The underrated self-help section of the bookstore
‘Love people use things.’
‘You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.’
The voices of ‘The Minimalists’ filled my morning commute to and from my full-time teaching job. Dissecting their minimal maxims or short, pithy phrases while mentally preparing to leave that soul-sucking role. This previously perceived dream job turned into a soul-sucking administrative nightmare for my ten colleagues and me. As part of the mass exodus, I wanted to be prepared. I curiously explored what else I could do with my life and how I could restart a career after investing so much into achieving the first one. I found myself hanging on to the words of these two corporate guys who left their jobs, got rid of their physical possessions, and resulted in living a happier life.
Their podcasts led me to their website, the newsletter, and their books. In true minimalist fashion, an overwhelming amount of content basically says, ‘get rid of your things to make room for more important things.’ But somehow, these were the pioneers of this glorified newfound freedom I was aspiring to be.
Sounds simple? If I got rid of my clothes and junk, I could spend my free time enjoying picnics in the park rather than doing laundry on Sundays. Fewer clothes = less laundry.
I found myself spending more time perusing the aisles in my local bookstore, regularly checking for their latest printed copy. Eager to completely annihilate the pages with my color-coded highlighters and dog ear every ‘hell yes’ moment as I reread their decluttering principles. Less laundry meant more picnics, and less clutter meant more open space in my living room - all resulting in more mental freedom.
And when one fateful Sunday evening at Caves Bookstore, there it stood in all of its simplicity. The black and white cover of ‘Minimalism’ adored the wooden shelves among the colorful and cliche ‘save your life’ and ‘get rich’ titles.
On this day, I also discovered the self-help section and started crackling open the pages of Brene Brown and diving deeper into the work of her profound truths, courage, and leadership. I paired my newfound literature with the latest copy of the 20th-anniversary edition of ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, a recommendation that kept popping up. I felt like it was my time to read more than the first two pages in the bookstore.
No matter how often a life-changing book is recommended, it has to hit me at the right time to pique my interest.
‘The Power of Now’ was the most recent book I purchased and the only time I have ever given a book as a gift. Complete with a handwritten note, my baby brother received this as part of his 25th birthday gift. My personalized words said something like “I hope this book is helpful,” which translates to, ‘This book saved me, and it may save you one day, too.’ Many ‘it’s going to be okay’ feelings waved over me as the pages turned.
The self-help section full of paper and hard-back books help me see that it was and is okay to be me and present as me.
It was like I had never given myself permission to be seen, step foot into, or even care about the books with catchy titles in the self-serving, self-help section of the bookstore. Not willing to admit there was any glimmer of I-don’t-have-my-shit-together, like an imposter adult. And certainly not willing to admit that I was incapable of figuring out the next obstacle.
And suddenly, at 30, it was okay.
So I embraced it.
Listening to podcasts and audiobooks and reading books about people who have been on similar journeys and were a few steps ahead were the guiding pioneers I looked to. Everyone has to start somewhere, I was beginning to realize that it’s okay to admit it.
If it’s not the work of James Clear and Atomic Habits to help you understand that every little bit can lead to a new behavior pattern or the gentle hug you feel from Brene Brown in her podcast on leadership when trying to set boundaries and culture for my previous company.
I have never bought a self-help book for anyone, except that one copy by Mr. Tolle for my brother. He admitted it still sits on his bookshelf, collecting dust. ‘Maybe I should read it someday,’ he mentioned over our recent Christmas feast.
And while I can't buy a self-help book for every one of you readers, I can recommend a few, to begin with.
Here are a few of my favorite resources if you want a starting point to learn more. I could include why they were life-changing and transformational for me along the way, but see for yourself and try your own sampling of self-help material.
Books and Podcasts:
The Power of Now Book by Eckhart Tolle
Ten Percent Happier Podcast by Dan Harris
The Minimalist Books
Dare to Lead Podcast by Brene Brown (and all of her books)
If you want to take a leap, follow in the footsteps of those you admire who came before you.
And don’t forget once you take those steps, there will always be someone looking up to follow you.
It’s okay not to know.
I will always be a work in progress.
If this resonated with you, or you have any suggestions to add to this list, please share or comment to share. As a global community, we trust word-of-mouth recommendations the most, so let’s support those around us.
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