August 22, 2015

8 Books That Blew My Mind (+ 2 Podcasts).

Mary West/Flickr

For at least two years before I decided to live a bigger, bolder, braver life almost every book I read was either about a person making a major life change or a self-help books (I’m an admitted self-help junkie).

I now see I was doing research on how to create the change I wanted in my life.

I was inspired by the journeys others have taken to get them to where they are today and I was trying to figure out how to make changes in my own life.

Here’s a roundup of some of the books and resources that were the kindling that lit the fire in me.

I’ve re-read a few and a few I can’t wait to get my hands on when they come out. Many are considered classics in their realm and you may have heard of them. I hope this easy to access round-up will help you on your journey. I’ve pulled parts from of all these resources to help myself and others get to where they want to be.

I hope these might help you on your journey as well.


Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

What It Helped With: I’m probably the last person that would strap on a pair of hiking boots and hike for months alone but I related to Ms Strayed’s courage and ability to face her deepest, darkest demons head on and I gained courage from her story. I also had a deep realization that no one could make my journeys for me. Even if I couldn’t hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone, I needed to wade through the creeks of fear and come out the other side on my own.

Self Help

The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown

What It Helped With: I partnered this with the Oprah LifeClass of the same title to find my creative spirit, heal emotional wounds and address my fears in a therapeutic way. The book coupled with the art journaling course is how I still spend many of my Sundays, which I’ve dedicated to self-introspection and self care.

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

What It Helped With: I started the Happiness Project while on an airplane home to an apartment I had been trying to make home by filling it with things. The second I walked in the door of my apartment I cleaned out my material baggage…I felt free! It helped me organize and simply my life in ways I didn’t know were possible. Everyday when I find myself avoiding simple things I don’t want to do I say to myself Gretchen Rubin’s motto:

“if it can be done in a minute, do it now.”

Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin

What It Helped With: It helped recognize the specific ways I create structure in my life (I’m an Upholder) and how to address my needs and let go of how I think others should act, because they have a different tendency than I. While I feel like I’ve always been an overall accepting individual, I have a tendency to try to control small things about the lives of people I love. How they should organize their day or take their coffee. But after reading Better Then Before, I found myself judging others less for the ways they choose go about their days…and I’ve given myself a little slack in my own life.

The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron

What It Helped With: The Artists Way is a self-help classic. Many of the more modern day resources listed quote from it at some point. It’s a twelve-week course on unleashing your creative energy in all aspects of your life. While I don’t incorporate every aspect of the course into my life (and didn’t when I read it) I have picked up two very important habits:

1) Journaling three pages (nearly) every morning. This habit has become my way of getting rid of the unnecessary junk swirls in my head so I can get to the good stuff. I’m so committed to this habit that when my sister, brother-in-law and nephew were recently visiting I got up an hour before everyone (I’m not naturally a morning bird) so that I could write without interruption.

2) I’ve stopped feeling guilty about going to a museum alone or a yoga class or any activity that inspires me. Ms. Cameron encourages us all to take “artist dates,” or time alone to gather from the inspiration and energy of other creative beings. I once thought of these times as frivolous and they brought pangs of guilt. I now see these dates as necessary and important for my soul.


The Tibetan Book on Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche

What it Helped With: Most of modern day yogic teaching that we come across in the West is from the Indian and Hindu philosophy. This Tibetan Buddhist classic addresses many of the same principles—meditation, reincarnation, and service to the universe but in a different way. The Tibetan Book on Living and Dying serves as my reminder that there is not one way, but many ways. There is not one path in life, but many. I read a few pages nearly every night before I go to bed and I’m regularly found quoting it on my Instagram, as I become so moved by something I read I can’t help but share.


Happiness for Beginners, by Katherine Center

What It Helped With: When I first picked up Happiness for Beginners I thought, “Oh, is this a fiction version of Wild? That’s silly!” When I saw the quote on the cover from Brene Brown about how much she loved it I decided to give the book a try and I’m so glad I did! The book is probably the most lighthearted book on this list. It’s a fun, enjoyable and an easy read (I finished it in about a day). It reminded me not to take all this self-help, self-improvement so seriously…and maybe I fell in love with one of the main characters (you’ll know who when you read it).

The Alchemist, by Pablo Coelho

What It Helped With: Inspiration, beauty and the knowledge that we’re all here for some reason. Some of us may have the unique distinction of knowing that purpose, others of us may not. Some of us, like, for example Elizabeth Gilbert, may have big purposes (in Ms. Gilbert’s case, to inspire a whole generation of women to live their dreams, be creative and have adventures). Others of us may simply have a simple purpose to be at a specific place and time for a specific reason. Our purpose may be small, but it is also oh so big.

Podcasts and Digital Resources

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert

What It Helped With: If you haven’t jumped on the Magic Lessons bandwagon, stop everything you are doing, download the podcast and listen to the first few now. Go ahead…I’ll wait. In the last month these podcast have become my weekly dose of getting myself back on track with my creative dreams. It feels like once I get down creatively and feel kicked to the curb, another Magic Lessons comes out. I sit in my car outside my house or wherever I’m going and I can’t turn the dang thing off because I’m so re-energized.

Chopra Center Meditations

What It Helped With: After years of practice I’m just starting to get comfortable meditating on my own. About three times a year Deepak Chopra and Oprah team up to provide free 21-day guided meditations. The meditations also include questions for you to journal and reflect on. These are a great way to get your meditation sea legs on while being guided by one of the great spiritual teachers of our time.


What I Can’t Wait to Get My Hands On:

Rising Strong, by Brene Brown (August 2015)
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert (September 2015)
The Book of Joy: Finding Enduring Happiness in an Uncertain World, by The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (no release date yet)


Relephant read:

What Makes a Self-Help book a Must Read?


Author: Rebecca Harris

Assistant Editor: Kelly Chesney / Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Mary West/Flickr



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