When I began my journey from Debbie Downer to Mary Poppins hopeful (a journey I am still very much on), these were the books that helped me change my perspective. If you’re looking to improve your own outlook, I’ll tell you why each one has been meaningful to me and why I think it might help you. Some of them are a little heavy on the “woo-woo” factor, so if that doesn’t agree with you, just look for my helpful “woo-woo” rating.
1. The Art of Living by Bob Proctor
This is the book that started me on a different (inner) path, one which eventually led me to start this blog (it’s my exercise in “learning out loud”). In 2016 my New Year’s resolution was to be happier and less stressed out, the kind of vague goal that usually goes nowhere. But then I heard about this book through one of my favorite podcasters, Sean Croxton, and was so intrigued that I downloaded the audiobook on a whim. And didn’t stop listening to it nearly every day for about 6 months. Then I started on other Bob Proctor books, then books Bob Proctor recommended, and kept branching out from there. You just can’t go wrong with this book; it’s an amazing introduction to the world of possibility, the power of thought, the Law of Attraction, and other “secrets” you’ll wish you’d known about years ago. Many are familiar with Bob Proctor through his appearance in a film called The Secret, which can be found on Netflix.
Woo-woo factor: Medium
Notable quotable: “You see, whatever you think about all the time, you will attract into your life. Not what you want; what you are emotionally involved with. Which is why, if you have a goal of getting out of debt, you will probably stay in debt forever.”
2. Steering by Starlight by Martha Beck
Out of all the Martha Beck books I’ve read (she’s one of my faves), this one must be the closest thing to hiring her as your own personal life coach. Her description of the “inner lizard,” or what scientists call the “reptilian” part of the brain which houses our survival fears, is such a lovely way to illustrate the way we are wired to constantly fear we won’t have enough of what we need. I was really intrigued by her take on anxiety, too: She got doctors to hook her brain up to an MRI machine, then went through every trick in the book to reduce the measurable levels of anxiety in her brain, including meditation, breathing exercises, and more. The ONLY thing that worked was to relive her memories of previous high-risk experiences that she’d successfully navigated – such as speaking in public – almost like a kind of mental homeopathy!
Woo-woo factor: Medium to high
Notable quotable: “The world is re-created in every instant of time, and this moment is always your life’s beginning. No matter how many years have been stolen from you by your own ignorance, by cruel fate, or by the acts of others, you have a clean, broad slate before you. In this instant—this one now—you can begin steering by starlight, and if you do, the rest of creation will conspire to guide, teach, and help you.”
3. 10 Messages Your Angels Want You to Know by Doreen Virtue
If you grew up in an Evangelical church like I did, run right out and buy this book. I’m not going to lie, it’s weird. But the premise of the book – that angels dictated 10 concepts they want humans to understand directly to Ms. Virtue – doesn’t even seem that strange once you get into it. Not every church tradition goes heavy on the fear, guilt, and unworthiness; but the one I spent my formative years in did, so I practically guzzled this glass of pure love. Because love, not fear, is what it’s all about. I also really appreciated the way the conflict between the true self and the fearful ego is explained in this book.
Woo-woo factor: Off-the-charts high
Notable quotable: “Deservingness more accurately means allowing yourself to receive all of the uplifting love God is continuously exuding. And as you receive, so do you inspire, uplift, and help others, too. The more you allow yourself to receive, the more you can give.”
UPDATE: When I read this book, I thought Doreen Virtue was a Christian. As it turns out, she only just became a born-again Christian in 2017. So take this recommendation with a large grain of salt, because she now rejects all of her previous writings! In fact, I might even remove it from this list.
4. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
If impolite language offends you, kindly overlook this one. But this was the first self-help book I could actually relate to. Not because I am a badass (although I hope to be one someday), but because, unlike the majority of the self-help “classics” like Think and Grow Rich and As a Man Thinketh, this book was written by someone I could relate to: a youngish American woman struggling to figure out how to be less broke all the time. She tells you exactly how she became successful, makes you laugh, and leaves you with an, “If I can do it, so can you!” vibe that’s actually believable. The follow-up, You Are a Badass at Making Money, is great too.
Woo-woo factor: Medium to low
Notable quotable: “Never apologize for who you are. It lets the whole world down.”
5. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. This incredible little book is a quick read, but one you’ll want to repeat. These four simple “agreements” will give you back power you didn’t even realize you’d given up. The first one, especially: Being impeccable with your word means not only your word to other people, but your word to yourself. For anyone who struggles with depression, anxiety, or critical self-talk, this one agreement is transformative when you begin to put it into practice.
Woo-woo factor: Medium to high
Notable quotable: “How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word.”
6. The Values Factor by Dr. John Demartini
This book takes a while to work through, because it’s sort of a master class in understanding the unexpected way your own true values are shaping your life, sometimes unbeknownst to you. When I read it I finally understood why, no matter how hard I wished to have more money, because I didn’t truly value money, I didn’t hold onto it. Whether you want to be earning more, getting into better shape, making a career change, or meeting the love of your life, this book shows you how to frame what you want in terms of your personal values – or, how to change your values if they’re not in alignment with what you want – to truly get what you want. I give this book bonus points for Dr. Demartini’s radical perspective on overcoming depression (without medication, woot!).
Woo-woo factor: Low
Notable quotable: “The condition that some have called ‘depression’ I would call instead a feedback mechanism to alert the conscious mind that it is addicted to an unrealistic expectation—a fantasy. As long as a mind holds on to that fantasy, it must create the symptoms of depression to break that addiction.”
7. Loving What Is by Byron Katie
This book just might turn your perceptions of your relationships completely upside down. On her website, thework.com, Byron Katie gives you what you need to fill out a “Judge Your Neighbor” worksheet on someone who is upsetting you, then question your perceptions in a shockingly simple way, and finally draw a big mental “X” through the thoughts that aren’t serving you. This book allows you to see the power of The Work in action, with plenty of inspiring examples (from Katie’s seminars) of people waking up to the way their own thoughts have been hurting them. It’s amazing to discover how our own erroneous beliefs often hold us prisoners.
Woo-woo factor: Low
Notable quotable: “A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
8. The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
A woman who abuses the snooze button, yet somehow figures out a way to transform her life? That is a woman after my own heart. You’ll want the audiobook of this one, because it has a ton more stories of people using Mel’s 5 Second Rule to jump start their lives. You know how you sometimes get a glimpse of a really amazing opportunity, but you lose your nerve in the moment and talk yourself out of taking action? Or you know you should go to the gym, but instead you’re staying home to binge-watching some TV show? The 5 Second Rule is a game changer. Because the thing you are scared of doing is usually THE thing that will move you forward.
Woo-woo factor: Low
Notable quotable: “I was the problem, and in five seconds, I could push myself and become the solution.”
9. Finding Your Way in a Wild New World by Martha Beck
This book was recommended to me by a co-worker, and it came at just the right time. I was starting to feel drawn toward both Reiki and homeopathy, despite the “woo-woo” factor (I now know there’s plenty of science to support both of these healing modalities, but that’s a topic for a future post). If you’re like me and you’ve always had wayyyyyy too many interests (often along the lines of: music, nutrition, art, writing, plants, spirituality, etc.), as well as some mystifying chronic health issues that doctors haven’t been able to figure out, plus a burning desire to help people somehow, try this book. You’ll find out why Martha Beck thinks you might be a wayfinder or healer, you just don’t know it yet.
Woo-woo factor: High
Notable quotable: “One universal teaching from wayfinders is that we suffer more from our thoughts about events than from the events themselves. Detaching from our verbal thoughts eliminates almost all our psychological suffering.”
Just What I Needed
To quote Roseanne Cash, “I think books find their way to you when you need them.” Each of these books found me right when I needed it. If you’re open to some uplifting new reading material, I hope you’ll try one of them! I would love to hear what you think about any of them, or about other books that have inspired you. And if you think you’re too busy to read, you can let audiobooks do all the heavy lifting for you.
Ideas presented in this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to replace professional advice.