I’m an avid reader of self-help books. This is not a genre that is easy to read in the company of children or with a TV chattering away in the background. So I’ve made myself a little self-help bookie nook next to the patio doors to our garden.
Although I squirm at the words ‘self-help’, I do find books on mindfulness, positive thinking and productivity incredibly uplifting. I reckon I’ve read about 50 over the last few years. I ordered a new one only yesterday. My bookshelves are groaning under their weight.
Most of these books may have only one or two takeaway suggestions. Some contradict the one before and others are too poorly written to persevere with. However there are a few that really resonate with me, where the overall theme is one that has brought about a change in my thinking or behaviour, or led me to a real ‘ah-ha’ moment.
Here is a short synopsis of those books, so you can decide for yourself if they’re right for you:
If I had to choose one book to recommend to someone feeling stuck or demotivated in any area of their life, I would suggest The Slight Edge over all the others.
Olson teaches how small, seemingly insignificant activities can have a big impact over time and that the choices we make in life, can either move us upwards and onwards, or down towards unhappiness.
He tells the story of two brothers, whose dying father offers them the choice of taking £1million from his will, or 1 penny which will double in value every day.
One brother takes the million, the other takes the penny. By day 30, the penny, which has doubled every day, is worth more than £5million (you do the math).
The moral of the story? Mighty oaks from little acorns grow: you just have to start.
Olson shows you how to break your goals into small steps, by doing things that are just as easy to do, as not to do. So doing just a few sit ups, taking one vitamin a day, or reading just ten pages of an improving book, has a compound effect over the course of a year.
The little things we do every day have a long term incremental impact – and we can choose if those little things have a positive, or negative influence on our goals.
After an evening of evangelising about this book to Mr Maven, he started doing press ups every morning. He started with ten painful press ups a day. Now he’s doing 30. That’s nearly 11,000 press ups a year, that he wasn’t doing before.
Overall message: Stop procrastinating and start doing. If not now, then when?
This is a straight talking guide to creating a successful career as a freelancer, finding a way to make money doing what you love and having the work life balance we all crave.
I read this while in my last job, as a way to help me figure out my next steps. It took me down a different fork in the road, which ultimately led to where I am now. Time well spent.
Cantwell challenges you to delve deep to identify your most basic skills, your unique experiences and what makes you happy. She then helps you pull it all together to create your business proposition.
The book addresses all the fears and doubts you will have along the way. In her view, you might not be the best or most experienced in your chosen field of work, but it’s your uniqueness that brings value to what you do. She helps you to find your true vocation through practical exercises.
Overall message: Create the life you want for yourself.
This one’s a bit woo, so bear with.
I approached this book with a massive dose of cynicism. Having read The Secret and The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, about the law of attraction, I decided to test out her theories using the experiments in E-Squared. I was looking forward to using Grout’s work as another reason to dismiss the law of attraction as a load of hokum.
I was wrong.
Grout provides you with nine experiments to prove the theory that we can shape our lives with our minds. By changing what you look for, and focusing singularly on positive outcomes, great things can happen.
Here are two examples:
In the first experiment, I asked for a specific, visible sign that the law of attraction is real. I wrote in the book that I expected to see a butterfly within the next 48 hours.
It was the middle of winter and we don’t get many butterflies around here, so I thought that would be a challenging enough ask.
That afternoon I opened my son’s school bag to take out his homework, and found a hand-painted picture of a butterfly.
During another experiment, I asked for an answer to the question: Should I resign from my job to pursue a life of self-employment (this was in early 2014 when I was still in an honest job)? I wrote it down in the book and gave a deadline.
Later that week, I received an e-newsletter in my work inbox from an HR magazine, and the heading was “Ten signs you should leave your job”.
I didn’t need any further convincing; I was ready anyway. I resigned that day.
Now clearly I’m not practicing this nearly often enough as I still haven’t won the lottery. BUT – I always get a parking space where I want it by visualising it first. You may not believe me, but it bloody works!
Overall message: Our minds are amazing. Positive thinking works.
I’ve written about this classic book many times. It is the ultimate self-help book, providing advice on overcoming your fear of failure, fear of public speaking, asserting yourself, changing jobs, or anything that scares you.
Jeffers recommends that we take a risk every day in order to push through fear. You can read more about Jeffers’ book and my battle with fear here.
Overall message: Feel the fear and … do it anyway!
I hope you found this useful. I’ll be writing more reviews in future. If you have any favourite self-help books you’d like to recommend, please leave a comment below.
Much love, Vx
[Disclosure: nothing to see here.]