Learning how to be present, find happiness, take time, and to accept yourself as you are, is tough. It also sounds a bit new-agey.
Perhaps it is. There’s something fundamentally difficult about being human because so much of what happens in our lives is beyond our control. At the same time, much is within our reach and that’s why we turn to books (as well as music, film, and other outlets) for motivation and reassurance that we’re not alone, that we matter, that we can be better—and that sometimes we don’t have to be.
So along these lines, here are a few of the best books that have inspired us lately. There’s even a bit of fiction (because, in case you missed it, the best customer service agents read fiction). Maybe it’s just about time to usher in a new age of self-care.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now is unlike any other self-help book. Less a manual on improving one component of your life—health, love, work, family—it is instead a comprehensive guide to day-to-day living. And it's going to take you in a very unexpected direction. Instead of looking forward or behind, Tolle encourages the reader to stop and embrace the present moment.
Yes, there is talk about the long-term quest for happiness and joy. Yes, there are mystic strategies meant to encourage learnings from the past. And yes, there are practices to help form a lifetime’s worth of enlightened relationships. But they are all meant to bring you into the now.
Tolle provides all the argument and tools you need to embrace the importance of living in the present. As a philosophical pragmatic, I initially found the book to be a frustrating read. Once I transitioned to the audio version (narrated by Tolle), the frustration elevated. Tolle's voice is unusual and his tone is sometimes condescending. Yet his message is strong. Halfway through the book I found myself going back and listening (or reading) passages, even whole chapters, again. What is so powerful in his words? It's the power of now.
Allow Tolle to annoy you and completely set you off. Let him make you question your approach to your personal and professional life. There is something in the book that will resonate. For you, it might be one sentence or one phrase. For me, The Power of Now was life-changing. (@stealeyreed)
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor
The Happiness Advantage speaks of how each action towards a happier you, no matter how meager, will eventually reap rewards. I love that everything mentioned in the book is backed up by decades-upon-decades of study. Like most of us, I used to think that I had to work hard before I could become happy. I thought I had to be successful before I could grab my dream or before everything would fall into place. But from the book I’ve learned that studies have proven time and time again that it should be the other way around. A happier me in the now will make me more productive, more resourceful, and more successful. I'm still on the journey of defining what happiness really means to me in the day-to-day, but this book has been a much-needed eye-opener. (Virg Tumulak)
One Minute For Yourself by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
Work-life balance. Mindfulness. Inner peace. These common buzzwords speak to a universal truth: We don’t make enough time for ourselves. Whether you’re managing a demanding job, raising children, or just getting caught up in everyday life, it can be easy to put yourself last and hard to put yourself first.
From the author of Who Moved My Cheese comes a short and simple guide to taking better care of yourself. He writes, “When we are quiet, one minute is a long time.”
A family member gifted me One Minute For Yourself after I had my son, and I’ll admit that it sat in a drawer for several months. (Because really, who has time to read with a newborn?) But as I started to miss the relationship I once had with myself, I made time to read it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the storytelling style, many lines throughout struck a profound chord with me and throughout, Johnson teaches you how to be your “best self” by making life more enjoyable for you and for those around you. So go ahead and take a minute to yourself. Or take 60 and read this book. I think you’ll be glad you did. (@alisonmassie)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Having graced the bestseller shelves of airport bookstores for a long time now, Susan Cain’s Quiet is a book that’s, aptly, quietly powerful. Originally recommended to me by a colleague, it took nearly two years, a Kindle download, and, eventually, a delayed flight for me to pick up this book (in paperback). And I’m so glad I did.
To be clear, this is not just a book for those of us who view ourselves somewhere along the introvert spectrum. There’s a lot to be learned within the pages about extroverts and it’s an eye-opening read for anyone who wants to better understand the people in our lives who draw their energy and express themselves differently than we might. Still, for dyed in the wool introverts, the book delves into both research and history to offer a refreshing look at why we introverts are the way we are, and how we’ve changed the world and have learned to hold our own. Cain makes a case for the advantages of being an introvert (as well as the pitfalls of the “Extrovert Ideal”) and examines this divide within the context of leadership, creativity, Wall Street, and even ventures into the realm of parenting. The book is not intended to take extroverts down so much as to shore introverts up. It’s a book for anyone who’s ever felt like being cool is overrated. (@elisesuz)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Lately I’ve been listening to Florence & The Machine’s “What Kind of Man” (and watching the video), and it reminded me of Lois Lowry’s classic novel, The Giver. Maybe it’s an abstract connection, but Florence’s song and video made me think about how the oldest son in the novel, Jonas, is mindful about language and hyper-focused on his choice of words.
I make my living as a communicator, mostly over social media, and so Jonas’ level of mindfulness struck a chord with me. When dealing with awkward back-and-forth exchanges, passive-aggressive tones, abrasiveness, and misunderstandings that can hinge on single words, detonating silent powder kegs of emotion, I’m reminded that I can—as we all can— do as Jonas does.
The Giver is a great gateway novel for teaching empathy and its transference. Within the book, empathy is the law of the land. It sounds utopian, but of course, the characters fall prey to the laws and trappings involved: all the feelings, service-based social obligations, correct language, and the like. The book presents a profoundly realistic and deep exploration into a world where mindful language, tolerance, and empathy are the guiding principles. Suffice to say, it’s worth the read. (@InternetSabrina)
Interested in other books that speak to us? Please share yours in the comments below.
Suzanne Barnecut is a content marketer for Zendesk and a frequent contributor to Relate. She is fascinated by technology, but a diehard reader of paper-made books and sender of snail mail. Find her on Twitter: @elisesuz.