31 Lessons from 31 Self-Help Books

In 2021, I found my love for self-help books. This genre plays a key role in fulfilling my values of being a life-longer learner and consistently bettering myself. All of the tips in a single self-help book can become overwhelming. In light of this, I gave myself the permission to seek and take away only one key learning from each text and apply that learning in my life. This year I read 31 self-help books and learned 31 lessons that made a positive impact in my day-to-day life:

Didn’t See That Coming by Rachel Hollis

Embrace the difficult moments that come in life because beauty can exist alongside the darkness.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brene Brown

Lead with Empathy. Leaders: see the world as others see it, are nonjudgmental, understand another person’s feelings, communicate their understanding of that person’s feelings, are mindful.

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown

Wholehearted people set many boundaries, communication those boundaries, and hold others accountable when those boundaries are crossed.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown

Letting go and holding on are equally important when we consider who we are. These go hand-in-hand, not in isolation from one another. We need to find balance in letting go of the thoughts of others towards us, while also holding true to the truth that we are worthy of love and belonging. The combination of these two practices allows us to write “our own story”.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. Being truly transparent, seeing the world clearly, and letting the world see us and approaching situations and others with compassion and tenderness.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven

Simply making your bed each morning starts your day with an accomplishment, and that is something to proud of. Even small tasks should be acknowledged as victories when we look at and evaluate each day.

No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brain Tracy

Making effective to-do lists requires being specific! To-Do lists get everything put on them, but all items are not of equal urgency or importance. Brain Tracy suggests the ABCDE method:

- A — “Must do” — serious consequences for non-completion

- B — “Should do” — mild consequences for doing or not doing

- C — “Nice to do” — no consequences whether you do it or not

- D — “Delegate” — Everything you possibly can have someone else complete to free up more time for those things that only you can do

  • E — “Eliminate” — Discontinue all tasks and activities that are no longer essential to you achieving your goals

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live by Meik Wiking

Hygge can be lived and experienced anywhere, anytime. Hygge is an attitude, approach, and atmosphere to happiness that’s created artificially. Items [such as: candles, lamps, fireplace, hot drinks, board games, music, warm sweater, fluffy socks, good friends, parties, a good book] can create an atmosphere of happiness [such as: coziness, togetherness, warmth, well-being].

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Habits are a choice. We have the power to ignore, change and/or replace habits that exist in our lives. Every habit can be broken into smaller components, which are like it’s building blocks, that we can then rearrange.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin

Unclutter your home. A full space also fills your mind, sometimes unnecessarily.

How to Talk to Anyone by Lowndes

Mimicry. Rephrasing what someone has expressed shows you are listen and care. It is also easy to get people to like your discussions when you keep them talking about themselves.

Get Out of Your Own Way: A Skeptic’s Guide to Growth and Fulfillment by Dave Hollis

The people who grow the most understand that failure is a normal part of the journey. If you want improvement in your life, stop avoiding the pain of failure.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead By Brene Brown

Don’t be afraid of vulnerability.

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life By Jen Sincero

When you know how to love yourself, you get better at loving others.

Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive by Marc Brackett

Elevate and use your emotions to help reach your success and best well-being, instead of letting it hinder you.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel

When presented with many choices, just choose one, try it and see how it goes, stop creating outcome stories in your brain. You don’t know until you try!

Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms by Shellye Archambeau

It is okay to strengthen your strengthens, rather than your weaknesses. Your strengths become most valuable to your team.

Badass Habits: Cultivate the Awareness, Boundaries, and Daily Upgrades You Need to Make Them Stick by Jen Sincero

Expect mess-ups, but don’t let them derail you.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer

Much of what the inner voice says about the future is useless. Life rarely unfolds the way our inner voices predict or expects it to, so giving it power over us just takes more of our energy from the current moments.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski &Amelia Nagoski

Rest, human connection, and being in-tune with your inner critic help recover and prevent burnout.

The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life

Break free of the digital distraction to reconnect with yourself and your goals.

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

The benefits of nose breathing over mouth breathing!

Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Result: an Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear

The power of 1% improvement.

What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

When you nurture your body, it reciprocates.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing Trauma by Bessel A. Van der Kolk

“Top-down” and “Bottom-up” methods of regulation. “Top-down” regulation illustrates that mental regulation can retrain our emotional brain, while “bottom-up” allows body-based practices to retrain stress responses.

The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey

The best measure of your success in life is whether or not you are true to who you are [your values and principals].

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

I need to discover and speak my partners love-language. Showing love and appreciation in a love-language that is not your partners main love-language will not have the same impact, or possibly any impact at all.

High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become that Way by Brendon Burchard

Raise necessity. Reflect on the reasons why you must perform well or have particular habits. These reasons should consider both internal [identity, values, standards] and external [obligations, dependents, public commitments, deadlines] factors.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

-Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Stepping back to actively listen and considering our replies, instead of inserting ourselves verbally throughout someone’s share, allows deeper understanding and connection.

-Think win-win. Take the competition out of collaborations and connections, each person should be mutually benefiting from the outcomes and solutions. This habit furthers relationships by helping to build, establish and maintain respect, integrity and confidence.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success by Amy Morin

Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. Stop having a pity party! Instead take responsibility for your role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair, but complaining or sulking also isn’t going to make things better.

What Happened to You? By Oprah Winfrey & Bruce D. Perry

Stop judging or making assumptions, and instead ask “what happened to you?”. Truly listening to and getting to know others allows us to deeply understand them and forge genuine connections.

It is important to note that the lessons I took from each text might be different from the ones you would. What stands out to each of us depends on our current situations and growth. Even re-reading a book six months from now you are likely to take away something different from it than you did the first time. Also, remember that change does not happen overnight or without hard work. After reading and learning from these texts, we need to actively and purposefully practice to build the skills/habits/changes we seek for our lives.

Seek out your local libraries, as they are a great way to access books, ebooks and audiobooks for free, allowing you to engage with more texts than otherwise possibly [I know the library has been a financial savior to me personally].

Have you enjoyed any of these texts? What lessons/ideas/practices did you take away from them? What other self-help books would you recommend? I would love to hear from you in the comments.




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Shelby D.

Shelby D.

Avid traveler, camper, hiker, planner & reader

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