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!

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