The object of education isn’t knowledge; it’s action. – Thomas Kempis
This month Alex has asked all the contributors to The BridgeMaker for our top five books in our area of specialty that have made a significant impact on our lives.
At first I thought it was going to be easy. After all, I am a writer and love reading, but when I started to make my list I realized that I haven’t read that many books in the lifestyle design / personal development field.
You see, I prefer actions to words, so I learn from experiences rather than from reading, but then just by thinking about actions the five books popped right into my head.
So here you go, my top five lifestyle design / personal development books that helped me take action at critical moments in my life, in the order that I discovered them.
- The Comfort Trap by Judith Sills
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
- Get Clients Now! by CJ Hayden
- 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman
If it weren’t for this book by Judith Sills I wouldn’t be living in Europe and following my dream. Back in the beginning of 2006, I felt lost, dissatisfied with life and with very little interest in working or building my professional organizing business. My coach recommended Judith Sills’ The Comfort Trap to me and so I picked it up from the library.
And read it in two days.
The book, which is subtitled “What if you’re riding a dead horse?” spoke directly to me. It forced me to realize that I was in no way happy. I was merely comfortable. And it reminded me that when I was a teen I had vowed never to live on autopilot and yet at 36 that was exactly what I was doing.
By the time I was done the book I was primed to make a big change and it just took a client asking me what I would want to do if I wasn’t organizing to admit to my real dream of writing and living in southern Europe and to start the move across the ocean in pursuit of the life I really wanted.
Yes, it’s a little odd to have a book on the list that’s not even published yet, but when I started blogging at the end of 2006 I found The Happiness Project and Gretchen Rubin. Her posts got me thinking about happiness in a different way and because of her words my own blog shifted away from organizing to procrastination, choice and happiness.
The Happiness Project is an active blog – Gretchen doesn’t just talk about happiness. She puts all of her discoveries into personal practice and continually updates her idea of what makes up the idea of happiness.
This dedication to action hasn’t inspired just me. It’s spawned personal and group Happiness Projects around the world. She’s had national media pay attention to her message and in her blog’s interview series Gretchen has explored many other people’s opinions on what is happiness.
Now that she’s taken the blog and made it a book you can bet I’ll be reading it as soon as I have a copy in my hands!
This book taught me that happiness is 100% chosen because as study after study has shown, there is no such thing as objective happiness. And therefore because of that I’ve learned to choose to be happy each day, even when I’m not.
Full of the results of various studies on happiness, author Daniel Gilbert looks at many of the various myths about happiness, pulling each one apart and letting the reader know how to create happiness based on what the experts have gleaned from those studies.
In reading the book, I also discovered that the intuitive approach I had taken to my Someday-Busting services weren’t just something I’d pulled out of the air. They had scientific merit behind them, even if I didn’t know it, giving me the confidence to start proclaiming the benefits of Someday-Busting to anyone who would listen.
This is an on-the-surface strange book choice, given that Get Clients Now! focuses on building a coaching business, but I’ve applied the lessons on the book to so many other areas of my life, not just my coaching business, so it has to get included here.
Kelly Erickson of Maximum Customer Experience recommended the book to me when I was at a low point business-wise, wondering how on earth I was going to build up a successful business using only the Internet and having disconnected from many people in my past.
While the book didn’t contain any sort of magic answers (those just don’t exist), it gave me a structure and pattern that I could follow in building my business into what I wanted it to be.
And then, being a patterner and being someone who learns from experiences, I took the success I was having with these techniques and applied them to other areas of my like fitness, health and general time management.
The biggest lesson I learned from the book (and what made it worth every penny I spent on it) was the idea of special permission. As I explained in a post over on Joanna Young’s Confident Writing blog,
Special permission is a sentence directed at whatever normally blocks us from being tenacious. It’s not harsh. It’s not a command. It’s permission.
And just from granting myself that permission, my business grew stronger and I’ve also experienced exponential growth in my own personal journey.
In another book that did all my research for me, Richard Wiseman shows that we can make big changes in our lives with small one-minute actions. Given my action-focused belief system, of course this book had huge appeal for me. In fact, it appeals to me so much I quote it regularly in my own blog.
This book came about because a friend of Wiseman asked him for help in making her life better and he asked her how much time she had to dedicate to self development and her answer was: “about a minute?”
This got Wiseman looking for small actions that can have a big effect on our lives and while you might be find each and every action applicable or interesting enough to implement in your life, there are so many one-minute tips that this one book could easily because your self development manual for the next six months or more.
Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite lifestyle design / self development books?