As someone who is a bit obsessed with getting the best out of herself (and helping others get the best out of themselves too), books are my best friend. I love the minds I get access to and the lightbulb moments that come from someone presenting a thought or idea in a way that changes my life. And there have been many life-changing moment over the past 5-6 years I can tell you!
If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume that you face similar challenges to me when it comes to being your best self. Which is why it gives me great pleasure today to present to you the nine books that have made me a better person. Let me know which ones you’ve read … and if you have any suggestions for me!
How it made me a better person: All my life I’ve been told “You worry too much. Stop worrying so much.” Like it’s a tap I can turn off. Reading Kerri’s book gave me the proper name for that constant nagging feeling that has been with me for as long as I can remember. And having a ‘proper’ name for that feeling gave me the confidence I needed to have conversations with medical professionals that I’d never have had otherwise. (I couldn’t imagine going to a doctor and saying ‘Help me, I worry too much and it’s affecting my life’). With the help of those medical professionals I now know how to manage this thing better. I can’t even begin to describe what a gift that has been to my life (and those close to me).
How it made me a better person: I was rather late to the party with this one! Any number of people had told me I should read it but it wasn’t until a friend actually sent me her copy earlier this year that I did. And wow, I basically highlighted the entire book. As the book’s name suggests, it tackles perfectionism. It showcases the amazing connections that come from allowing yourself to be imperfect and vulnerable. And most importantly, it gave me a blueprint for recognising where and when I need to be kinder to myself.
How it made me a better person: As you can imagine, I’ve read a few self-help books in my time. And I really didn’t think I had much more to learn from the genre. So Matthew’s book (which had been sent to me) sat on my bedside table for months until I’d gotten through a rather large fiction backlog. Now I consider myself a pretty self-motivated and driven person, yet this book lit a fire underneath me. It really firmed up the way I approach the goals I have for myself … but also helped me clarify what’s really important, and ensured that if I was spending time and energy chasing something, it was the right thing.
How it made me a better person: Speaking of clarifying what’s important … I only read this book last month but know I will return to it again and again. It puts into words all the philosophies I have about white space and the importance of knowing what you want from life (philosophies that live in my head, but I find hard to articulate). It shows very clearly that you cannot prioritise things in your life if you don’t actually know what’s important to you. It shows you the value of FOCUS. I read this book and thought to myself ‘how has this book not been written before?!’
How it made me a better person: I read this book around the time when I was at my lowest point ever and it was nothing like I expected. I thought it would be your typically American peppy ‘if you think it, you can do it!’ type stuff (so not sure why I actually bought it!) But bought it I did and I immediately fell in love with the practical and methodical way Gretchen tackled her Happiness Project. I loved how she mixed self-reflection with pragmatism. I loved how honest she was about her own shortcomings. It was so nice to see that happiness doesn’t just ‘happen’ to people. It is actually something we have to work for. I was ready to do the work and Gretchen showed me how.
How it made me a better person: This is one for all the control freaks out there. I like understanding my fellow human beings. If I understand someone’s motivations and why they’re behaving a certain way, it makes me a nicer person because I am better able to control my reactions to their behaviour. Dan’s book, which is really well-written and easy to understand, has helped immeasurably with this.
How it made me a better person: Cheryl Strayed has packed a LOT of living into her life. And that considerable life experience means she is uniquely placed to give people advice about … pretty much anything. Her command of the written word means she is able to do so in an absolutely exquisite way. So this book paralysed me a little because I will never be able to write like her. But it also gave me a better understanding of certain things I will never come across myself … and has opened my mind considerably.
How it made me a better person: I don’t have a lot of time to read long books with relatively small print these days. But I am fascinated by habits (having written about them in Your Best Year Ever) and was keen to learn more. So I settled in to slog through this book and was thrilled to find that I didn’t have to slog at all. This book is a perfect example of how powerful storytelling is when it comes to spreading a message and sharing knowledge. Everything I learned from it, I was able to put into action almost immediately. The section on the link between cravings and habits was hugely fascinating and enlightening and I’ve been able to apply those learnings to just about every area of my life already.
How it made me a better person: If you’re an introvert, and you’ve spent your whole life subtly being told by the world that you’re very uncool and in order to be accepted you need to be more extroverted … then this book will be the same revelation for you that it was for me. I cannot adequately articulate how much it changed the way I looked at myself (but I did try here). If you’re an extrovert and you’re thinking ‘what even?’ … please read this book. It will help you understand your introvert friends so much better. And trust me when I tell you, they’d love you to understand them better.
So there you have it. Nine books that have made me an immeasurably better person. Do you have a similar list?