Inside: The best personal development books to inspire you to make a big change. Practical, inspiring, and funny words from coaches, entrepreneurs, and authors.
Ever since I was a little kid, I have followed the advice of Reading Rainbow. “Take a look, it’s in a book!” I devoured books, and oftentimes got distracted by them when I was leaning down to tie my shoes…
So when I started to get all dreamtastic with my new writing gig, I looked for inspiration right where I knew I could find it – in books.
And you guys, the secrets of the universe I was looking for – totally in a book. Or several books.
If you’re looking to get your self-reflection on, check out seven personal development books that have rocked my world and helped me make some important mental shifts. Don’t worry, they aren’t all kumbaya, rainbows, and “you’re amazing!!!!!” There is some really practical, down-to-earth stuff in here that you can apply within seconds.
Bonus – Some of these authors are super funny!
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Personal Development Books That Put The Heart, Soul, and Laughs Into Self-Help
We’ll start with the funniest of the bunch and one of my new favorite books. One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both.
Jennifer Fulwiler is a mom of six kids and blogger turned author. In her second book, Jennifer brings readers into her family’s home so you can really appreciate what writing a book while you are a homeschooling mom of six children is like. Her life is chaotic, and hilarious, and messy, and you’ll want to hang out with her.
The reason I consider this to be a personal development book is that Jennifer really spoke to my mama heart. She talks about the internal struggles she went through to pursue her own dreams while parenting small children. Then she hits on important topics like integrating areas of your life instead of balancing and accepting help.
I can’t recommend this book more highly to moms in the trenches who are chasing a professional or personal dream. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn. That’s a good read. Five stars.
Let’s flip directly to the other side of the coin. Craig Ballantyne is not a parent of six kids, and his writing style is much less story and much more tactical. But I really loved his book all the same.
Craig’s focus in his personal development book, The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day And Control Your Life, is setting structure for your day. He’s one disciplined dude, and as a result, he’s crazy successful. He’s an author, speaker, coach, and fitness guru. To do all that he gets up at 4 AM…
But he also goes to bed at 8 PM. Always.
Not everyone is a morning person. But he makes some solid arguments for getting up a bit earlier and making the most of your morning. Getting into flow with your work is way easier when the rest of the world is sleeping.
Is that achievable when you have small children who think that 4 AM is morning… maybe not. However, I’m pulling out the parts about structuring your day that resonate with my real life and finding the times in my day where I am most productive.
This one is a very quick read – it’s almost more a “how-to” guide than a personal development book. I went through the whole thing in two nights. Then got up a little early the next morning.
One of Craig Ballanytyne’s rules for his life is that he doesn’t swear. One of Mark Manson’s rules for life appears to be “f*ck that.” But despite the “woah hey there” title, Mark does actually give a flying flip about things. But not everything, only the things that really matter.
That’s Mark’s whole vibe in this personal development book – you have to decide what your values are, and care about those values deeply. You’ll measure your success based on those values. Everything else – don’t waste your energy.
He’s not preaching positive thinking or a balanced energy mentality. Instead, he looks at life through a very practical lens and tells readers that sometimes life is going to be really hard. The negative emotions you feel during those times are a call to action. That “caring about what really matters and recognizing a call to action” jam, I’m into it.
Plus this is one of the best selling personal development books of all time, so I think a lot of other people are into it too.
If you are going the audiobook route with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life make sure you have already dropped off the kids. Or give them earmuffs.
Remember how Mark was kind of the anti kumbaya? Jen Sincero repeatedly talks about frequency, vibrations, and source energy in her personal development book You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. But she’s also funny, so I gave her a pass and tried to be open to her message.
I’m glad I did, because as hippy-dippy as Jen’s beliefs may seem on the surface, they boil down to some practical advice about how you choose to view the world, and how the world will react to those choices. Think that your big idea is going to fail? Probably will. Think that you will become a master of your craft? Well, that kind of mentality is going to put you a lot closer to your goals.
She also does a section on how we view money which I found very helpful. I’ve been super weird about trying to make income from writing, and that stems from having some cockeyed beliefs about what making money means. Jen helped me flip an internal script that resulted in this blog post. Good looking out, Jen.
Unpopular opinion – I didn’t love Eat, Pray, Love. I know, I KNOW, I need to hand in my millennial woman card. I was supposed to LOVE Eat, Pray, Love. But honestly, I found it a little self-indulgent. Maybe I need to read it again now that I’m in a different stage of life.
Yet time and time again, people I know, love, and trust were recommending to me that I read another Elizabeth Gilbert book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Those people were 100% correct.
Elizabeth hooked me early on in her personal development book with this: “Ideas are energetic life forms that pay you a visit.” She operates from the standpoint that we can all live a creative life if we are open to the ideas that want to collaborate with us. Sounds hokey? Keep an open mind to it and the next time an idea pops in your head when you’re in the shower think about whether you are going to breathe your own unique life into it. If not, someone else will.
Another gem from Elizabeth: “You might earn a living with your pursuits or you might not, but you can recognize that this is not really the point.” How freeing is that? She stresses that a creative life has inherent value outside of if you can money from it. Sure it would be wonderful if your creativity makes you a financial living, but it’s still wonderful if it makes you feel like you’re really living.
So while Jen Sincero let me be open to the idea of making money, Elizabeth Gilbert let me be open to the idea of not making it. Honestly – I needed them both.
People ask me all the time how I manage to get any writing done when I work full time and have two small children. The answer lies with some of the basic principles of The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
Hal is a personal development speaker and writer who devised a plan to improve his own life based on the habits of successful people. His Life SAVERS method breaks down into Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing, and doing all of those things first thing in the morning.
That seems like a tall order, but I assure you that even setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal and accomplishing one of those things to start off your day is going to change the game. For me, not surprisingly I’ve focused my mornings on Scribing (writing) and burning the early morning oil has helped me write a book and build a blog I love.
If you need a specific strategy to get yourself moving, The Miracle Morning should be on your list of personal development books and quickly on your bookshelf.
All of these books – they helped me as I wrote my own book!
Check out When Mommy Grows Up: A Guide to Parenting Yourself to a More Fulfilling Career. This funny and relatable career development book for working moms will help you figure out what YOU want to be when you grow up next, and give you the tools to go for it.
Okay, friends, now it’s time to get moving! You have your list so go grab one of these great personal development books and turn those big dreams into a reality! I’ll be here cheering you on.