Month: January 2018

Personal Development Books

I love reading. I have loved reading since I was little. And I love all kinds of books- serious, dark, scary, funny, romantic. Fiction and nonfiction. I have also grown to love personal development books. I know people think those books (call them “self-help,” call them stupid, call them trite, call them whatever you want) are silly or weird or just plain stupid. And I know people make fun of them. But I really like them! And I kinda sorta think everybody should read them.

I think personal development books can offer us so much- even if your life is perfect and you’re bursting with happiness. Even if you wake with a song in your heart and drift off to peaceful sleep with a smile on your face each day. Even if you’re living the life of your dreams….Or, even if you couldn’t care less about dreams and fluffy stuff like that. There doesn’t have to be something wrong to read a “self-help” book. We could all use a little time for self-reflection, maybe a little inspiration.

I think there’s value to reading these kinds of books, just like I think there’s value in taking classes, trying something new, doing something you’ve never done before. Lots of life experiences- good or bad- expand us. Expand our minds, our thinking, our perspective. And sometimes doing something new, even if you think it’s silly, can add to your life experience. There are lots of ways to do this, but not all of those ways are as easily accessible as reading a book. Reading a book that has a positive message or can help us think of things in a new way or helps us find something out about ourselves is a good thing. It certainly isn’t a bad thing.

These books, the good ones, usually make you feel pretty good too. They’re positive. It’s a little mental/emotional/spiritual pick-me-up. They can be very motivating- to do whatever. To pursue something you’ve always dreamed of, to find a job that brings you more happiness, to do a race, to organize your home, to wake up earlier, to be more productive, to be better with money, to be more decisive, to be more confident, to love your life the way it is more or to make a change. Or they can just be a nice positive thing to add into your day.

If you have never read one of these kinds of books, you should give one a try. Look at it as an act of self-care. Or a break from reality. Or just something you do because it’s good for you, like eating vegetables.

I try to read 15 minutes of “personal development” a day. It started out feeling like a chore, something I did because I felt like I should. I think I just started with the wrong books. Once I found a book I loved, though, it became something I enjoyed. Pick something not too heavy, something that won’t make you feel the opposite of how you want it to make you feel. Something that won’t dredge up things you don’t want to dredge up or get too deep. Just a nice something to add to your day.

I also changed when I read it. I used to read it at night. My personal development book replaced the fiction I usually read at night. I didn’t like that either. I don’t want to think too much before bed. I want to turn my brain off. And I missed my fiction! I missed having a book that totally sucked me in and kept me up at night reading. (Some personal development books can suck you in like that, but I find most I can put down and look forward to reading tomorrow.)

So I started reading it in the morning (I know that sounds crazy, even to me it sounds a little crazy). I already get up early to exercise before my kids get up; I’d read after my workout while I drank my water. Ten or fifteen minutes, and it’s a nice way to start the day. I get to read my fluff before bed and I still get some time to read something that’s helping me live life. Making me feel better. Inspiring me. Making me think. Motivating me.

Another way to get some of this positivity into your day is to listen to something positive. There are audiobooks, so you can listen instead of read, and podcasts. I listen to podcasts while I clean sometimes. They can really change your mood, just like listening to music, but with more intention.

So, I just bought these two books yesterday. I had a gift card to Barnes & Noble 🙂 I haven’t read them yet, so I can’t tell you what I think yet. But I’m excited to read them! I just love Shaun T. I love his workouts, I love his motivation, I love his story. I feel like he genuinely cares about people. And the other book is one I’ve been hearing about. It’s supposed to be very good, and has been on my list for a while. Even if it doesn’t transform my life by 8AM, I’m sure it will inspire me in some way.

I just finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and loved it. It had a real focus on creativity, and doing what you love, and not being afraid of what other people think. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero is one of my favorites. It is flat out fun to read. She is very funny, very down-to-earth. I felt like she was one of my friends. She kind of reminds me of one of my college friends- some of her adventures and her no-nonsense way of saying things 🙂

Even the books I haven’t loved have given me something to take away from it. I read 12 Week Year and while I liked it, it was a little too high maintenance for where I was at. It required too much diving in, too much work. But I did learn a lot from it. It helped me think about what I really want to do, about goal setting, about being more concrete about what I want in life. Sometimes we just don’t think about the big picture because we’re caught up in the day-to-day, not necessarily being “present” or “in the moment” but just busy and feeling like a hamster in a wheel. Sometimes we don’t even think about what we really want.

I’m happy- I love my life. But I am at a kind of crossroads and I want to think about what I really want as I move forward in life. Before life pushes me along, maybe in a direction in which I don’t necessarily want to be going.

For “fun” I’m reading Game of Thrones. I remember before I had kids I would try to read classics. I read new books, too, but I would try to read classics and “good” books. I still think there’s value to reading those books, but in the throes of motherhood I knew I needed to lighten things up a bit….A teacher friend had once asked me what I was reading and when I told her she said, “Sheesh. No wonder you’re depressed.” I had been telling her about some sad stuff going on in my life then, and how I was having trouble not letting it weigh on me all the time. She had a point- maybe I couldn’t fix the stuff that was going on in my life. But reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy probably wasn’t helping my outlook on things.

So, I am a total reading dork. I love good books, I love fluff, I love personal development. I also love the library. And bookstores. And talking about books. And hearing what books other people are reading….Books of all kinds can change your world. And I’m happy I’ve made the commitment to reading something with the specific purpose of growing as a person. I think it’s when we become stuck or stagnant or stop evolving that we can get in trouble in this world. We should always be growing.

Have you read a personal development before? I’d love to hear what you have read!

My Dad

My father passed away in November. I originally wrote this post on Wednesday, November 29th. I wrote it and shared it with my health and fitness accountability group on Facebook. Writing it helped me process the grief. Writing specifically about one aspect of my dad’s life and one aspect of my relationship with him helped me process some of my grief. I was sad and I cried the whole time, but it wasn’t plunging me into what this all meant to my whole life.

One of the good things (for me) about having a blog (even if it is a neglected blog) is that it is a place to write. I love writing, but before I created this blog I rarely wrote anything. So it’s an outlet for me. Sometimes I type away like mad on my computer and then it just sits there. I never publish it. But having this blog gave me an outlet that morning, when I couldn’t sleep. When I was in bed and my mind was racing. It gave me a constructive way to talk about my dad, without getting too personal. A place to share some things about him without delving into all that he means to me. Even if I knew I wasn’t going to share it- yet or maybe ever- on this blog. I shared it only in the safe space of my little group.

I share it here now because losing my father has had a huge impact on my life. On my “journey.” I feel like I’m baby stepping out of the surreal, underwater feeling that has been the last few months. Part of moving forward will be wrapping myself up in nutrition and exercise. (Could be worse, right?!) I think my dad would get a kick out of hearing me talk about what I’m about to get myself into next….

Here’s what I wrote and shared with my group back in November:


“My father passed away on Monday night (November 27th). He was very sick, diagnosed with cancer on September 25th and things seemed to progress so quickly. But the way he died, and the quickness of the actual end, was unexpected.


I write about this here because up until the few months before his diagnosis he was an amazingly healthy and active man. And he inspired me to be healthy. He set a wonderful example for his children and grandchildren.


His fitness was a bit like a bell curve. He had that time in the middle of his life when he was less active, consumed by the responsibilities of work and commuting from Rockland County, NY to Brooklyn for 34 years. But even during those years he was health conscious. I remember him eating wheat germ and drinking apple cider vinegar in the ‘80s, when neither of those was a “thing.”


My dad was a conservative business man. You wouldn’t look at him and guess he was a health nut. But he was always open to vitamins and holistic stuff, never a sucker for fads but knowing there were real options out there to optimize health.


My love of nutrition is definitely inspired by him. Sometimes I feel like my father when I mix up my kefir and granola and berries. Every morning he would fix his “concoction.” The ingredients varied but mostly it was oats, cinnamon, nuts (when my kids weren’t around), berries. He ate salmon twice a week. I first heard about flaxseed from him and he heard about kefir from me and started eating it too.


He ran when he was younger, walked and hiked a ton when he was older. Just a few years ago my dad, my brother, my husband, my son and I hiked the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland. It was a challenging 9-mile hike and he impressed us all. There was a little bit of rock scrambling involved and we worried but he was fine.


And my dad loved golf. He would golf 4 times a week most weeks when he and my mom were in Florida. He shot an 81 when he was 81. He got a hole in one a few years ago. More often than not he would walk the course. Golf brought him great joy and as he got sicker missing it was one of his biggest concerns.


My sister Liz has been a big part of me finding a love for exercise and she told a great story about my dad the other day. She went to Rockland Lake to go for a run, started out and felt like she didn’t really have it in her that day. My dad drove by her and waved. She knew he was going to park and walk the hills by the golf course there. And if he could go do that, then she could go finish her run. It ended up being one of her best runs ever.


My dad would always ask me about what I was doing. And he always had something positive to say about my workouts or my running. He always showed interest and encouraged me. He also made me want to do better. I wanted to make him proud.


And maybe before I found my love of exercise as an adult, it was my dad who planted the seed when I was a child. Some of my favorite memories of him are from our hikes at Bear Mountain or our walks at Rockland Lake.


I have been wanting to write about my dad on here for a long time and just never did. I wanted to write about how he inspired my love for health and fitness, nutrition and exercise. I wanted to tell you about his daily walks, his golf games, his regular trips to the gym. How even in those middle years when he didn’t have the luxury to golf all the time, my siblings and I might catch him doing push-ups and sit-ups in his room. I wanted to tell you that he always took the stairs at work, I want to say it was 6 flights. He would never brag about his golf, he would never tell anyone he was doing daily exercises in his room. But he was there carving out his own healthy routines, all along.


I don’t want to pour my heart out here. I could go on and on about my father, about the wonderful man he was and will continue to be in our hearts and memories. About the gentleman he was, the strength he had, his brilliance, his humility, his incredible sense of humor that brings a smile to my face right now as I think about it. He gave me so many gifts- especially the love of books and words that I have passed on to my own children. He was a wonderful dad and a wonderful Poppop to my kids.


But I mostly wanted to write about him here to share his inspiration for living a healthy life. He was so strong and healthy and active the last ten years of his life. I want to be healthy so I can grow older strong and active and healthy. People would look at him and say, “he’s in great shape!” 


His level of health before sickness made it harder to see him as he weakened. And I know it made it harder for him. So while I’m sad we said good-bye sooner than expected, I’m glad he was spared some of the physical decline that would be inevitable.


The question on that Monday when I drove my mom and my dad to the emergency room wasn’t “Is it time to let go?” It was “Do we give the treatment another shot or do we call hospice?” But things unfolded differently than anyone expected. I can’t overthink why. I can’t wish I knew better or saw it coming or said a better good-bye. I can go through this with my family, I can know he’s always with me, and I can try to live a life that would make him proud. I’m lucky I had a dad that made me want to be a better person.”