8 Books on self-development

1. Chris Bailey A Year of Productivity

Chris Bailey spent a year exploring and testing a variety of the most effective ways to boost one’s productivity. He selected 25 truly efficient methods of making the most of your resources and described them, providing cases from his own experience. From his book, you can learn how to use biologically determined daily productivity peaks and to do more work in a few hours than you normally do in a week. Bailey also gives tips on setting priorities and realistically assessing your strength.

“The Rule of Three.”

It is a very unambiguous rule:

  1. In the morning, mentally fast forward to the end of the day and ask yourself: “When the day is over, what three things will I want to have accomplished?” Write down these three things.
  2. Do the same at the beginning of every week.

The three things that you have put on your list should remain your point of focus throughout your day or your week.

That’s it!

2. Kelly McGonigal. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It

Willpower is similar to a muscle, and you can train it, believes Stanford professor and psychologist Kelly McGonigal. In her book, she shares the results of her experiments on the human mind and gives advice on how to acquire healthy habits and to fight laziness and apathy. You will find out why just one candy can be enough of an incentive to complete a dull and strenuous job. Each chapter ends with a concise takeaway message and a few willpower-boosting exercises.

Most likely, all of us were born with self-control; but some of us use this ability more frequently than others. Those who are more successful at managing their attention, emotions, and actions, are generally more successful in life. They are healthier and happier. Their intimate relationships are more fulfilling and last longer. They tend to earn more and make better careers. They are more efficient at handling stress, resolving conflicts, and overcoming various predicaments.

3. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

How can you learn to take pleasure even in routine tasks and to enjoy the process? Professor of psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains the phenomenon of flow – immersion in what you are doing regardless of external circumstances, when everything around you ceases to matter except for the object you are focused on. The feeling of soaring and omnipotence, of being “in the groove” is the essence of flow. The main takeaway of the book is that goals are important, but it is more important to remain persistent and mindful while moving toward them.

It is understood that one has to pursue external goals to survive in this world: we learn to think long-term and to postpone our reward. However, we do not have to turn into puppets, letting society pull all the strings. The solution to this problem is to extricate yourself from the system of rewards imposed by society and to stop yearning for them. Instead, you can replace them with sources of pleasure that you control independently. We do not necessarily have to abandon all the goals society suggests to us; it is sufficient to construct our own system of goals that can either supplement or replace one that society is trying to hook us with.

4. Petr Ludwig. The End of Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing and Live a Fulfilled Life

Some people always postpone the most important tasks to the last moment, no matter what they do. Chances are you have experienced it too. This state is called procrastination, and overcoming it requires a special technique. Petr Ludwig explored a multitude of studies and wrote a book full of practical tools on fighting the urge to postpone important work. Using visuals and vivid examples, the author explains that the causes of procrastination are not as trivial as common laziness and shares plenty of recommendations on daily planning and efficient prioritizing.

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” This proverb addresses two primary issues of life. Many people have a vision but do nothing to follow it. Others, by contrast, keep doing something but do not see the purpose of it. Ideally, we need both vision and action. If we can combine the two, we will get emotional and tangible benefits.

5. Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

An extensive study by Daniel Goleman, psychologist, journalist, and Pulitzer Prize nominee, explains the concept of EQ (emotional intelligence) and why it deserves as much attention as IQ (general intelligence). The book walks you through the decision-making mechanism, which includes both emotional and logical levels. Being aware of physiological processes in your body at the moments of stress, anxiety, or joy, you will learn to handle your emotions better and become more successful and satisfied with life.

Emotional life is an area you can manage with as much confidence and reliability as mathematics or reading. All you need is a special set of skills that correspond to its functions. Understanding these skills is crucial to understanding why certain people thrive where others fail — even those with similar IQ scores.

6. Jim Camp. Start with No: The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know

A reference book for those who often have to negotiate and want to learn how to resist their counterparts’ manipulations and pressure, how to keep their dignity, retain the leader’s position in the dialogue, and simply hone their communicative skills. Jim Camp believes that any negotiations are a joint effort with the main purpose of helping your counterpart solve their problems. Interestingly, it is the word “no” that often leads to a better understanding of what the other party wants.

Take responsibility for the wrong decision, own it, fix your mistake and keep going forward, fearlessly and persistently, as the right path is just one decision away from you. However, adopting this approach requires discipline and no small amount of self-confidence because being right is very important to most of us. This need is primal, intrinsic — and you should overcome like any other need.

7. Corinne Sweet. The Mindfulness Journal: Exercises to help you find peace and calm wherever you are

A collection of exercises to achieve mindfulness at any moment of your life for those who do not have a minute to spare. The author shares the most accessible, basic meditation techniques that do not require a soundproof environment, solitude, or preparation. You will learn to stay in the now in any kind of situation, to stay focused and find peace even amidst the daily hustle and bustle.

If you feel that your attention is starting to wane, find a window and try the following exercise. Take a comfortable position at the window, sitting or standing, and look out of the window. What can you see, the sky of the street? Look up and down to see both. Determine what moving objects are the fastest and the slowest within your line of sight. Find what else is moving before your eyes as you stay motionless. Take conscious breaths, staying aware of your posture. If you are standing, slightly bend your knees. Focus on this very moment of your life.

8. Joshua Foer. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

The winner of memory championships wrote an engaging guide on the capacity of the human mind, mnemonics, and the method of loci (the mind palace technique). The author introduces you to three basic mnemonic tools and reveals the main secret: any memory training helps you memorize things deliberately, not spontaneously, so don’t be surprised if you keep forgetting your keys or phone even after you have mastered the techniques.

One of them is chunking — a method of decreasing the number of items you have to memorize by uniting them into groups. This is why credit card numbers consist of four-digit groups and phone numbers are broken down into several parts plus the city code. Naturally, chunking is also closely connected to the amazing mnemonic abilities of many experts.

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