Self improvement is a big deal these days. And this is a good thing, but it comes with some negative side effects. Luckily these are easy to avoid. Unfortunately it can also take a long time to sift through all the literature to find the information for transformation. But I’ve done the work for you, and boiled it down to a few awesome reads to help mold your mind into a beautiful resilient masterpiece.
After a few years of reading various “self help” books and other sources of knowledge I’ve finally compiled a list of three books that will, on their own, change the way you view the world. They will make you a smarter, more self-aware individual. After reading them, you will reevaluate your values and choices in life. You will pull to the surface a lot of untruths you’ve let settle deeply into your mind. Always assume there is some level of bullshit lingering in your thoughts.
Obviously I don’t know you, so I have no idea how shitty of a person you might actually be. I still struggle with a lot of demons of my own, but it’s being able to shed light on these issues that is the first step to overcoming them. To call yourself on your own bullshit, I’ve written about this before, and in time, gently remind others of their own bullshit… key word is gently. I have tarnished some personal relationships myself by being a bit too hard on people, which usually backfires.
If at any time during the reading of these books you feel you have trouble agreeing with what is being read, just remember this is normal, and it’s called cognitive dissonance. When something you hear or see threatens our built-in (sub-conscious) identity, we tend to want to fight it. DON’T do what most people do and fall victim to the cognitive bias known as confirmation bias, which is where they go find info that re-confirms their beliefs and makes them feel better. (Aka congruencey bias.)
I dealt heavily with personal transformation when I worked in the financial world. My boss and I would often disagree with each other on strategies and plans, and it wouldn’t be too long before I found myself going back and re-reading an idea I read on the internet. We all do it, and it’s okay. And for the record, I should have listened to him more. Looking back, I learned a lot about myself through the help of mentors who were older and more experienced than me, I learned to accept the fact that I knew very little in comparison to them, and in order to learn, we must open our minds and allow new knowledge to be processed and applied to our lives.
Here are 3 Books that I guarantee will make you a better person, with better values, and an overall better life.
The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha
“Be happy first. These three words are so counteractive that most of us don’t know what to do with them.” – Seth Godin
I remember when I first read this book over a year ago. I read a few pages, put it back on the shelf at B&N and never came back to it. I can’t tell you why, but recently I saw it and decided to read more of it. And I’m glad I did.
Neil has done nothing short of amazing work on figuring out the things in life that actually make us happy. From the long term to the short term, Neil breaks it down beautifully. He also debunks a lot of old age ideas that we were taught growing up that actually don’t make us happy.
From having a purpose in life, or just a reason to get up in the morning – which the Okinawan people call ikigai – to doing small little things during the day, and finding a good life balance, there isn’t much Neil leaves out. This is why I’ve picked this book over the hundreds of other “happiness” books you can buy.
The important thing to know about this book is that it’s more about living a better life overall, with career advice, relationship advice, and even some controversial topics like why retirement is a terrible idea, and how big corporations and banks have tricked us into trying to keep up with the Joneses.
This book could have been titled “How to be happy all the time, because doing stuff is great and you’ll figure it out” but for all intents and purposes I’m sure that wouldn’t have sold very well. This is also why The 4 Hour Work Week has it’s name. Tim Ferriss had a dozen other names in mind when he wrote the book.
I’m sure you’ll end up reading this book more than once, and I hope you do.
The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
“Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to on place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.” – Mark Manson
I’ve mentioned this book a bunch of times in older articles, but I have to say without the slightest doubt in my mind that this book alone will make you re-think everything you ever thought in your life.
Mark’s book that’s part memoir, part manifesto, and entirely modern day philosophy, will make you laugh and cry as he rips the bull shit out of your mind piece by piece, page by page. One thing I’ve come to understand about life and being happy, is that happiness comes from solving problems. As I will mention later in this article, through the teachings of the stoics, I’ve come to realize we are all at our happiest moments when we are doing something, fulfilling our purpose, fixing problems, and being productive. Whether that be laying down brick after brick, or doing menial tasks like posting a little quote every day, the compound effect is working.
But we must be mindful of the bullshit we let sink into our minds.
What sets this book apart from other books in the broad category of “self-help” (I hate using that word) is it’s authentic take and honesty on what it really takes to be a better person and live a more fulfilling life. If I had read this book 2 years ago (even though it wasn’t out) I would have skipped several other books simply because this book says it all.
I have recommended this book to so many people. Reading this book alone will set you apart from the crowd very quickly in terms of overall “self-help” knowledge.
I really just like this book a lot. I could ramble on forever about this book and each of it’s chapters but I’ll leave that up to you guys!
For the third book on the list, it won’t necessarily be a book, but a series of books. I know you might be thinking – jeez how many books do I need to read to make myself a better person!? But don’t worry. The reason I chose the 3rd book as a series is more of a choice I’ll leave up to you. Of course you don’t have to get any of these books but that’s your choice, go get one, or get them all.
Over the past year or so, there has been one area of “self help” and enlightenment that has become a deeply important part of the bigger picture. Within us all are an endless number of values and ideas, and this affects how we act in every day situations. How you act, alone or around other people, from the decisions we make to the things we think about, they all revolve around what we’ve learned and experienced throughout our life. Shaping and molding us as we march on.
What this is is our philosophy. I have mentioned philosophy a few times in my past articles. Personally I find stoicism to be the most powerful and well rounded, due to the thousands of years of knowledge that helped create it vividly enough for us to learn. Many great men and women have used stoic principles to help them when life kicks them in the ass, and still do to this day.
Now, you don’t need to get a stoic book to help you understand life on a deeper level. Many great works from Segmund Frued and Friedrich Neitzche, to Plato and Aristotle, and so many more great voices of the past can help shape your mind.
But I must warn you, although philosophy is very important, it’s vague, and can be dangerous if not used properly. For example, when I go to the philosophy section of the books store, I’m faced with a broad selection of different ideologies. Most are written by very intelligent and knowledgeable people, with valid arguments and points, and usually always with good intentions. But this is where it gets dangerous. I’ve seen people get too into philosophy to the point where they almost go crazy, at least they start to seem that way to most people. They may take a certain philosophy to the extreme, which is never a good idea. I may seem like an extremist for stoicism, but at the same time, the philosophy itself cannot be taken very extremely. But some can, and this can hurt people, or yourself. Choose wisely.
So for the 3rd book that will make you an overall better human being, I want you to decide, and commit yourself to fully learning the teachings of a philosophy. You don’t need to become a zealot, but use this as tool of reminder on how to act, with humble nobility, and subtle discipline.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT: There is a big stain on the “self improvement” industry that I would like to shed some light on. I’ve found through the many hours of reading, and seminars I’ve gone to, and motivational videos I’ve watched, and taking plenty of notes on the plethora of motivational speakers out there that we should tread lightly on the ideas of “self-help.” It’s pretty easy for a writer or speaker to say things that sound all good and dandy and make us feel warm and fuzzy inside and/or pumped up enough to where we think we could go toe to toe with Conor McGregor in the octagon. Motivation is a great thing, I recommend it daily, like showering, or reading, but we need to remain vigilant in the information we take to heart. As the stoics say “Trust, but verify.” If it sounds like a load of fluffy goodness, it might just be, because sometimes roses really smell like doo-doo. And on a second note, if it sounds like something that hurts your ego just a bit, maybe it’s good for you, maybe it’s exactly what you need to hear. As they say, the truth usually hurts, and if it doesn’t hurt, it’s probably just because it’s boring… like vegetables.
Thank you for reading. Remain forever a student to life.