I’m an avid reader so it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that a good book is something I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. This past year, I’ve really doubled down on my reading and devoured a number of game-changing books that in the words of my 8-year-old left me with my mind blown.
There are so many good books I read this year – all of which are listed on my Good Reads account. That said, there were five in-particular around the personal development space that really hit home for me. These books offered me keys to the kingdom – a better understanding of how my brain operates and why some of the most random things trigger me. Turns out, they aren’t that random.
In no particular order, I gift you these reading recommendations.
It’s ok that you’re not ok. By Megan Devine. I discovered this book by chance (thanks Amazon algorithm). After my dad died, I wanted a book that’d tell me it was ok to grieve my way. I’m convinced that book doesn’t exist, hence me writing my own book about grief and loss. That said, this book came close. Devine spends a lot of time exploring our country’s culture around grief and how sometimes folks’ best intentions in helping someone grieve fall flat. How in our cure all culture, we sometimes do more harm than good. “When you try to take someone’s pain away from them, you don’t make it better. You just tell them it’s not OK to talk about their pain,” she says. She also gives permission for folks to grieve on their own timeline and their own terms. In my heart, I knew I needed to grieve my loss this past year on my terms, but this book gave me the courage to do so.
What happened to you? By Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey. This poses the simple question of why we should ask the question of what happened to you versus what is wrong with you. I first bought this because I thought that was an interesting question to ponder. What I uncovered was a deep understanding of how my brain is wired, presented in a way that was engaging, interesting, educational, emotional, inspirational, scary and liberating all at the same time. This book changed the way I talk to myself and how I look at my past. Oprah says, “because what I know for sure is that everything that has happened to you was also happening for you. And all that time, in all of those moments, you were building strength. Strength times strength times strength equal power. What happened to you can be your power.” This book doesn’t try to say everything happens in life for a reason. Frankly, I don’t really buy into that anyway. But, it does reframe the power you have over your past if you do the work. It also draws connections in your everyday life that tie back to experiences from your childhood. Seriously, the connections are eerie, but at least for me, surprisingly accurate.
Atomic Habits. By James Clear. “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems,” is one of the most quoted lines of this book. It is easy to understand why. In 2020, I attended a personal development conference that was all about goal setting. In hindsight, what I really needed in that moment was this book. If you have dreams and goals and desires in life (which if you don’t, that’s a bigger problem), this book is your guide to achieving them. This book doesn’t coach you into setting big ass SMART goals and then tell you to go change the world. In fact, Clear does the opposite. He says, you want to lose 100 pounds, go to the gym everyday but for under 2-minutes. Don’t go on a diet but instead, if your goal is to be a healthy person, start asking yourself what would a healthy person do. If you want to write a book – don’t drop $1,000 on a weekend long retreat. Instead, write for a few minutes. Every. Single. Day. In other words, we are a product of our habits. I’ve heard that in a variety of ways – often times in fat shaming with the common line, you are what you eat. But, Clear backs this up with science and tools and framework that makes you realize that incremental steps over the long haul is what gets you to the finish line. Seems obvious but in a world of instant gratification and life-changing transformations everywhere you turn, it is easy to forget that most if not all of us actually put our pants on one leg at a time and do the best we can with what we have – and how that’s more than enough if you build a system that supports the life you want to lead.
The 5 Second Rule and High Five Habits by Mel Robbins. Understanding the why behind stuff is one thing. Doing it is another. Clear’s book gave me the framework and set a bar that was achievable. Robbins takes that framework one step further with a self-help hack that’ll get you off the couch. The 5-second rule is a simple countdown from 5 that ends with action. Once you’ve got momentum, it is easier to keep going versus stopping. When I first heard about this, I thought it was lame. Then I watched her Ted Talk and was hooked. After reading her book and trying the hack before many, many summer runs, I can say it works. This fall, she followed up with another book called High Five Habits. This one is about how quick we are to self-sabotage ourself and how a simple act of giving yourself a high 5 in the morning, can rewire how you look at yourself. And frankly, if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s the point. All of the goal setting, habit stacking, momentum building in the world won’t work if at the end of the day, you think you suck. Together, these two books and Atomic Habits in-particular, have provided me more traction on my goals this past year than anything I’ve ever read in the past.
I’ve always been a strong believer that reading can change your life. In the words of someone much wiser than me, Dr. Seuss once wrote “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!