It's fast approaching Christmas and for those of you looking for a thoughtful gift for someone special, for a friend who may benefit, or even yourself, here are my Top 5 Personal Development Books for 2017. They are all quite different from each other and have all had a meaningful impact in various areas of my life. This brings me to the key thing to remember when reading personal development books - reading these books will not make changes in your life. Let me say that again... simply reading these books will not change anything for you, instead you must also ACT on what you read and learn. You must intentionally practice on a daily basis, the gems you find most meaningful to you, for without action the words in these books will just remain words on a page. “Intent without dedicated action is simply not enough. Action without a clear intent is a waste. It is when these two powerful forces are aligned that the energy of the universe conspires in your favor.” Steve Maraboli.
For me reading serves a number of purposes; it is a great way to unwind and relax, to expand awareness and to learn. All my books are dog eared, underlined and notated and I often keep a journal handy to write down thoughts and ideas I'm having. I actually have a crazy system whereby not only do I underline/highlight on pages but if something is extra meaningful I then turn up the bottom corner of the page!
In each case I will provide a link to the Authors website so you can access more information on the book and the author. I hope you enjoy reading one or all of these as much as I have and begin intentionally applying what you learn!
The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard
The Motivation Manifesto is written as a series of declarations (9 in total) to claim your personal power. "Only two enemies stand in our way: an external enemy, defined as the social oppression of who we are by the mediocre masses, and an internal enemy, a sort of self-oppression caused by our own doubt and fear. The march to Personal Freedom, Burchard argues, can only be won by declaring our intent and independence, stepping into our personal power, and battling through self-doubt and the distractions of the day until full victory is won."
I love the way this book is written and often found myself speaking the declarations out loud. There are profound insights and challenges aplenty that will wake you up, give you a shake and tell you you can and must do better! This is not a book full of practical advice, more a book that will, with openness, expand your awareness and allow you to reset your personal compass. There is a certain power in speaking the declarations out loud, internalizing and acting on them, and for me I was surprised at the level of determination I came away with to truly make powerful changes in my life!
“personal power is directly tied to personal responsibility, which most people avoid.”
Big Magic - Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Life is a process of creation...
As a musician, singer songwriter I'm always curious about the creative process of song writing. Why at times do songs come so easily and at other times it feels like a drought, and whilst this book certainly delves into that, it is about so much more. Whether we want to write a book, make art, follow a dream or passion, find new ways to navigate challenges or simply be more mindful and passionate, Big Magic opens the door to this world and teaches us to embrace and trust the creative process. The central message in this book (at least what I got from it!) is: Accept you need to create, accept that being creative is a part of you and that you are already "creatively legitimate" and just do what you feel compelled to do! Do it with joy - even when it gets difficult - and don’t worry about how it will be received (if it’s received at all). If you are called to be a maker, then you will just have to make. Own who you are, for better or worse. The great thing is this doesn't just apply to "artistic" type people, writers, musicians, actors etc. but to all of us wishing to open our lives up to a more creative way of living - parents, teachers, husbands, wives, partners, bosses, the list goes on - this attitude towards creative living can and does apply to us all. Gilbert believes that the world needs our unique brand of creativity, whatever it is, and that it is our responsibility to "put it out there" and enrich our lives, our families lives, our communities and the world! Go out and get creative I say!
“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*@k a Counter intuitive Approach To Living The Good Life by Mark Manson
Everyone I have spoken to that has read this book has said it was not what they expected, myself included! At it's core it is NOT about not giving a F*@k, but about choosing carefully WHAT to give a F*@k about and thereby freeing ourselves up to be able to live "a good life." Manson says that instead of trying to turn lemons into lemonade, we should learn to stomach lemons better and stop distracting ourselves from life's inevitable disappointments by chasing success, money and possessions or losing ourselves in distractions like TV, food, alcohol, (insert your own distraction here...!). There are only so many things we can give a f*@k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, and while money and fame and success are nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek! Interestingly this book draws of some of the principles of the next book reviewed!
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.
Pain is an inextricable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible, but destructive: attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to give too many fucks about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not give a fuck about the pain, you become unstoppable."
The Confidence Gap - From Fear To Freedom by Dr Russ Harris
Dr Harris offers a surprising solution to low self-confidence, shyness, and insecurity: Rather than trying to "get over" our fears, he says, the secret is to form a new and wiser relationship with them. Paradoxically, it's only when we stop struggling against our fearfulness that we begin to find lasting freedom from it. Confidence, we all wish we had more of it and we all (at times) use it as our excuse to put off or not do what we want or need to to do! To often we miss out on life's opportunities because we lack self confidence. Whether it's asking for a pay rise, asking someone for a date, public speaking/performing or stepping out and embarking on that long held dream, there are situations that we just don't feel equipped to deal with. The backbone of this book is ACT - Acceptance Commitment Therapy, a cutting edge form of cognitive-behavioral therapy definitely worth checking out if you're interested. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) gets it name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. The aim of ACT is to maximize human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life. The solution lies in embracing uncomfortable feelings, and letting them be a guide to helping you become more in tune with living a life that's in line with who you really are. The sweet irony is that when we stop trying to avoid negative feelings, we actually feel better: "When we let go of trying to control our feelings, and instead start acting on our values and engaging fully in whatever we're doing, then pleasant feelings often show up for the ride. We are likely to feel healthier, happier, and calmer." (p. 199). This is a book you will want to have a journal handy for, and get your highlighter ready, it's full of practical tips and tools to put to immediate use!
"fear is like a powerful fuel; once we know how to handle it, we can use it to our advantage; we can harness it's energy to help us get where we want. But while we're looking at fear as something "bad", we'll waste a lot of precious energy trying to avoid or get rid of it."
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
What if the secret to to having the confidence and courage to enrich your life and work is simply knowing how to push yourself? The 5 Second Rule is is written in 5 parts; The 5 second rule, The power of courage, Courage changes your behavior, Courage changes your mind & Courage changes everything, and in these sections you will learn how to become more confident, increase productivity, develop a powerful mindset, feel greater control, conquer anxiety and more, you'll learn what the 5 second rule is and why it works (it is deceptively simple and if put into daily practice, really can work!). As Mel says, it is backed by science, research and personal experience. Mel Robbins explains the simple way of the 5 second rule and shares some stories of people who have applied it and the changes they have experienced. There's no huge motivation in here, the book simply makes you face yourself and and admit that the only person standing in your way is you, not your condition, not your family or society, just you! I enjoyed this book because of it's simple practicality; with a few pages you can begin to implement this tool into your own life with immediate results (pretty good if you ask me!), sometimes the simple things in life are the best!
“Hesitation is the kiss of death. You might hesitate for a just nanosecond, but that’s all it takes. That one small hesitation triggers a mental system that’s designed to stop you. And it happens in less than—you guessed it—five seconds.”
As I said at the beginning of this article, these books will not change anything in your life if you do not ACT with intention on what you learn, but should you choose to take any number of lessons from these books and put them into daily action, you will reap the rewards that are waiting for you. Reading is a great way to learn and expand your awareness, it is a great way to begin to make meaningful, lasting changes in your life and begin a new chapter in your own story! I know you will enjoy these books as much as I have.