Yes, its that time again: New Year's is almost upon us. Regardless of where you stand on New Year's resolutions, the new calendar can serve as a helpful reminder about the only true constant in all of our lives: change.
Like it or not, we are all always changing and adapting to circumstances as time rolls on. The positive thing about change is that with some effort we can help direct some (though not all) of the change in our lives as opposed to being victimized by it.
This is not just a sound bite. As a psychologist, I can tell you that real change ultimately comes from within. It is a choice. A decision -- a commitment -- filled with fury, if not sound, signifying everything.
Although change comes from inside, it doesn't mean you can't use a little help from the outside. Since I'm in the business of helping people change -- and since my own book on change was released -- I have decided to use this time to reflect on the books that I have seen, or felt, make significant changes in my clients, friends, and myself.
With that, I give you my list of The 9 Best Books For Meaningful Change:
9. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Don Miguel Ruiz
This book was mentioned in a session by one of my financially successful patients who told me that reading it helped him to become an entrepreneur. He rattled off the four agreements verbatim in that session: Be Impeccable With Your Words, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions, and Always Do Your Best. I went out and bought it on my lunch break that day. The simple enlightenment contained this book, which reflects the collected wisdom of the Toltecs -- an ancient group of scientists and artists that explored and preserved the practices and spiritual knowledge of the ancients -- is alive and well in this brief and brilliant book.
Rubin's breakthrough book from 2011 is enlightening, personal, poignant, funny, and wise. She spends a year trying to carefully craft and measure happiness in her marriage, as a parent, in her career and her self-fulfillment has been widely read and reviewed, and with good reason. Her writing is so earnest that it is easy to identify with her struggles and celebrate her happiness with her.
7. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
by Timothy Ferriss
Say what you will about Tim Ferriss, the man knows how to sell books. He is inventive, inspiring and quirky in his writing style and approach to getting the most out of life. He has built an empire on his 4-hour concept, with books such as The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life, and The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, but The 4-Hour Workweek is the one I like the most because it contains Lifestyle Design Principles that are easy to understand and put into use. If you are looking to get out of the rat race this is a great read.
6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
by Stephen R. Covey
One of the first and still one of the best. The reason Stephen R. Covey has sold about a gazillion-and-a-half copies of this book is because it is very effective. Covey breaks it all down in easily digestible morsels of wisdom. The seven habits that he suggests: Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Think Win/Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, Synergize (cooperate), and Sharpen the Saw (renew) are as effective today as they were when he first published this book in 1989.
5. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"
by Marianne Williamson
I know so many people who were personally transformed by Williamson's classic that I have lost track. In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson's explains how integrating faith and love into your daily life can make all the difference. She brilliantly notes how psychic pain can be transformative for relationships, career, or physical health. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, she explains how love is a potent and magical force in our lives and our children's lives.
Awaken the Giant Within is one of the most can-do inspiring books I have ever read. In this 1992 classic, Robbins explains that every single one of us has the power to take fate into our hands and to get exactly what we want in any area of our lives. He talks about personal identity, which we choose, as having a huge influence on our future actions. Robbins encourages us to take full advantage of our time on earth by approaching it with the right attitude and actions to master our destiny.
3. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel Pink
Of all of the books on my list this is definitely the one that is most steeped in scientific literature. Drawing on nearly 40 years of scientific research on human motivation, Pink examines the three elements of true motivation -- autonomy, mastery, and purpose -- and offers wise and practical advice for how to make them a part of our lives. This widely read book is destined to transform lives for years to come.
2. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckart Tolle
This was a close second for me. Although I feel a personal connection to Sir Ken (see below) for all he has done to transform the discussion about education reform around the world, The Power of Now is probably the book that speaks to me most spiritually. Tolle's book, originally published in 2004, is the probably the best example of practical spirituality that I have ever read. He explains the often misunderstood concept of being in the now in a way that is useful for transforming your life on a daily, or should I say now-ly basis. If you haven't read it yet, do it now.
1. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
by Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D.
This is my personal favorite for so many reasons. Sir Ken has been a source of tremendous inspiration for me personally and professionally, and I have had the honor of meeting him and I can without hesitation that he is a great man. Sir Ken believes in possibilities. His groundbreaking work on the educational system in the UK and his involvement in the peace process in Northern Ireland have left an indelible mark on society and his wisdom and inspiration is expressed beautifully through stories of people (e.g., Sir Paul McCartney, Matt Groening, and Chuck Close) who overcame great odds to find their Elements and make tremendous impacts on society. If you have to choose only one of these books to read this year, let this be it.
I hope this list is of help to you wherever you are in your journey and that you are able to receive the tools, advice, and wisdom contained in these books, opening the door to positive change, joy, and wonder in your life.
Follow Ben Michaelis, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drbenmichaelis