Taking care of your physical wellbeing, at times, feels easier than taking care of your emotional and psychological health. Measuring if you’re getting enough protein and nutrients on the regular or if your mile time is going down are quantifiable—whereas, say, figuring out if you’re becoming more comfortable in your own skin is not as simple to measure. (Add to it the fact that soul searching is so subjective, and it can be hard to start doing inner work at all.)
If you’re looking for a tool to help you gauge personal growth, however, a self-development book is a good place to start. To say a great book has the power to change your life isn’t an exaggeration. This can be doubly true for self-development books, which are literally written with the improvement of your inner person in mind. These reads can help you decipher and understand where you are on whatever inward journey you’re undertaking.
Here’s the catch, though. If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet or the self-help section of your local bookstore, you likely already know there are way too many options to sift through let alone read. To make it easier to narrow down the list, these are books that five of the health experts and luminaries on our Well+Good Council reference as beacons of wisdom and guidance on their own paths to self-actualization.
1. The Courage to be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi
“A great book for anyone struggling with comparison and finding their true north,” says Candice Kumai, healthy cooking maven, of Koga and Kishimi’s seminal book. “The Japanese have a way of communicating straight-forward, no-BS, traditional, and relevant advice we can ALL use.”
Before being translated into English, The Courage to be Disliked was a wild success in Asia where it sold over 3.5 million copies. Since it’s become available in the United States, it’s received accolades from critics for its use of philosophical discourse. The book’s approach to self-development relies on regaining control of your decisions and emotions making it an apt choice for people who are looking for a strong sense of self empowerment.
2. To Be Victorious in Life by Paramahansa Yogananda
Calling all yogies trying to figure out ways to deepen their practice off the mat. Consider nutritionist and author Kimberly Snyder‘s pick, To Be Victorious in Life by Paramahansa Yogananda. “This very digestible book translates powerful yogic concepts into practical tools we can all use, around sharpening our focus, will power, and a peaceful perspective of life” Snyder says, adding, “I’ve read it over a dozen times, including while I was writing my first book [and] I lost my mother last year, and I always find more unique wisdom in it.”
The author of this book, Paramahansa Yogananda, was a world-renowned yogi during his lifetime and is often credited with bringing yogic teaching and principles into popular consciousness and culture both in his home country of India, as well as in the Western world. To Be Victorious uses yogic practices to outline actionable items and create blueprints for harnessing your potential and finding your own path to happiness.
3. The Untethered Soul by Michael a. singer
Taryn Toomey, founder of the cult favorite workout The Class, nominated The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer as her favorite self-development book “because it’s an easy, digestible understanding of consciousness.” She adds, “I can open the book anytime I want, no matter what state I’m in, and it speaks to me.”
If you find yourself feeling limited and bogged down by your own mental boundaries and limitations, this book aims to help the reader figure out ways to break free from habitual and negative thinking and behavior. A New York Times bestseller, The Untethered Soul advocates for using meditation and mindfulness to reassess and redefine your relationship with yourself and the world around you.
4. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
“I think The Four Agreements is one of the most foundational books to read for anyone starting the inward journey,” says Kelsey Patel, a spiritual empowerment coach and Reiki master, adding that, even “for those who have explored the path, it’s as a profound refresher to come back to and remember the simplicity and intentionality it takes to help guide you back center.”
The book focuses on understanding four key “agreements” and how they interact with an individual’s life, relationships, and path to happiness. A well-known spiritual thinker of the Toltec (an ancient civilization that once inhabited what is now modern-day Mexico) tradition, Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements was published in the late ’90s and continues to be his most successful work to date. Since it was initially published, the book has sold over seven million copies in the United States and has the Oprah(!) seal of approval.
5. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
“I loved The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. His thoughts on the inevitable resistance that emerges as we’re trying to create and innovate were super helpful as I encountered my own obstacles in writing my book, A to Z of D-Toxing,” says Sophia Gushée,” a non-toxic-living expert. “Pressfield describes resistance as naturally occurring as gravity, and that it should not be taken as a sign that you should give up—or not sit down to write, or work on whatever your craft is. Rather, it is a natural part of the creation process and of evolving, and resistance is most strong when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough.”
Should you find yourself stuck in a creative rut or feeling uninspired in pursuing your passions, this book could be what you need to reinvigorate yourself.
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