Needless to say, we are all on unique journeys of self-discovery. Some of us are still figuring out how to squeeze more than 24 hours out of our day to get everything on our to-do list done. Others of us are trying to quell fears and anxieties so we can live a more calm and centered life. And a few of us are just trying to get to the gym one more time this century!
In the spirit of back to school, I put together a self-discovery syllabus. What is that, you ask? A list of ten self-discovery books to help you get your shit together once and for all and start building the life of your dreams.
No matter what your priority is right now, I think there is a book here for you. Browse the list below and let me know which one speaks to you!
Read This Is It by Alan Watts if…
you want to quiet your mind and live in the moment.
Watts was a Westerner writing about Eastern spirituality and wisdom for other Westerners. That means that he knows where you’re coming from as a rational–and Judeo-Christian–thinker. I think that’s helpful in describing the shifts in thought that need to happen in order for us to truly grasp “mystical” concepts like zen, mindfulness, and enlightenment.
Read Steering by Starlight by Martha Beck if…
you feel like you are not living your true destiny.
I know, I know. I won’t shut up about this book. But it LITERALLY changed my life and jump started my journey of self-discovery. If you feel like you’re on auto-pilot and wasting away your days because you don’t find meaning in your work, READ THIS NOW. This book single-handedly made me realize I hated my life as a lawyer. It reminded me that I longed to be a teacher since before I could even read! Important life choices are much simpler (if not always easy) to make when you are, in Beck’s words, “steering by starlight.”
you’re sick of a messy house and the Netflix show didn’t do it for you.
Sure, Kondo is a sprightly little anal-retentive fairy of decluttering. But, as the title of her book suggests, she’s not just about tidying up. Tidying up is a vehicle by which you can change your outlook on life, improve your relationships, and spend your time more joyfully.
Reality television ruins everything. Skip the Netflix and just read the book if you’re still intrigued.
Read Getting Things Done by David Allen if…
you are constantly overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you have to do.
If you have so many to-dos that you don’t even know where to start sometimes, this book will rescue you. Allen breaks down the art of making to-do lists in a way that is so logical that you start to wonder why you ever did it any other way. And I will vouch for his claim that after months–much less years in my case–of implementing his “GTD method,” it becomes second nature. And with that, increased organization and productivity can become second nature. And why is that important? Because then your mind is free to focus on more creative and joyful matters!
you think full-time jobs with two weeks of paid vacation a year are for suckers.
Do you salivate at the words “passive income”? Ferriss doesn’t give you permission to be lazy and somehow rake in dough. Nor does he claim that if you read this book you’ll never have to work ever again. He does, however, give you tips on how to harness your entrepreneurial spirit and make the best use of your time. You know, work smarter–not harder. And get out of the rat race!
you always feel tired.
The authors of this book come from the sports world, where optimal performance is nonnegotiable. The secret to their method is routines. Routines refocus and reenergize you so that you can perform at your highest level. Learn what personalized routines you need and how best to implement them into your unique life so you can operate optimally. Because how successful can you be at self-discovery and dream-building if you’re burned out?
Read Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin if…
you have trouble making good habits or breaking bad ones.
I bought this book at the airport before a flight home from New York and boy did it deliver! It is thorough and includes lots of practical advice for forming habits based on your personality type.
For instance, the best hope I have for sticking to a habit is if I “piggy back” it onto something else I have to do. My sister succeeds with habits when she periodically rewards her progress. My brother-in-law, as yet another example, sticks to a habit when he has an accountability partner.
Read this book and then tell me which personality type you are!
Read Loving What Is by Byron Katie if…
you are sick of anxiety, fear, or anger.
This book was another game changer for me, but it can be tough. Not because it’s difficult to understand or a bore to read, but because you truly must be sick of your negative feelings and ready to take responsibility for them and work past them.
That said, if you’re fresh out of a divorce with a spouse you endearingly call the devil incarnate or are still working through some really triggering trauma, you might need to simmer before you take this one on. But do take it on at some point.
you want to set meaningful goals and actually achieve them.
What does it mean to succeed anyway? Get as much done as possible each day? Earn as much money as possible? According to Covey, we can’t really succeed if we don’t first clarify our values and figure out what the hell success even looks like for us. Because without that, how will you even know once you’re there?
Read You are a Badass by Jen Sincero if…
you’ve ever said the words “I wish…” followed by “Yeah right, I could never do that!”
I haven’t read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, but I imagine that book to be really similar to this one. For instance, Sincero helps you see in a gentle yet tough love sort of way that if you wish you “could be a writer,” then fucking be a writer already. A lot of things in life are really not that complicated. But we often need a cheerleader like Sincero to help us believe that we are badass goddesses who can do anything!
Have you read any of these books? I have several more in mind that didn’t make this list, so let me know which ones you would add to your personal self-discovery syllabus!