Life gets hectic, harried, and filled with stress. It’s easy, over time, to develop what many call a “bad attitude.” We become negative, unmotivated, and hold occasional pity parties. It’s hard to bounce out of this general attitude. Sometimes, there are temporary reprieves when something nice happens – we get a raise, we buy a new car or house – and while we believe these things will change our attitudes, ultimately they don’t.
An attitude change must come from within, and it is hard. Sometimes there are recommendations of books to read, like books to read before college, or books recommended by famous magazines. And there are books that will certainly make us think and perhaps change our attitudes for a short time. Long-term permanent change, however, comes with the continual reminders and practice. The following seven books have made a difference for others, and one or more may make a difference for you. If you find one that speaks to you, keep it close, re-read it often, and indeed it may have that long-term effect.
The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews
This may be the most powerful book on the list. Years ago, in 1963, a physicist by the name of Edward Lorenz made a presentation to the Academy of Sciences. His theory was that, when a butterfly flaps its wings, it moves air molecules. Those molecules move more molecules until weather patterns are formed. Laughter filled the room, and he was disgraced. Years later in the 1990’s, physicists confirmed Lorenz’s theory. Author Andrews saw that as an important lesson for all of us. Ask yourself these questions: “What if Jonas Salk had never been born?” And now, “What if I had never been born?” How many lives have you touched in some way during your lifetime, and how many lives would be “poorer” for you not being in them? Pretty quickly, you will see that your life has mattered.
This is a short book with examples of how famous and very ordinary people have changed lives because they have been or are on this planet.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Author Duhigg states that 40% of everything that we do is based upon habits we have formed since childhood. He further states that, because we do not understand the brain, we don’t understand how habits are formed and how to break them. Can bad habits really be broken? According to Duhigg, yes they can, and, in fact, several can be broken at the same time. Where it really gets interesting, however, is how he expands the concept to groups of people, businesses, and society as a whole. This is a great read for yourself personally and also to gain insights into the groups of society in which you exist.
Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
Tan began his career as a software engineer with Google. As he was developing software, however, he became much more interested in how humans develop themselves. Long story short – he is still with Google but now as a life coach for its employees. According to Tan, we are productive, at peace, and both mentally and physically healthy when we have developed our emotional intelligence, and there are five facets to that intelligence. This is a practical book with methods and strategies clearly lined out – anyone can practice what he preaches.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
This is not a new book, but it pops up on a lot of lists of great reads for self-help. The big takeaway is that life is not perfect and no human being is perfect. But if we continue to focus on those details that are frustrating, irritating, stressful, and otherwise not perfect, we will lose sight of who we are and the great potential we have. There are only certain things that matter in the long run, and those need to be our focus. There is a lot of emphasis on living right now, in the moment, being comfortable with imperfection, and allowing intuition a bigger spot in our living. The prescriptions are important, and any chapter can be read by itself for a reminder.
The 52 Weeks: Two Women and Their Quest to Get Unstuck by Karen Young and Pam Godwin
This is a hysterical read. Two women over drinks one night, decide that life has become dull and unfulfilling. They set out to have one adventure each week for a year, if only a small one. For example, one adventure was to test drive a Maserati. Other adventures, of course, were bigger, but they were things that both had decided needed to be on their bucket lists. Their takeaway and lesson for all of us is that life is all about learning – learning new things continuously until we die. This is how we grow, and this is how we leave this planet with no regrets. Throughout the book, the reader is also given advice and strategies from psychological experts and life coaches, and these are good “back-ups” for what these authors are recommending. You will laugh – a lot.
The Myth of More by Joseph Novello
Happiness is the result of pleasures. That’s what Novello says we have all learned. And that is also why we are never really happy. There is always more pleasure to be had, even for millionaires. This pursuit of pleasure puts us into “life traps” from childhood and turn us into dysfunctional adults who must have the next new shiny object for our temporary pleasures. His remedy? Stop buying and stop longing for things. Accept ourselves just as we are and pursue experiences with others rather than things. This book may sound a bit “dry,” but it is not – Novello is a great storyteller, and his book is filled with them.
Prisons We Choose to Live Inside by Doris Lessing
The great thing about this book is that it is a series of essays, each one a jewel to be read as often as necessary. Published in the 1980’s, the essays are based upon a lecture series that Lessing gave. Her thesis is that we are indoctrinated from childhood by our institutions – government, church, schools, affiliations, etc. – and we declare things to be good or bad based upon those indoctrinations. Thus, we have to have enemies, because we are always right, and we can justify treating our enemies poorly because they are always wrong. Whether in our personal lives or in the way our governments behave, there are so many lessons in these essays. You will develop a new understanding of your biases and perhaps shed some as a result.
It is the human condition to always be searching. We continue to believe that there are better things than what we have – better life conditions, better relationships, and so forth. What all of these books teach, among their specific lessons, is that we have to begin this journey of the remainder of our lives by getting comfortable with who we are right now at this moment. Only then can we begin to move forward.