I like books that provide ideas and tools to transform my life. India Powell writes a lovely blog about creating balance in daily life, Lightswitch Life. I am delighted to welcome India to the Write Now! Coach blog to recommend life-transforming books. Welcome, India!
As summer passes in a hypnotic, luxurious drip of sunshine-soaked days, there’s time, finally, to reflect on change. Vacation time away from the usual distracting daily routines and demands makes space for the warm, salty breeze of change. Relaxing and breathing deeply—melting a little—seems to create more room for it: longed-for change, dreaded change, conscious change, even change that has already happened and needs only to be accepted.
Whether the topic is a new perspective or an ancient philosophy, it’s striking when a writer is able to capture something of the essence of change and growth like a butterfly cupped between palms to be admired for just a few seconds before fluttering away. Along with the obligatory stack of brain-candy paperbacks and the latest nutritious literary veggies, my beach bag always includes this type of thought- and change-provoking book. Here are five that offer inspiring and unique approaches to making meaningful life changes.
The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick If you think all books about personal growth and motivation are ethereal and impractical, you’re not thinking like a nerd. Comedian, TV host and Nerdist podcast network head Chris Hardwick grew up a child of the ‘70s, a self-professed “creative-obsessive” and an anxious over-thinker. Sharing these characteristics myself and being a big fan of Hardwick’s comedy, I pre-ordered his book before it was released late last year and quickly tore through it when it arrived on my doorstep (a prime example of the obsessive, hyper-focused tendencies he describes, now that I think about it). Layered with Hardwick’s sharp, edgy humor (and, be warned, edgier language), this book guides readers through turning the laser beam of the creative-obsessive mind from an instrument of mental and emotional destruction into a powerful force for goal accomplishment and good. The book is divided into three parts to address the areas of mind, body and time. The “Doctor Xaviering Your Mind” chapter, for example, explores in practical terms how to focus the most difficult thing to control in life: our own minds. Addressing tough hurdles such as anxiety and addiction and offering a multitude of planning tools and techniques, including The Nerdist Way online resource, Hardwick shines a hopeful light into the sometimes dark corners of the introverted over-thinker’s life.
The Art of Extreme Self Care by Cheryl Richardson Like so many (e.g. nerds as described above), I have a tendency to overdo and overextend. I learned a hard lesson about that habit and my own limitations a few years ago when I was attempting to work full time, volunteer full time and start a business of my own on the side—oh, yeah, and enjoy (and be enjoyable in) my life and family, too. I jerked painfully hard at the end of my tether, discovering what my body and heart had been trying to tell my mind for a long time: no one can do it all, no exceptions. Thankfully, my incredible and wise mother had learned about this book and said she thought it would be helpful for me. Taking it in (a quick, easy weekend read) and implementing the tools it offers changed my view of what others expected of me and, most importantly, what I was expecting of myself. Richardson guides readers through uncovering the hidden needs and beliefs that drive us to take on too much. She also reveals how and why practicing “extreme self care” is crucial to fully and lovingly caring for those around us, and that without it, overextension leads to resentment, overwhelm and burnout. Richardson’s newest book, You Can Create an Exceptional Life, looks like a wonderful read as well and I’ve added it to my list. But The Art of Extreme Self Care remains my handbook for maintaining balance in the face of the ever-creeping busy-ness.
The Positive Dog by Jon Gordon As a natural-born worrier, I eternally put shifting into more positive, productive thought patterns on my list of changes to make. It seems no matter how much I work on it, read about it and practice, banishing (or at least diminishing) fearful negativity is always something I need help truly grasping and living. After all, bad stuff happens; there’s no denying it. Plus, positive thinking tends to get a tough rap—seen as naïve, saccharine or trite if overused or brought up out of context. In less than 100 pages, through the voices of two completely endearing talking shelter dogs, Jon Gordon cuts right past all the fuzziness and waffling to the truth that the “inner dog” you feed is the one who wins. This book, which can be savored effortlessly in just an hour or two, had me in tears within a few minutes with the purity and beauty of its message. The powerful story is coupled with a straightforward action plan with steps for feeding the positive dog within and—equally as important—starving the negative one. It also offers ways to feed those around you and bring out the best in them on a daily basis. Its accessible and cheerily illustrated style and format lends itself to sharing with younger readers, but the message at the heart of this book will inspire readers of any age to make a change in their personal “feeding” habits. A great first step is by taking the Positive Pledge online.
Wishes Fulfilled by Wayne Dyer Quotes and sayings are repeated because there’s lasting truth to them, but sometimes their meaning doesn’t quite resonate—until it does. That was the case for me with the idiom about being the change you wish to see until I read this book. In the latest of his more than 30 books, Wayne Dyer, well-known motivational speaker and author, is able to show, clearly and beautifully, the meaning of getting the thing that you want by becoming it—no longer seeing it as outside of you, but as you. Through his words (much more effective than mine), he uncovers the strength, ability and wisdom behind the three letters: “I am.” In very accessible, practical (i.e., non-woo woo) language and stories, Dyer guides readers through accessing the divine power that lies within. There’s been plenty written about the idea of manifesting and attracting what you want in life, but Dyer crystallizes and simplifies the meaning of powerfully aligning your own essence and purpose with your source. If there’s something outside yourself that you feel like you’re struggling to have, the book could help you discover it in the unlikeliest of places (and I’m betting you know where that is).
The Seed by Jon Gordon Sometimes the best way to understand the changes happening or needed in our own lives is through the stories of others. In this book, Jon Gordon takes readers along on the journey of Josh, who (accompanied by his wise and loving dog, Dharma) is searching for his purpose after reaching a painful crossroads in his career and life. Through a series of signs and meaningful meetings, Josh uncovers the four stages of purpose and the true meaning of passion and happiness in life. After digesting a buffet of books written from a self-focused perspective, gathering insight about the role of growth and change in discovering purpose in life through a character is a refreshing, clarifying palette cleanser. This book is a gentle and enjoyable reminder that we all lose track of our inner compass at times, and that if we stop, question, listen and pay attention to the answers that come, we can rediscover our way and our unique sound in the symphony of life.
About the author. India Powell of Lightswitch Communications has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines since 1994 and, before launching her consulting career in early 2011, served as editorial director for Best Self magazine and the nationwide Home Improvement family of magazines. She is a passionate pursuer and student of inner balance, personal growth and overall wellness, which she brings to her work in new and always expanding ways. Through her blog, Lightswitch Life, she offers tools and resources for creating more balance in daily life.