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Published on May 11, 2021

20 Best Books on Personal Development

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20 Best Books on Personal Development

Let’s face it—transformation isn’t always easy. Getting from where you are to where you want to be in life requires a lot of personal growth and development. It can require everything from letting go of old beliefs to speaking up for yourself and setting boundaries to even recognizing your own unmet needs. These aren’t exactly skills we’re taught in school, so it can be incredibly overwhelming to even know where to start.

A few decades ago, most personal development information was locked behind thousand-dollar seminars and coaching programs. Fortunately, the industry has absolutely exploded in the last decade, and a large part of that is driven by books. For under $15 or with a library card, we now have access to priceless wisdom from some of the most brilliant minds and best books on personal development.

By reading the words of experts in the field, we literally can think their thoughts and benefit from decades of experience to improve our own lives. So, how do you get started?

Here are the 20 best books on personal development that can completely transform your life.

(Links are listed for accessibility, but remember to check your local library to see if these books are available for free. And don’t forget to support your local bookstore, if possible.)

1. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

    Celebrated by everyone from Martin Scorsese to Elizabeth Gilbert, The Artist’s Way has been one of the most important books for artists and non-artists alike for decades. It guides you through a 12-week process of morning journaling and self-dates to unlock all of your blocks to creativity and intuition and live a life that feels like you.

    Whether you are an artist or not, this is an insightful book that will bring so much clarity to what you really want out of life and why you’ve been holding yourself back.

    Get the book here!

    2. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

      Researcher and storyteller Brené Brown has been a leader in studying vulnerability. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she shares research and encouragement that helps you release the definition of who you think you’re supposed to be to become who you actually already are.

      Brené encourages you to let go of shame, open up to vulnerability, and live a more authentic life. This is an inspiring and important book for anyone struggling with the shame of being radically yourself.

      Get the book here!

      3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

        In Start with Why, author and TED speaker Simon Sinek shares the secret that united Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers—they all started with “why.” They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the “why” behind it.

        While this book is primarily focused on work or business, Start with Why makes a compelling case for the power behind a strong motivation that people can get behind and how it can inspire more innovation and support.

        Get the book here!

        4. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

          For decades, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has famously studied the concept of “flow”—the highly-focused psychological state that Olympic athletes, great artists, and brilliant scientists all find themselves in at moments of groundbreaking success.

          By breaking down decades of research into bite-sized actions, Flow reveals the process to create this state for yourself and get “in the zone” to achieve your optimal potential.

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          Get the book here!

          5. The HeartMath Solution: The Institute of HeartMath’s Revolutionary Program for Engaging the Power of the Heart’s Intelligence by Doc Lew Childre and Howard Martin

            Touted by Deepak Chopra as the book that “saves you years of therapy,” The HeartMath Solution pulls together decades of Institute of HeartMath research on how to be less stressed and make better decisions, making it one of the best books on personal development.

            This practical, easy read will change the way you view the relationship between your head and heart. The techniques in the book are incredibly simple and can help you calm down from some of the stressful moments in a matter of seconds to tap back into your best decision-making.

            Get the book here!

            6. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

              If you’re overwhelmed by too many things to do and never seem to accomplish the stuff that really matters to you, then this is an invaluable book. The ONE Thing argues that until your most important task is completed, everything else is a distraction that diffuses your energy and makes you frantic.

              This book helps you focus on what you really care about and want to accomplish and then, organize your life around accomplishing the “one thing” before moving on to something else. This is one of the best books for personal development, especially for anyone who’s struggling with overwhelm and productivity.

              Get the book here!

              7. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

                Codependent No More has been an international bestseller for more than 30 years, and the reason is that we all struggle with codependency somewhere in our lives.

                Whether it looks like addiction, people-pleasing, taking care of everyone around you, or just not giving yourself enough self-care, this book unpacks the roots of codependency and helps you break free once-and-for-all.

                This is an important book for anyone having challenges in friendships or relationships or struggling with people-pleasing or addiction.

                Get the book here!

                8. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

                  Presenting ancient Stoic wisdom to a modern audience, The Obstacle Is the Way shows you how to turn your obstacles and challenges into massive opportunities.

                  Ryan Holiday draws from the same ancient philosophy that empowered John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, and Steve Jobs to succeed and breaks down the essential formula for not running away from obstacles but actually running toward them.

                  This is a really empowering book for anyone struggling with obstacles to get what they want.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement by Ayodeji Awosika

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                    Real Help isn’t your usual self-help book. Wildly popular Medium writer Ayodeji Awosika takes a no-BS, tough-love approach to developing mental toughness, finding clarity, and taking action to transform your life.

                    This is a great book if you’ve read dozens of self-help or personal development books but haven’t taken action to change your life. Real Help gets right to the point and gives you actionable steps to start implementing change right away.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

                      Year of Yes is a deeply personal and honest account of how the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal Shonda Rhimes started saying yes to everything that scared her.

                      This inspiring and raw memoir makes you reflect on what you’ve been avoiding or making excuses for out of fear and what would really happen if you started saying yes to all the stuff that terrifies you. It’s a relatable, casual, easy read, and is great for anyone who needs a little inspiration to start saying yes to life.

                      Get the book here!

                      11. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

                        Psychologist Gay Hendricks unpacks why we all seem to self-sabotage when we’re so close to success and what it will take to leap to a life where you’re in your “Zone of Genius.”

                        In this highly motivating book on personal development, you’ll walk step by step on how to “go beyond your internal limits, release outdated fears, and learn a whole new set of powerful skills and habits to liberate your authentic greatness.”

                        Get the book here!

                        12. Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior (5.2.1985) by David R. Hawkins

                          Hailed by Mother Teresa, Lee Iacocca, and Sam Walton, Power vs. Force combines spirituality and cutting-edge research to help you understand your emotions and level of consciousness.

                          In this seminal work, David Hawkins explains how to get a yes or no answer to any question you ask and how to understand what you’re feeling and why so that you can begin to change your life and the world around you.

                          While it’s not exactly a light beach read, this book is really eye-opening for those wanting to explore spirituality as part of their personal development.

                          Get the book here!

                          13. What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

                            Personal development as we know it would not be the same without Oprah Winfrey. For 14 years, Oprah shared her greatest wisdom in a monthly column for O, The Oprah Magazine called “What I Know for Sure.” This book collects all of those essays—a lifetime of Oprah’s greatest experiences and lessons—into a comprehensive work.

                            What I Know for Sure is honest, thoughtful, and deeply inspiring. This is a powerful book for devout Oprah Winfrey fans and soon-to-be fans alike.

                            Get the book here!

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                            14. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

                              In this memoir, Navy SEAL David Goggins recounts his own life story from poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse to becoming one of the world’s top endurance athletes and military icon through pure will.

                              Can’t Hurt Me will inspire you to stretch and persevere to defy even the most improbably odds and realize that when you think you’re completely tapped out, you’ve only tapped into 40% of your capabilities—and there’s still so much more you can do.

                              It’s an inspiring, tough love book that will motivate you to take action toward your dreams.

                              Get the book here!

                              15. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

                                In The Happiness Project, writer Gretchen Rubin documents her entire year of testing out research, classical philosophy, and common wisdom to find out what makes her truly happy.

                                This casual and accessibly written book inspires you to design your own happiness project to transform each area of your life as you follow Gretchen’s journey and contemplate research on happiness.

                                If you’re looking for an inspiring structure to change every aspect of your life, The Happiness Project is an easy read that can inspire you to experiment with what makes you happy.

                                Get the book here!

                                16. Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement by Tony Robbins

                                  The name Tony Robbins has been synonymous with personal development. In Unlimited Power, he reveals the exact techniques he has used to help Olympic athletes, movie stars, and heads of state to harness their own untapped power.

                                  This book breaks down complicated neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques into simple visualizations that anyone can learn in literally minutes to start to change the way your mind processes information. If you’re looking to change your thinking or step into more confidence, this is an important book to not overlook.

                                  Get the book here!

                                  17. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

                                    In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor flips conventional wisdom on its head. It’s not that we’ll be happy when we’re successful. It’s that we’ll actually be successful when we’re happy.

                                    Shawn presents research that shows us how to rewire our brains for positivity and optimism to be happier in our lives, our careers, and even our health. He also breaks down actionable strategies to retrain our brains, build a solid support network, and spread positive change to the people around us.

                                    If you’re looking to retrain your brain for happiness and success, this is definitely a worthwhile book to consider.

                                    Get the book here!

                                    18. Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core by Bruce D. Schneider

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                                      Renowned coach Bruce D. Schneider doesn’t just tell you what energy leadership is—he shows you. In Energy Leadership, Bruce recounts the story of how he helped a client to transform his failing business by systematically changing the energy of the business.

                                      At each new level, there are specific emotions, actions, and predictable arguments. By the end of the book, you’ll be able to identify exactly which level of energy leadership every relationship, job, and friendship in your life is at and how to begin transforming it for the better.

                                      It’s an eye-opening look at why we’re stuck where we are and how we can shift ourselves and those around us to get extraordinary results.

                                      Get the book here!

                                      19. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

                                        Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert digs into her own creative process in Big Magic to unpack the mysterious and spiritual nature of inspiration. She discusses the habits needed to cultivate creativity, go after our deepest desires, and confront our fears.

                                        With a casual, poetic tone and lots of encouragement, Big Magic inspires you to find the magic inside—whether that’s to create art, start a new business, or bring more mindfulness and passion to our everyday lives.

                                        If you’re looking for more inspiration and creativity, this is an important book to reignite that fire within.

                                        Get the book here!

                                        20. Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms by Mike Iamele

                                          I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my own book on this list.

                                          Enough Already is a battle cry for the success seekers who are fed up trying to achieve someone else’s definition of success. Broken up into 12 steps, the book follows a journey through the 12 aspects of creating success on your own terms with homework and challenges at the end of each chapter to implement the work into your life immediately.

                                          By the end of the book, you’ll have a completed strategic plan to step up into the world and go after even some of your biggest dreams knowing that you are enough already.

                                          Get the book here!

                                          The Bottom Line

                                          You only need one good idea to change your life, and there’s so much important wisdom and inspiration in the 20 best books on personal development listed above. You don’t have to read all of them. You just have to start.

                                          Personal development is about taking action to develop yourself personally. So, scan this list, find a book that resonates with you, and then start reading.

                                          You don’t need to measure the magnitude—just the direction. If you take one tiny step toward the life you want, every day for a year, you’ll be 365 times closer to your dreams a year from today. But you just have to start.

                                          More Books You May Like

                                          Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

                                          More by this author

                                          Mike Iamele

                                          Mike Iamele is a Purpose + Brand Strategist who figures out what makes you naturally successful. Then helps you do it on purpose.

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                                          1 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day 2 22 Best Books That Will Make Your 2022 Happy And Productive 3 14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit 4 10 Best Self-Improvement Classes in 2021 5 42 Practical Ways to Start Working on Self-Improvement

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                                          Last Updated on January 24, 2022

                                          10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day

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                                          10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day

                                          When was the last time you read a book, or a substantial magazine article? Do your daily reading habits center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on your instant oatmeal packet?

                                          If you’re one of countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out.

                                          Reading has a significant number of benefits, and here’re 10 benefits of reading to get you to start reading.

                                          VIDEO SUMMARY

                                          1. Mental Stimulation

                                          Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia,[1] since keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from losing power.

                                          Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy, so the phrase “use it or lose it” is particularly apt when it comes to your mind. Doing puzzles and playing games such as chess have also been found to be helpful with cognitive stimulation.[2]

                                          2. Stress Reduction

                                          No matter how much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or countless other issues faced in daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story. A well-written novel can transport you to other realms, while an engaging article will distract you and keep you in the present moment, letting tensions drain away and allowing you to relax.

                                          3. Knowledge

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                                          benefits of reading - knowledge

                                            Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.

                                            Additionally, here’s a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you might lose everything else—your job, your possessions, your money, even your health—knowledge can never be taken from you.

                                            4. Vocabulary Expansion

                                            This goes with the above topic:

                                            The more you read, the more words you gain exposure to, and they’ll inevitably make their way into your everyday vocabulary.

                                            Being articulate and well-spoken is of great help in any profession, and knowing that you can speak to higher-ups with self-confidence can be an enormous boost to your self-esteem. It could even aid in your career, as those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly (and more often) than those with smaller vocabularies and lack of awareness of literature, scientific breakthroughs, and global events.

                                            Reading books is also vital for learning new languages, as non-native speakers gain exposure to words used in context, which will ameliorate their own speaking and writing fluency.

                                            5. Memory Improvement

                                            When you read a book, you have to remember an assortment of characters, their backgrounds, ambitions, history, and nuances, as well as the various arcs and sub-plots that weave their way through every story. That’s a fair bit to remember, but brains are marvellous things and can remember these things with relative ease.

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                                            Amazingly enough, every new memory you create forges new synapses (brain pathways)[3] and strengthens existing ones, which assists in short-term memory recall as well as stabilizing moods.[4] How cool is that?

                                            If you want to learn more about how to increase brain power, boost memory and become 10x smarter, check out this technique!

                                            6. Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

                                            Have you ever read an amazing mystery novel, and solved the mystery yourself before finishing the book? If so, you were able to put critical and analytical thinking to work by taking note of all the details provided and sorting them out to determine “whodunnit”.

                                            That same ability to analyze details also comes in handy when it comes to critiquing the plot; determining whether it was a well-written piece, if the characters were properly developed, if the storyline ran smoothly, etc.

                                            Should you ever have an opportunity to discuss the book with others, you’ll be able to state your opinions clearly, as you’ve taken the time to really consider all the aspects involved.

                                            7. Improved Focus and Concentration

                                            In our internet-crazed world, attention is drawn in a million different directions at once as we multi-task through every day.

                                            In a single 5-minute span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, chatting with a couple of people (via gchat, skype, etc.), keeping an eye on twitter, monitoring their smartphone, and interacting with co-workers. This type of ADD-like behaviour causes stress levels to rise, and lowers our productivity.

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                                            When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story—the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing.

                                            Try reading for 15-20 minutes before work (i.e. on your morning commute, if you take public transit), and you’ll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you get to the office.

                                            Additional information: if you find staying focus hard and re trying to improve your focus, it’s possible you’ve been doing it wrong.

                                            8. Better Writing Skills

                                            This goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of your vocabulary:

                                            Exposure to published, well-written work has a noted effect on one’s own writing, as observing the cadence, fluidity, and writing styles of other authors will invariably influence your own work.

                                            In the same way that musicians influence one another and painters use techniques established by previous masters, so do writers learn how to craft prose by reading the works of others.

                                            9. Tranquility

                                            In addition to the relaxation that accompanies reading a good book, it’s possible that the subject you read about can bring about immense inner peace and tranquility.

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                                            Reading spiritual texts can lower blood pressure and bring about an immense sense of calm, while reading self-help books has been shown to help people suffering from certain mood disorders and mild mental illnesses.[5]

                                            10. Free Entertainment

                                            Though many of us like to buy books so we can annotate them and dog-ear pages for future reference, they can be quite pricey.

                                            For low-budget entertainment, you can visit your local library and bask in the glory of the countless tomes available there for free. Libraries have books on every subject imaginable, and since they rotate their stock and constantly get new books, you’ll never run out of reading materials.

                                            If you happen to live in an area that doesn’t have a local library, or if you’re mobility-impaired and can’t get to one easily, most libraries have their books available in PDF or ePub format so you can read them on your e-reader, iPad, or your computer screen.

                                            There are also many sources online where you can download free e-books, so go hunting for something new to read!

                                            There’s a reading genre for every literate person on the planet, and whether your tastes lie in classical literature, poetry, fashion magazines, biographies, religious texts, young adult books, self-help guides, street lit, or romance novels, there’s something out there to capture your curiosity and imagination.

                                            Step away from your computer for a little while, crack open a book, and replenish your soul for a little while.

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                                            What to Read Next?

                                            If you need some ideas about what to read next, here they are:

                                            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                            Reference

                                            [1] abc news: Reading, Chess May Help Fight Alzheimer’s
                                            [2] Fisher Center For Alzheimer’s Research Foundation: Mental Stimulation Slows Alzheimer’s Progression
                                            [3] VeryWellMind: 10 Interesting Human Memory Facts You Should Know
                                            [4] Oprah: How Reading Improves Memory
                                            [5] The Wall Street Journal: Bibliotherapy: Reading Your Way To Mental Health

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