What’s your why? That is the single most important question you should answer for yourself. Your why may stay the same or change over time, so it’s crucial to constantly reassess and always have this ultimate personal truth in mind.
It’s not faux spirituality or an abstract new age concept. It’s logical and quite simple: how can you be the captain of your own life’s ship if you don’t know where you’re heading?
The latter part of my 2017 was filled with books centred on this very subject, or at least on shifting one’s perspective and finding meaning in one’s circumstances. Here are the books (in no particular order) that helped me put my why into a full sentence—clear, concise, actionable.
“Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research, Angela explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success.
Angela has found that grit—a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal—is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. She’s also found scientific evidence that grit can grow.”
What I liked about this book is the way Duckworth rationally explained the methodology behind her social experiments. I like it when conclusions are reached logically and are backed by well-conducted research versus anecdotal observations. Duckworth included a written exercise to find one’s why in a systematic way and I genuinely enjoyed this activity. It helped me ‘verbalise’ and put structure into a hyperactive mind and cluttered thoughts.
Furthermore, I could relate to her struggles in choosing a career that looked impressive on paper versus something that truly made her happy regardless of how it looked on the outside. I don’t agree with all of her conclusions or life rules, but much of the book provided useful insight I could actually apply.
Man’s Search for Meaning
“Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished.
Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.”
I don’t know why I hadn’t read this book sooner or even heard about it. It should’ve been required high school reading. What I found refreshing about this book is the fact that despite living through the most horrendous possible experiences a human being could be faced with, Frankl managed to find meaning in his circumstances. One of the lessons this book taught me is this: stop complaining.
On a broader level, it helped me feel less hopeless about the desperate situation many people I’ve met in my job as a journalist find themselves in through no fault of their own. When solutions to war, poverty, suffering, discrimination and other societal ills seem too complex and far from reach, I find myself rooting for the strength of the human spirit and the resilience of the human mind.
by Greg McKeown
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.
In Essentialism, Greg McKeown draws on experience and insight from working with the leaders of the most innovative companies in the world to show how to achieve the disciplined pursuit of less.”
When you’ve found your why, you need to have an action plan to fulfill the purpose you’ve set for yourself. This book introduces excellent ideas in helping make the ‘how do I get there’ part more streamlined, effective, less cluttered and of higher quality. The pace of modern life, technology, wearing multiple hats all at once, type A personalities, social media—all these (and more) tend to make us spread ourselves too thin. We really need to focus and truly internalise the ‘less is more’ approach to living.
Tools of Titans
by Tim Ferriss
“This book contains the distilled tools, tactics, and ‘inside baseball’ you won’t find anywhere else. It also includes new tips from past guests, and life lessons from new ‘guests’ you haven’t met.
“What makes the show different is a relentless focus on actionable details. This is reflected in the questions. For example: What do these people do in the first sixty minutes of each morning? What do their workout routines look like, and why? What books have they gifted most to other people? What are the biggest wastes of time for novices in their field? What supplements do they take on a daily basis?”
I first got a Kindle version of this book and realised that it’s the kind of book you need to physically have with you. It’s like a handy ‘how to’ guide, a reference book with a wealth of actionable information. Actionable is the key word here. It’s all about measurable, tangible goals. It’s not meant to be read from cover to cover—Ferriss designed it in such a way that you can easily flip through it to find the specific nugget of wisdom you need at that specific moment.
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It’s highly likely that you’ve come across these books or already read them. If you haven’t, it’s worth jumping on the bandwagon. Why? Because they are easy and enjoyable to read; they go beyond concepts and anecdotes; and when seen as a combination of books, the wisdom they impart complement each other.
Do you have other books to recommend?