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Favorite Self-Awareness and Improvement Reads aka Books to Make Your Life Less Sh*tty

22 August 2012

If there is one thing about life that I know, it's that I've yet to have it all figured out. It seems like when I was about a senior in college I began coming to grips with the fact that the whole finding happiness, fulfilling personal dreams and learning how to communicate things do not come as easily to humans as maybe we think it should. This is when I began trying to take some time now and then and sponge up anything being written or talked about in concerns of these three human endeavors. The self-improvement section of the bookstore became my friend.

Just kidding. I totally order these books online to save face and not let people know I actually care about adding depth and value to my life through spiritual enlightenment etc. I save the bookstore for more important things like reading Us Weekly for free.

It seems like a few of my friends are looking for answers in the new ideas and/or life departments or just generally looking for a new great read. The following books have made lasting impressions on me and since I enjoyed sharing my favorite comedy books earlier, I thought we could get deep with it and give Oprah's Book Club a run for its money.

Today I give to you some of my favorite books that have helped me gain more awareness of myself, other people and ways I can communicate to better enhance my relationship with both.

Disclaimer for my mother who is going to call me after reading this post and call me spiritually void for getting my pearls of life wisdom from a former Real Housewife and other secular literature: I personally believe that the best way to focus on growth is by focusing on my spirituality and faith, and I enjoy doing so at church and in a counseling environment that is familar and in line with my relgious background and beliefs. So obviously the best self-improvement book for me is the Bible etc., but my church is lacking a good "married young professionals trying to get their act together while still partaking in all this fun we're supposed to be having at this age" social group and the book of John is depleted of any references on how to find enlightenment after I've become addicted to my iPhone and have fallen into the rut of getting all of my life meaning from goop, so sometimes I am looking for some advice from modern humans as well as my faith and these books have given me that. Phew, now judgement from my mom can focus on my dirty house and inability to ever completely blow dry my hair. Crisis averted!

This is a great book for women who are married or have to be around men, women who have or expect to one day have sons and, most importantly, men themselves. Bascially, unless you are a hermited nun, this book is for you. The book's author is an adventure man and father to young boys and asks some great questions. Are we allowing our men to be brave and the warriors of our family when we tell them that good, Christian men go to work, come home, sit down and shutup? Are we making our men so passive and lifeless that when they finally escape to adventure it's through sin like infidelity or alcoholism?

This read has helped me encourage my spouse in his efforts to be respectful while also having the courage to explore new things and take charge of his life and situations, which I believe has made him a happy husband and me a happy wife (you know the saying "happy wife, happy life" - well as Missy Elliot once penned, put your game down flip it and reverse it). A lot of the writing is backed by the author's personal experience, those of people he knows and Scripture. There is a follow up book that focuses on the needs of women called Captivating that I'm really looking forward to reading soon!

When a former supervisor and mentor suggested this book to me I had to refrain from rolling me eyes (um, probably a sign of how badly I needed to read the book, right?). This book is a million years old and is still around because it still works. It was interesting to read the book at a job that I had been in for about a year. I was a perky and cheerful employee but we were working way over capacity and it seemed like my meetings weren't going well and things were rarely coming back to me right. I just thought I would experiment some of the teachings in this book (like calling people by name whenever possible, for example) and see if things changed. It really was remarkable how projects gelled faster and the workload seemed lighter even when it wasn't going away. It's a focused effort and investment at first but one that pays off. Happier at work led to happier at home, since I came home less frazzled and more enthusiastic.

Markus read this book for school when we were first dating. We communicate so well and I always seem to understand and respect his communication. After reading this it all came together: He was Dale Carnegie-ing me! The nerve. Lesson learned: the system works because it's worked on me.

As I've moved into more of a management role over the years I think I would have surely had people lined up outside my office with tar and feathers if I hadn't read this and made the principles just part of how I reguarly communicate with my contacts. I even roll my eyes 20% less of the time now!

Do you have an older sister? One that is willing to shoot you straight about how it is, that you can watch and learn from both her accomplishments and failures? I do not. I'm the oldest sibling and basically oldest grandchild, no one of my generation that I know has enough life experience beyond me to lend me any counsel. Obviously this is before Bethenny came along. (half joking) A Place of Yes really does sound like a girlfriend who has been through it all letting you know the way it is sometimes and the ways to break through it. It's written pretty much like you won two hours on the phone with Mrs. Frankel Hoppy and she's going to tell you what's up. The anecdotes are humorous but have enough value that when I see friends launching busiensses or projects I can usually equate one of her stories to something a friend is facing in her own career. She is the queen of taglines and her advice is therefore communicated in a way that is easy to remember and recall when I'm in a situation where I need some direction.

Maybe I've just had too much to drink of the Skinnygirl koolaid (I drive through Waco far too often to use that expression, but you know), but it seems more like she wanted to legitimately share her experience and perspective and isn't just another celebrity writing a book. Either way, anyone going from broke to selling a company for $120 plus million is worth a few hundred pages of my time.
I highly recommend this for any woman that wants to work in the c-suites or own her own business and is just approaching the starting line. You'll learn from her mistakes and be motivated by her success.

I am not a tattoo person, but if I could justify inking anything on myself it would be these four pieces of advice on my hand, face, wherever I was bound to see them most. If I had a billion dollars I would have it printed on t-shirts and make everyone wear them around me all the time. You see, the thing with me and these four agreements is while I can tell when I'm doing them, it's when I can tell that I'm not doing them that I can feel the most. Since reading this book five years ago there is not one time that I have looked back on an argument and failed to pinpoint which one of these agreements was missing from the equation that allowed me to get upset. If you have room for five agreements in your life, make them the four in these books and fifth one to pray all day long that you will have the fortitude to keep acting on these principles! What is also interesting is how much other people can get upset without me getting upset with them or it affecting me when I am following these principles. The people around you are bound to have their bad days and keeping yourself above their self-imposed agony is like gettting extra days on the calendar if you ask me.

I highly recommend this book to anyone graduating or beginning a new chapter in their life or looking to improve their relationship with themselves and others. Markus and I read it when we were first dating and also really liked the follow up book that is specifially for romantic relationships called The Mastery of Love. With both I felt like I found the wisest grandparent in the world and she let me in on all the secrets to life she found through her experiences.

Most days around here it's online magazines and How I Met Your Mother. It is nice to know, though, that when I am looking to stretch my boundaries there's some interesting reading material out there that adds recent life experience to the stories we hear in the Bible or church. 

Do you have a book that gave you a (brace yourself) aha moment? Do share! 

1 comment:

  1. okay okay okay buying the four agreements. LAY OFF ME ALREADY.


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