I get tremendous value and enjoyment from reading and listening to inspirational books. I glean insights and ideas from each author and develop new skills to be a better speaker, management consultant, and trainer. Fun fact: Reading is also a great way for us to reduce stress!
Below is a list of seven inspirational books that have stuck with me long after I have put them down. I often revisit these books and find that I glean something new each time I re-read them. Hopefully one or two of these books will resonate with you, and you’ll gain something too!
At the top of my list is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In the ’80s and ’90s he distributed a shelf-full of positive and effective literature. Covey was a legend in his own right and left a positive impact on thousands, if not millions, of people.
Three main points that I got out of this book, include:
1. Successful people surround themselves with successful people.
We are conditioned to live up to our environment. If you are not living up to your dreams or you’re not living up to your potential, maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s your environment. Change your environment.
2. Locus of control.
Stephen Covey clearly explains what it means to have a strong locus of control. He empowered me to focus on what I can control and ignore what I can’t. The weather? Can’t control it. The markets? Nope. My response to any situation? Yep. That’s up to me. Psychological research has uncovered that people with a very high locus of control are happier, they’re more effective, and they’re generally just better people.
3. Seek first to understand; seek next to be understood.
Another point that Stephen Covey promotes is to seek first to understand, then seek next to be understood. During any sort of disagreement or conflict, we often feel like we need to be understood first. It’s a great strategy to step back – have that check and balance – and ask yourself if you’re really understanding what’s being said. I must constantly remind myself of this strategy in high-pressure situations. If I seek first to understand, any conflict I face is far, far easier to resolve.
Cal Newport is a big fan of shutting down social media and other forms of distracting communications to carve out time in your day for deep, prioritised work. Many benefits come from reducing frivolous distractions. Newport’s ideas encourage me to block out focused time to think and work deeply. He was able to give context, language and perspective around focus. I create my best work when my cell phone is off, I have no email to answer and I’m not distracted by idle tasks.
I require around 15 minutes or so to move from an interactive and responsive state into a deep work state. If I am interrupted by a distraction, I find that it takes me another 15 minutes to enter back into that intense and magical flow of deep work.
Another classic on this list is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl has a very inspiring story. He was a psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. While living in a Nazi internment camp he noticed that the survivors were the people who maintained hope. They found meaning in their suffering. Frankl explains different ways to find more meaning in your life. Living a life with meaning, purpose, and hope is a life worth living.
Don Miguel Ruiz follows the Toltec Spiritual Tradition, a philosophy that offers us the freedom to live a life of meaning and purpose. In his book, The Four Agreements, Don comes up with four rules. I like to revisit this book every couple of years to remind myself of them.
Most of us should already know The Four Agreements, but it’s nice to be reminded of these character traits to make sure we’re actually living them.
1. Be impeccable with your word
2. Don’t take anything personally
3. Don’t make any assumptions
4. Always do your best
If you follow these four pieces of guidance, chances are you’ll live a pretty good life.
Ego Is The Enemy and The Obstacle Is The Way are two books by Ryan Holiday. Both books have similar threads based on Stoic philosophy. Another reason to put these books as a pair? Ryan has a tattoo on each forearm. One forearm says Ego Is The Enemy and the other forearm says The Obstacle Is The Way. That’s hardcore.
Holiday made me thirst for more stoic knowledge. Stoicism is the philosophy of people who do things.
If you’re a doer like me, this strand of philosophy will resonate with you. I find many individuals like to think, but they won’t do much more than postulate and pontificate. I prefer action, and that’s why stoic philosophy resonates with me. It’s developed by people who are doing great things.
A great stoic philosopher example is Seneca. Seneca was a senator in ancient Rome and he developed his philosophy while trying to build the empire, build his career and make the world a better place.
Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy is a classic motivational book. He comes across as a bit of a robot if you ever listen to his voice or watch his videos online, yet he has a tonne of great knowledge. In Eat that Frog he shares a whole list of tips on personal improvement and personal productivity. His advice is motivational and a healthy dose of common sense. We are reminded to do things like “write things down – you think better on paper” and “decide exactly what you want”.
If you have a list of tasks to accomplish, and one of those tasks is to eat a frog, then eat that frog first. Think about it. If you leave that ugly frog until the end of the day, you’re going to look at the slimy skin on it’s back when you’re tired and exhausted, and all your willpower is used up. If you try to eat the frog at the end of the workday, the chances are that you’re just not going to eat that frog.
There are a lot of great tips inside Tracy’s book. Give it a read if you want to ramp up your personal productivity and focus.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle was meaningful to me in 2007. I remember reading this book when I had a back injury. I was feeling really vulnerable and hopeless. I picked up A New Earth and dug in. Eckhart Tolle understands the art of presence and being present. We need to get out of our head and into reality. We need to get out of the anxiety zone, and the depression zone and move into the action zone. Those aren’t Eckhart’s words but certainly mine.
Eckhart also introduces two concepts which I found to be very valuable. He defines the ego in a unique way, and he defines something called the pain body. The ego and pain-body are not part of our personality, and we must remove ourselves from their influence. The ego wants attention for the sake of attention, and the pain body wants attention to generate more pain in your life. Tolle believes we have a natural affliction towards pain. So when we identify different actions that we are taking as coming from the ego or the pain body we can then disassociate ourselves from these actions and then make better choices.
These are seven inspirational books that I love, and hopefully one of them resonates with you. Please, tell me about it if you pick one up and like the read.
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