Books have been my gateway to personal growth. They were how I became interested in psychology, self-reflection and self-awareness and have continued to be the number one way I educate myself. I find it amazing that, within each book, we can access new ideas, perspectives and information that plant seeds for future growth. Of course, reading alone isn’t enough; we need to actually go out and do something with our insights too :) Here are a few of my favourite books that will kickstart your personal growth:
This book is aimed at psychotherapists, counsellors and social workers but is a must-read for anyone who wants to develop a more understanding and compassionate relationship with themselves. Carl Rogers is the grandfather of client-centred therapy and shares many of the key ideas behind humanistic psychology in this series of essays. Far from being a series of stuffy abstract texts, this collection is warm, encouraging and provides insight after insight into what makes us who we are, how to understand ourselves better and embrace our capacity for wholeness.
Martha Beck is arguably one of the most famous life coaches in the world and this book is her step-by-step guide to connecting with our values and desires in the face of external pressure to conform. Throughout the book, she offers a series of exercises and anecdotes designed to shed light on two important sides of our selves: our “essential selves” (the part of us that lives in our emotions and desires) and our “social selves” (the part of us that is attached to what other people think). This is a valuable read for anyone experiencing a period of change or transition in their lives.
The Road Less Travelled is an exploration into the major areas of human existence that make life fulfilling, such as discipline, self-responsibility, truth, love, and spiritual growth. Not being religious, the last section was a little mystical for my tastes, but it’s still well worth reading and easy to see why this has become one of the classic self-help books from the last few decades. Throughout the book, M. Scott Peck combines stories and case studies, insights from his practice as a psychotherapist and philosophical discussion on what it means to be human. The opening passage is one of my favourite:
“Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Non-Violent Communication is a handbook for communicating with greater empathy and compassion, both with ourselves and with others. Through his writing, Marshall Rosenberg encourages readers to related to our own experience of the world, and others, in terms of feelings and needs. The principles in the book are relevant to conversations and negotiations in our personal and professional lives and it provides a framework and vocabulary we can use to relate to people on a more constructive and compassionate level. Personally, I’ve found sticking rigidly to the NVC lingo can sound artificial, even condescending, but the principles are still invaluable for showing up with greater empathy in our relationships.
The 5 Love Languages is a framework developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, a relationship counsellor and pastor. In his eponymous book, he outlines the different love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch) and explains how to identify both our love language and our partner’s. He also shares how we can use our awareness of these love languages to better meet our and our partner’s needs in our relationship and create love that lasts. The concept of love languages is simple but can have a big impact on our day-to-day experience of our relationships.
In The Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Shahar explains how we can shift from being perfectionists to what he calls “optimalists,” people who aren’t afraid to challenge themselves and strive for greatness but do so from a place of self-confidence and already feeling enough. The book contains useful exercises that encourage us to reflect on our own thinking and approach to life and, if you suspect you might struggle with perfectionism, there are bound to be several enlightening “a-ha” moments as you read.
Games People Play is a useful exploration of various dynamics that can play out in our relationships, and how to bring social interactions back to a more transparent and authentic level. Author Eric Berne is the creator of Transactional Analysis, which theorises our social interactions are based on three ego states: parent, adult and child. These ego states combine in social situations to form a number of what he describes as “games.” This book is a fascinating insight into some of the hidden motivations behind interactions we’re likely to recognise from our own lives.
Self-care is a necessary part of being alive, not something we resort to when we’re at our most burned out, vulnerable, and desperate. It’s is “the right and responsibility to take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.” (Pauline Salvucci) From Coping to Thriving will show you exactly how to do just that.
This is a comprehensive guide to making self-care part of your everyday life. With a balance between practical suggestions, coaching-style questions and psychological groundwork, From Coping to Thriving is designed to give you the self-knowledge and awareness you need to start making self-care an integral part of your life, instead of something that lives at the bottom of your priorities list. Not only does the book contain hundreds of useful tips and ideas to get you going with a regular self-care practice, it will also take you deeper into related topics like habit-formation, coping strategies, dealing with resistance to self-care and more.
In The Ultimate Guide to Journaling, you’ll find the tips, inspiration, and prompts you need to start and maintain a journaling practice for DIY self-discovery.
This clear and concise handbook shares everything you need to know to deepen your relationship with yourself using this powerful personal development tool. Covering foundational topics like how to journal, which tools to use, and how to make it a regular habit, as well as over 30 different journaling techniques and many more prompts, The Ultimate Guide to Journaling will help you keep your practice flowing for years to come.
Through a combination of handwritten, digital and art journaling suggestions, you’ll learn how to tap into your internal resources, learn more about what makes you who you are, discover how to negotiate with the different parts of yourself, and create a safe space to explore your inner world.
What are your must-read books that will kickstart your personal growth? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
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Image: Annie Spratt