5 Best Self Improvement Books I Read This Year

Let’s kick off the ‘5-TO-TRY: Best of 2018’ posts with a little self help, shall we? Now, now, don’t roll your eyes at me, boy! Self help is not lame. It’s helpful! I love self improvement books. Because that’s just what they do ‒ help you improve. If you ever want to make any changes in your life, you’ll need to know how to/be inspired to/change the way you think ‒ all that jazz.

I like to read (don’t know if you’ve noticed?) and this year I read a number of helpful self improvement books. These were my top 5.

P.S. Can I just say that all of these books have actually had an effect on me and helped me make a change in one way or another. They were actually life-changing ‒ no word of a lie.

1. Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin


I went on, and on, and on about this book after I read it ‒ it just made SO much sense. Of course we can’t all create new habits the same way – we’re all different! Duh! I’ve always wondered why it’s so easy for some people I know to create new habits, yet when I copy the way they do it, it never works for me. Now I know – I have a different tendency.

Rubin has created a ‘four tendencies’ framework which breaks down the different ways people build habits:

Upholders: meet outer and inner expectations. Upholders are the best at forming habits as they’re people who schedule things and once it’s scheduled, they do it. If they’re scheduled to go to the gym at 6am, they’re going to the gym at 6am. No questions asked. (This is my best friend.)

Obligers: meet outer expectations, but not always inner ones. Obligers are the type of people who always get things done for other people, but rarely for themselves. In order to form a habit they generally need some form of external accountability. For example, joining an exercise group rather than exercising on their own.

Questioners (this is me!): only meet inner expectations. They push back against — and question — all expectations. Above all, they only do something if they think it makes sense. They’re only going to do an exercise if they understand and see all the benefits to what they’re doing.

Rebels: resist both inner and outer expectations. They value authenticity and self-determination. They’re only doing anything unless they decide in the moment that that is what they want to do.

I’m a questioner, which means that I have to understand the why and the reasons for something before I’ll do it. Understanding that, and the best way to create habits when you have a tendency to be a questioner, was mind blowing.

Honestly, if you want to create any kind of habit ‒ from exercising, to going to bed on time, to reading regularly ‒ you need to read this book. It’ll change the way you approach creating new habits ‒ and actually help you create long-lasting good ones. (I did!)


2. The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan


So, this year I learnt that multitasking is a myth. It’s an old wives tale, a trick, a trap, some dark magic probably created by Voldemort himself. You can’t do two things at once ‒ it’s impossible. And not Mission Impossible ‒ just impossible. When you’re trying to do two things at once, you’re not doing either thing well.

This book breaks it down so logically and clearly, that I don’t understand why it hasn’t clicked for me before. (The rational answer is that I was in fact under a spell of some kind ‒ probably by a Death Eater.) The authors explain how we’ve all fallen for the trap of believing we need to be constantly busy and doing things in order to kick goals or get things done. When, in fact, it’s proven when you narrow your focus, you manage your time better and your productivity sky rockets. Not just at work either ‒ in all aspects of your life. Don’t believe me? Read the book.

The one thing I love most about this book (see what I did there?) is the process Keller outlines for you to nail your one thing and find the one thing you should do today. And while a book called ‘The One Thing’ may appear limiting ‒ it’s actually the opposite. Never has a book encouraged me to think so big.


3. Way More Than Luck


Do you like watching commencement speeches on YouTube? I bloody love it. They make me feel like I can do anything. If you haven’t watched or read one, I recommend it. (If you don’t know what a commencement speech is ‒ I didn’t ‒ it’s the speech given by someone successful in any given field at American college graduations. Harvard have scored J.K. Rowling and Oprah in the past – like they weren’t lucky enough already.)

Way More Than Luck is a BOOK of commencement speeches. It’s inspiring and gives practical life advice ‒ a better combo than burgers and chips. Scratch that ‒ it’s AS good a combo as burgers and chips.


4. The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane


Basically everything you know about charisma is a lie. You are not just born with it ‒ it’s very much a Maybelline situation ‒ you can create it.

This book breaks down how to be more charismatic. And not just more charismatic, but how to build better communication, listening, and public speaking skills, how to improve your body language, and how to reframe your thinking. It gives practical tips on small things you can do that will improve your ‘charisma levels’ instantly.

Anyone who wants to be seen as a leader, a good manager or communicator, should read this. And you should especially read this if you want to be more charismatic.

Remember: people will forget what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.


5. You Do You by Sarah Knight


It could not be a year of self improvement without Sarah Knight. She is my swears-like-a-sailor Knight in Shining Armour when it comes to self improvement books.

I don’t know what it is ‒ whether it’s the personal examples she gives or the way she writes ‒ but she articulates very clearly some of the universal problems that, I daresay, all women have. The obligations we feel, the pressure to be liked by everyone, the comparisons we hold ourselves to and the fear that holds us back. In You Do You, Knight flips everything on it’s head and questions why we follow these made up rules to begin with. She’s empowering, hilarious and brutally honest.

So You Do You, Boo ‒ whether that’s read this book, or not, You Do You. Because as Dr Seuss says, “there is no one you-er than you”.