I’m a sucker for self help books. I admit it. Mostly because I don’t think anyone can read just one and magically fix their life. I think personal growth is something we work on our whole lives, and reading books with new ideas, processes, or tools are helpful reminders to focus our time and energy where we most want to.
So if you’re a self help junkie like myself, or you know someone who is, here are the latest ones I’ve read and recommend.
Self Help Books Worth Buzzing About
Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day
By Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
I checked this book out from the library and admittedly did not pick it up until it was almost due, and there were holds on it, so I couldn’t renew it. The irony of the fact I had to speed read a book about making time is not lost on me.
Still, this book was a great read with easily digestible sections intermixed with drawings and chart examples. The authors come from technology backgrounds at Google and YouTube. While they both enjoy and appreciate technology, they recognized that it was stealing much of their time away from family and other life goals. They offered practical ways to cut back on screen time and refocus your energy.
What I learned: By implementing some of their tactics, I reduced my mindless scrolling on my phone and how I use my social media by 40%. As someone who earned her nickname of “Wi-fi” from her spouse, I know my husband was impressed with this change.
Recommended for: people looking to reduce or better manage screen time in their lives, tech gurus, business minds
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness
By Paula Poundstone
More of an experimental memoir than a self help book, Poundstone’s book chronicles her attempts at getting fit, organized, and learning new skills. Bonus selling point: while listening to the audiobook in the breakroom, one of our library volunteers listened in while washing some toys and both of us were laughing out loud.
Candid about her moderate celebrity status, Poundstone shares real troubles and issues that are identifiable to many. Her self deprecating humor is laugh out loud at moments, and poignant at others.
What I learned: Have a sense of humor about self help. Poundstone takes both martial arts and dance classes and sees strengths and weaknesses in her abilities with both, but that doesn’t prevent her from finding happiness in the trying.
Recommended for: humor fans, humor writers, parents, anyone looking for some motivation and courage to try new experiences/skills
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg
This book was one of my favorite reads of the year, and I probably annoyed a lot of people talking about it. Ha!
With examples covering everything from employee culture to drastic lifestyle changes, tragic accidents to court cases, Duhigg explains how habits play a key role in our lives. The book doesn’t view habits as good or bad, but they can certainly play to our successes or vices. And when you understand how habits work, you have more awareness of how to change them.
What I learned: Many of the examples shared were jaw dropping upon breakdown, especially how habits play a role in our marketing culture. Being aware of that, I felt I had more mindfulness around spending habits and company culture. I also understood what elements I needed to play if I wanted to change habits, and I reduced my fast food intake and diet using them.
Recommended for: goal setters, knowledge seekers, marketers, business minds, managers, those in customer service, teachers, coaches, mentors
An older read, but still very relevant. Tracy’s book emphasizes starting your day with the tasks that are the largest or most productive, the “frogs”. Many of us fall into productivity traps like checking emails, and we don’t get around to the larger projects we need to address in a timely fashion. Tackling the most crucial to do’s first ensure increased productivity and fulfillment.
What I learned: Eat That Frog is a short read and includes enough tips and tricks to help you re-channel your focus to make it worthwhile. While the tips didn’t seem new or unexpected, I found it to be a good reminder for anyone with procrastination problems, like myself.
Recommended for: procrastinators, office workers, writers, business minds, anyone interested in productivity boosters
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
By Eckhart Tolle
If you’ve wondered what “living in the now” means, this book explains that. Broken into definitions, explanations, examples, and questions and answers, Tolle illustrates the power of the mind to live in the present. He discusses aspects of ego, listening, subconscious, and more.
What I learned: I’ll be honest, I struggled with this read. There were parts that made me think and I did some journaling around this topic. However, this book is not for everyone, and I admittedly wandered while listening because some of the ideas are very intellectual and I am not well practiced in “the now.” But don’t let me stop you, give it a try.
Recommended for: spiritual seekers, meditation lovers, those with an interest in self awareness
With chapters broken up by the lies Hollis told herself, she goes on to portray how she challenged her own negative thinking and moved past it. Women will find Hollis’ book very identifiable as we all battle “trying to have it all.”
Hollis keeps it real, though. She does not pretend to have all the answers or have everything figured out. She advocates for therapy, faith, and family/friend support that keep her on the right track, and admits she’s still working on things. Written like a great coffee chat with your girlfriend, Hollis is honest, open, and at times very funny.
What I learned: We all spend more time in our own heads than in anyone else’s, so why not make that a pleasant place to be and stop beating yourself up. Get help where you need it, and take control back to follow your dreams.
Recommended for: entrepreneurs, parents, couples, self help book junkies, lifestyle readers, feminists
Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life
By Gary John Bishop
Here’s the self help book for people who think they don’t like self help books. With no nonsense callouts, and a dash of humor too, Bishop provides the steps you need to take to, well, unfuck yourself.
Bishop points out the realistic fact that we’re all going to die someday, and you don’t want to get there and discover you have regrets about things you had the power to change. Offering tips to help you through the mental homework, this book asks you to consider both what you’re willing and what you’re unwilling (which can be just as important) to do.
What I learned: This book focuses on the stories we tell ourselves, so part of Bishop’s plan is for us to understand where our own stories come from. By knowing why we think the way do, we can prepare for the struggles that we’ll face in trying to change it, making that change more lasting.
Recommend for: anyone, but especially those facing transitions in their lives
Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment
By August McLaughlin
Combining personal tribulations with a wealth of science to back it up, McLaughlin has created a guide for every woman. Finally, a no shame space for discussing sexual health that advocates whatever path works for you.
From the basic to the advanced, this book is written as if you’re talking with your girlfriends, but full of medically accurate information and body positive / sex positive language.
What I learned: Many women are raised to feel shame about their bodies and their sexuality. McLaughlin’s book is a welcome and much needed addition to the bookshelf. And as a former reproductive health advocate, I wish I’d had this book to refer to students and share with the women I encountered in classes.
Recommended for: all persons who identify as female, people with questions about their sexuality, fans of body positivity/sex positivity, feminists, those who work in healthcare/teach sex ed
Own Your Glow is a beautiful combination of storytelling, self help guidance, journal prompts, and practices. Song lists and inspiring quotes are also sprinkled in.
Whether it’s overcoming hardships, dealing with change, or finding the courage to pursue your dreams, Thomas writes to the reader as if she’s a personal coach and mentor for each.
What I learned: I loved Thomas’ journal prompts to ponder the lessons more fully. The book is full of self love and self care practices. It is a total confidence boosting read.
Recommended for: women in need of a pep talk, journal writers, mothers, entrepreneurs
Those are the self help books I’ve read so far this year.
What titles are on your must read list?
There’s been a surge of posts against millenials. If your social media feed looking anything like mine, you saw this woman dissing millenials shared by multiple people. It’s fine. We’re used to it. Heck, we’ve been the butt of people’s jokes or blamed for all the world’s problems since the early 2000’s. We’re entitled, yet we’re broke. We’re budding entrepreneurs, yet we have no work ethic. We are paving the way of technology, yet we don’t know how to cope without our phones. We are the future, but we’re terrible people.
And you wonder why our generation has such high anxiety.
Well, I have something to say about that.
GET OFF OUR BACKS!!
I am a part of the generation defined as millenial. And you know what, I work damn hard. Since college I have worked anywhere from 1-3 jobs at a time so that I could pay all my own bills. And I know a lot of other millenials who are busting ass too. Sure there are some that give our generation a bad rap. But I’ve also met, even managed, my share of busy-body boomers and let me just say, you’re not a peach to be around all the time either.
So to my fellow millenials who are trying to pave their own path in a pessimistic world, let me share with you what I’ve learned coming down the pike so that you can know in your very gut that you are seen, you are worth listening to, and you will survive all the crap people say about you on the internet. And most importantly, I believe in you.
Truth: Life is messy.
No matter how old you are, that’s a fact. We’re led to believe that as we age, we get wiser. We expect that things won’t be as difficult to figure out in adulthood– that we’ll be more confident in our abilities, that we’ll learn to love our bodies and wish we hadn’t shamed them so much when we were young. And while all that is true, we absolutely gain perspective and experience, life can still be just as confusing as it was before.
Life is messy, even as an adult.
We all deal with setbacks in our lives. Didn’t get in the program you wanted to, didn’t win the contest, didn’t get the job, didn’t get the boy/girl. We don’t know when these hardships will hit us. We don’t know how we’ll respond. We just have to do our best and hope we come out stronger.
When we are in the midst of a dilemma, it feels all consuming. We lose sleep worrying about the what if’s, we stress eat all the chocolate in the house. But once we’re past the unknowing stage of things, it turns into the Lord Voldemort of life lines – “that period that shall not be named.”
I, like so many millenials, believed that by the time I turned 30, I’d “have it all figured out.” That is just not the case.
But what I have learned is that’s completely ok.
So don’t let the negative things they say about our generation dictate your life. You are the main character in your own story.
Remember You Can Always Start Over
One of the most positive things to come out of the millenial generation is our abundant optimism. My parents’ generation was hard set in the belief that you worked for one place until retirement and that was that. For millenials, that’s just not the case. We are the generation that exemplifies multiple careers and life experience. We change our jobs, we take time off to travel and we work from home as needed. We are paving a new kind of entrepreneurship and that’s fucking exciting.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
That expectation to “have it all figured out” is the greatest barrier to actually doing so. Who cares if the girl next to you makes life look easier? You never know what others are dealing with when they leave the office. You never know what the story of a relationship is except the one you’re in. So don’t spend your time imagining impossible scenarios around you that make you feel less than. Be hardcore. Be your best self.
Never Stop Learning
Think about your favorite teachers and mentors you had in school. What made them inspiring, trustworthy and encouraging? I bet one of their skillsets was listening to you and treating you as someone with valuable ideas and talents. Reflect that back into the world. Never stop learning from those around you, whether it’s an older coworker who’s been in the business longer or your five your old niece who colors outside the lines. Being open to the things others can teach you, will help you be a better listener, learner, and teacher too.
Live in the Moment
It’s far too easy to beat yourself up over age timelines. You know you’ve made them. “By the time I’m 30, I will…” It’s great to set goals, you should do that. But don’t forget to live in the moment. Your goals need to be realistic and manageable. Wanting to be a famous singer by the time you’re 25 isn’t going to happen if you’re going to school, practicing intermittently, and too scared to sing on stage. You’ve got to do the work now that will pay off later. The good part? That means making mistakes. Yes, make them! Try new things, push yourself, and learn to strengthen your skills.
Take Stock of Your Successes
I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at accepting compliments on my work. I want them, sure, but I’m also my own worst critic and quick to downgrade the successes I’ve had. One of the best things I ever did when I first started blogging was to write down three things I had learned or accomplished each day. It was too easy to focus on what others were achieving and pressuring myself that I wasn’t good enough. By recording my learning moments and accomplishments along the way, I changed my focus to how much I was growing and that I was headed in the right direction, even if I wasn’t getting there as fast as I wanted to. I was still making progress, still moving forward. Don’t be your worst critic, be your best advocate.
Life is and always will be messy.
The good news is we have the power to shape our perspective on it. We don’t get to choose when setbacks come or how they’ll hit us. We don’t get to choose what society says about our generation. But we have a choice in how we respond. And with any luck, and a lot of time, all the junk we go through will just be “that period that shall not be named” and we will be bigger badasses for it.
Hey Millenials! You’re awesome!
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — The Declaration of Independence.
You know, our Forefathers really had this whole foreshadowing of the future thing going on. They knew, even back in 1776, that people weren’t going to be born happy, all they could do was pursue it. Kind of makes you wish you could go back in time and clock John Hancock on the head, doesn’t it? Old mousey wigged, know-it-all!
The constant quest for finding happiness gives me this image in my mind.
I’s going to get you!
Achieving happiness isn’t the same as a math equation, although I’d be equally in trouble if that WERE the case. You can’t say that just because someone Earned a Degree + Married + Had 2.5 kids = Happiness. The standards and desires of each person are different. But still, we try to make it formulated! We read articles, we join clubs, we go on juice diets, we hang out in a certain crowd, we buy skinny jeans and then don’t wear them.
Here’s a list of things I’ve done in hopes it would bring me happiness:
1. Bought and wore on the same day matching clothes as my best friends.
- Admit it, some of you have done this too! It was the absolute hype of middle school trends in my day. And I have photos where we’re all sporting the same corduroy overalls, “bibs” to the hip crowd. And I believe there was another incident with matching chartreuse turtlenecks. Yah, those photos aren’t going online.
2. Dated some boy I didn’t like.
- I’m sorry but he was an absolute turd of a human being who chewed way too much gum, and then had our mutual friend in band call me to tell me he was maybe-sorta-thinking about breaking up with me.
3. Played Truth or Dare at any age.
- First off, why did someone invent a game where the ultimate goal is to dig up dirt on your friends? And second, who in their right mind ever selects ‘dare’? This stupid game has made me give my pocket money to strangers, steal plates from Pizza Hut, drink water from the toilet, and quote lines from Young Frankenstein while dancing in a leaf pile on campus at some ungodly hour of the night??? And now, I sit back and eagerly await the search engine terms that will link to my blog.
4. Spontaneous sex.
- Oh sure, it starts out all romantic, you’re sneaking onto the rooftop of an abandoned factory, looking out over the city lights and traffic below. You start kissing, the kissing leads to clothes coming off, and what’s that…the rooftop is made of fiberglass?!
5. Join an intramural sports team.
- It’s supposed to be fun, that’s what the people told me who got me to sign up for intramural badminton. Back to back games with international Asian students kicking our a$$es! And then, my partner sprained her ankle and I got tendonitis. For reals.
But then are things that really do bring me happiness!
Despite the pitfalls of fashion trends and a dieting faux pas, there are tried and true things that bring us joy. I started up this blog to test them. Some of my particular favorites are:
1. Movie marathons
- Having been a video store clerk for 5 years, there were times where I wouldn’t go a day without watching at least one movie! Reuniting with favorite characters and quoting lines from your favorite flicks is a comfort thing for me. I love vegging out and having theme movie marathons.
2. Giving and receiving surprises from your friends.
- You can’t beat girlfriends. There’s just nothing like them. It makes my day when a friend surprises me with homemade spring rolls on my porch after a long day at work. And I felt good surprising a friend who was injured after a bike fall with an accessory box – all the fixings to get dolled up and still wear pants, plus a ticket to the new Sex and the City movie!
3. Visiting the library.
- I am a library groupie. I love the library. I rent all my movies and books from here and visit at least once a week. It’s a place to relax, browse new titles, stock up on as much as you want, and chill in a variety of sitting areas and furniture!
4. Simple dinners at home.
- You know what my favorite kind of date night it? Cheese, crackers, and wine at home. I love laid back, romantics evenings. Cooking at home or grilling out, making a meal together is fun. Put on Pandora and enjoy each others’ company. A favorite recommendation: making southwest food and listening to zydeco music, then eating alfresco on the patio.
5. Going for a walk.
- It’s not rocket science, it’s fresh air. Taking a walk is good for you. I’m lucky to live in an area where there’s a marsh and bluffs to walk or hike in. I think nature reminds us to slow down. To literally STOP and smell the roses.
Your turn! What are the things you’ve tried in the pursuit of happiness? And what things have you found that truly bring it? Got a happiness tip for me to try? Share it!