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Last Updated on February 3, 2021

42 Practical Ways to Start Working on Self-Improvement

42 Practical Ways to Start Working on Self-Improvement

Are you someone who likes to grow? Do you constantly seek self-improvement through any means necessary?

There is always something about ourselves we can improve on. The human potential is limitless, so it’s impossible to reach a point of no growth.

Whenever we think we are good, we can be even better.

As a passionate advocate of growth, I’m continuously looking for ways to self-improve. I’ve compiled 42 of my best tips, which might be helpful in your personal growth journey. Some of them are simple steps which you can engage in immediately. Some are bigger steps which takes conscious effort to act on.

1. Read Every Day

Books are concentrated sources of wisdom. The more books you read, the more wisdom you expose yourself to.

When you’re reading a book every day, you will feed your brain with more and more knowledge.

Here’re 5 great books to read for self-improvement:

2. Learn a New Language

As a Singaporean Chinese, my main languages are English, Mandarin, and Hokkien (a Chinese dialect). Out of interest, I took up language courses in the past few years, such as Japanese and Bahasa Indonesian.

I realized learning a language is a whole new skill altogether, and the process of opening yourself up to a new language and culture is a mind-opening experience.

3. Pick up a New Hobby

Beyond just your usual favorite hobbies, is there something new you can pick up? Is there a new sport you can learn?

Your new hobby can also be a recreational hobby. For example, you can try pottery, Italian cooking, dancing, wine appreciation, web design, etc.

Learning something new requires you to stretch yourself in different aspects, whether physically, mentally or emotionally.

Here’re 20 hobbies to get you some new ideas: 20 Productive Hobbies That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

4. Take up a New Course

Courses are a great way to gain new knowledge and skills for self-improvement. It doesn’t have to be a long-term course; seminars, workshops, and online courses serve their purpose, too.

In fact, anyone who wants to be a smarter learner should take this 20-minute FREE class: Spark Your Learning Genius. It will help supercharge your learning ability and pick up any skill faster!

5. Create an Inspirational Room

Your environment sets the mood and tone for you. If you are living in an inspirational environment, you are going to be inspired every day.

If there’s a room in your house that looks messy or dull, take it to the next level by putting on a new coat of paint, buying a few nice paintings for the walls, or investing in some comfortable furniture to make it a space that will always feel welcoming and inspiring.

6. Overcome Your Fears

Whether it’s the fear of uncertainty, fear of public speaking, or fear of risk, all your fears keep you in the same position and prevent you from improving your life.

Recognize that your fears reflect areas where you can grow as they act as a compass pointing at areas that need attention. 

7. Level up Your Skills

If you have played video games before, you’ll know the concept of leveling up—gaining experience so you can be better and stronger.

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As a blogger, I’m constantly leveling up my writing skills. As a speaker, I’m constantly leveling up my public engagement abilities. What skills can you level up?

8. Wake up Early

Waking up early has been acknowledged by many to improve your productivity and your quality of life.[1]

When you wake up early, you’ll have time to dedicate to self-improvement before everyone else is up. You’ll add extra time to your day, soak up the morning tranquility, and absorb the early-morning sunlight that will help your brain switch into its active mode.

Not sure how to wake up early and feel energetic? These ideas will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

9. Have a Weekly Exercise Routine

A better you starts with being in better shape through physical activity. I personally make it a point to jog at least 3 times a week, at least 30 minutes each time.

Try to mix it up by doing different exercises each day to prevent boredom and muscle strain.

10. Start Your Life Handbook

A life handbook is a book that contains the essentials on how you can live your life to the fullest, such as your purpose, your values, and your goals. You can think of it as a manual for how to live your best life through consistent self-improvement.

I started my life handbook in 2007, and it’s been a crucial enabler in my progress.

11. Write a Letter to Your Future Self

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What kind of person will you be after you learn how to improve yourself?

Write a letter to your future self and seal it. Make a date in your calendar to open it 1-5 years from now. Then, start working to become the person you want to open that letter.

12. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Real growth comes with hard work and sweat. Being too comfortable doesn’t help us grow; it makes us stagnate.

Identify where your comfort zone lines are and how you can begin to step out of them little by little. Go hiking on a trail you’ve never been to, make a dish you’ve never tried, or say yes next time a friend asks you to go out when you’d normally say no.

13. Put Someone up to a Challenge

Competition is one of the best ways to grow and aid in self-improvement. Set a challenge (weight loss, exercise, financial challenge, etc.) and compete with an interested friend to see who achieves the target first.

Through the process, both of you will gain more than if you were to set off on the target alone.

14. Identify Your Blind Spots

Scientifically, blind spots refer to areas our eyes are not capable of seeing. In personal development terms, blind spots are things about ourselves we are unaware of. Discovering our blind spots helps us discover our areas of improvement.

One exercise I use to discover my blind spots is to identify all the things/events/people that trigger me in a day—trigger meaning making me feel annoyed, frustrated, or angry. These represent my blind spots.

Once I know these triggers, I can identify ways to improve them or overcome them.

15. Ask for Feedback

As much as we try to improve, we will always have blind spots. Asking for feedback gives you an additional perspective as you learn how to improve yourself.

Some people to approach are friends, family, colleagues, a boss, or even acquaintances, since they will have no preset bias and can give their feedback objectively.

Learn more about how to ask for feedback and become a fast learner here!

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16. Stay Focused With To-Do Lists

Starting your day with a list of tasks you want to complete will help you stay focused. In comparison, the days when you don’t do this can end up being chaotic or unproductive. You may forget certain tasks or end up running out of time since you haven’t created a plan to tackle each item.

17. Set Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs)

I’m a big fan of setting BHAGs. BHAGs stretch you beyond your normal capacity since they are big and audacious—you wouldn’t think of attempting them normally.

What are BHAGs you can embark on that will make you feel good about yourself once you complete them? Set them, and start working on them.

18. Acknowledge Your Flaws

Everyone has flaws, but what’s most important is to understand them, acknowledge them, and address them through self-improvement practices.

What do you think are your flaws? What are the flaws you can work on now? How do you want to address them?

Remember to do this with a sense of self-love. Do not look at your flaws through a self-critical or mean-spirited light. This is about finding areas you feel you can improve upon, not finding things that are wrong with you.

19. Get Into Action

The best way to learn and improve is to take action. What is something you have been meaning to do? How can you take action on it immediately?

20. Learn From People Who Inspire You

Think about people you admire, people who inspire you. These people reflect certain qualities you want to have for yourself as you learn how to improve yourself.

What are the qualities in them you want to have for yourself? How can you acquire these qualities?

21. Quit a Bad Habit

Are there any bad habits you can work on eliminating? This can include oversleeping, smoking, drinking, or procrastinating.

Here’s some great advice from Lifehack’s CEO on hacking your habit loop to break bad habits and build good ones: How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

22. Cultivate a New Habit

Some good habits to cultivate include reading books, waking up early, exercising, reading a new personal development article a day, and meditating.

Are there any other new habits you can cultivate for more self-improvement?

23. Avoid Negative People

As Jim Rohn says,

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.

Wherever we go, there are bound to be negative people. Don’t spend too much of your time around them if you feel they drag you down.

24. Learn to Deal With Difficult People

There are times when there are difficult people you can’t avoid, such as at your workplace, or when the person is part of your inner circle of contacts.

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Learn how to deal with them as you’re learning how to improve yourself. These people management skills will go a long way in working with people in the future.

25. Learn From Your Friends

Everyone has amazing qualities in them. It’s up to us how we want to tap into them.

With all the friends who surround you, they are going to have things you can learn from.

Try thinking of a good friend right now. Think about just one quality they have that you want to adopt. How can you learn from them and adopt this skill for yourself?

26. Start a Journal

Journaling is a great way to gain more self-awareness. As you write, clarify your thought process and read what you wrote from an outsider’s perspective. This will help you gain more personal insight.

27. Start a Blog About Personal Development

To help others grow, you need to first be walking the talk of self-improvement. There are expectations of you, both from yourself and from others, which you have to uphold.

28. Get a Mentor or Coach

There’s no faster way to improve than to have someone help you achieve your goals.

Many of my clients approach me to coach them in their goals, and they achieve significantly more results than if they had worked alone.

If you’re looking for a mentor, don’t miss these tips: What to Look for in a Good Mentor

29. Reduce the Time You Spend on Messaging Apps

Having messaging apps open as a default results in a lot of wasted time. This time can be much better spent on other self-improvement activities.

The days when I don’t get on chat, I get a lot more done. I usually disable the auto start-up option in the chat programs and launch them when I do want to chat and really have the time for it.

30. Learn Chess

Chess is a terrific game to learn strategy and hone your brainpower. Not only do you have fun, but you also get to exercise your analytical skills.

31. Stop Watching TV

Many programs and advertisements on TV are meant to distract you instead of empowering or educating you. This time is better spent elsewhere, such as with close friends, doing a hobby you enjoy, or exercising.

32. Start a 30-Day Challenge

Set a goal and give yourself 30 days to achieve this. Your goal can be to stick with a new habit or develop a new hobby.

30 days is just enough time to strategize, plan, get into action, review, and nail the goal.

33. Meditate

Meditation helps to calm you and be more conscious while improving your overall mental health. Meditation can also help you sleep better, be more productive, and be kinder to those around you.

Have a go with this 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime.

34. Learn Public Speaking

Interestingly, public speaking is the #1 fear in the world, with #2 being death.

Public speaking can help you learn how to communicate better, present yourself, and engage people. These skills are helpful both personally and professionally, as you’ll do better in meetings and presentations.

35. Network With Experts

These people have achieved their results because they have the right attitude, skill set, and know-how. How better to learn than from the people who have been there and done that as you learn how to improve yourself?

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Gain new insights from them on how you can improve and achieve the same results for yourself.

36. Let Go of the Past

Is there any grievance or unhappiness from the past which you have been holding onto? If so, it’s time to let it go as part of your self-improvement.

Holding on to it prevents you from moving on and becoming a better person. Break away from the past, forgive yourself, and move on.

37. Start a Business Venture

Is there anything you have an interest in? Why not turn it into a venture and make money while learning at the same time?

Starting a new venture requires you to be learn business management skills, develop business acumen, and have a competitive edge.

The process of starting and developing my personal development business has equipped me with many skills, such as self-discipline, leadership, organization, and management.

38. Show Kindness to Those Around You

You can never be too kind to someone. Being kind helps us to cultivate other qualities such as compassion, patience, and love.

As you get back to your day after reading this article later on, start exuding more kindness to the people around you, and see how they react.

Also, notice how you feel as you behave kindly to others. Chances are you will feel more optimistic and grateful.

39. Reach out to People Who Dislike You

If you ever stand for something, you are going to get haters.

It’s easy to dislike the people who dislike us; it’s much more challenging to love them back. Being able to forgive, let go, and show love to these people requires magnanimity and an open heart.

Seek a resolution and get closure on past grievances. Even if they refuses to reciprocate, love them all the same. It’s much more liberating than to hate them back.

40. Take a Break

Have you been working too hard? Self-improvement is also about recognizing our need to take a break to walk the longer mile ahead. You can’t be driving a car if it has no fuel.

Scheduling downtime for yourself is important. Take some time off for yourself every week. Relax, rejuvenate, and charge yourself up for what’s up ahead.

41. Read 1 Personal Development Article a Day

Some of my readers make it a point to read at least one personal development article every day, which I think is a great habit.

There are many terrific personal development blogs out there, some of which you can check here.

42. Commit to Your Personal Growth

I can be writing list articles with 10 ways, 25 ways, 42 ways, or even 1,000 ways to improve yourself, but if you have no intention to commit to your personal growth, it doesn’t matter what I write.

You are responsible for your personal growth as you learn how to improve yourself. Make the decision to commit to your personal growth and embrace a lifelong journey of growth and change. Kick off your growth by picking a few of the steps above and working on them.

The results may not be immediate, but I promise that as long as you keep to it, you’ll start seeing positive changes in yourself and your life.

More Self-Improvement Tips

Featured photo credit: Gift Habeshaw via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Celestine Chua

Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

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Published on May 11, 2021

20 Best Books on Personal Development

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.

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                                          Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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