the joy you feel when moving towards your potential”.
These concepts are at the core of The Happiness Advantage:
Your happiness is based on how you process your surroundings. Not what your surroundings actually are. Boom.
The difference between happy people and unhappy people is their level of gratitude. Boom squared.
Choose rational optimism over blind optimism. Rational optimism is what occurs when you’ve got a realistic assessment of the present - instead of just donning rose-colored glasses 24/7 - while still holding the belief that your behavior matters and problems can be fixed. Boom forever.
If you want to read a smart book that challenges the way you think about happiness, this is the one for you.
Greg McKeown - Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Do you often find yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?
If you answered yes to any of these, then taking some time to read Essentialism will help you big time.
This book isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. Greg shows a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so you can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.
In this world, it’s so easy to get caught in the mindset of ‘more, more, more’ when doing less and focusing on the right few things is actually the best path. Now, that's a philosophy I can get behind.
Arianna Huffington - Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder
One day, she woke up in a pool of her own blood. Arianna Huffington's personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye - the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep.
In Thrive, Arianna passionately argues for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world. Because there’s far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the two traditional metrics of success - money and power. Thrive introduces a third metric that includes your well-being, your ability to draw on your intuition and inner wisdom, your sense of wonder, and your capacity for compassion and giving.
If you struggle with burnout and a loss of purpose and connection in your work or life, this is the book for you.
I’ve created a free Tools & Resources guide with all of the resources, books, hacks (and more) I use that help me in my personal development journey.
Want to know which tools I use on a daily basis? Just click the button below to download your copy of the Tools & Resource guide.
Have you read any of these 6 books? How have they helped you?
plus, share any other personal development book that HAD an impact on you that didn't make the list.
Hi there! I’m Wendy, founder of The Gratefulist and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you let go of your perfectionism. Let’s chat about the hard stuff - like dealing with comparison, people pleasing, your inner critic & starting a perfectionist detox - so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.