Monday, August 24, 2015

Top Ten Books That Would Be on my Syllabus for "Crafting Your Life 101"

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

To be clear, I would never teach a class in which I assigned ten full-length books to be read in a single semester. However, if I was teaching a class like this, I would draw on these ten books to share examples and assign chapters to read. This class would be intended to teach students how to build the life they want regardless of their chosen career, meaning they are happy, financially stable, organized, and equipped with the skills to achieve their goals and spend their time on the things that matter most to them.

If that kind of class sounds good to you, then may I recommend a selection of books...

1. 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam
If you think you know how you're spending your time, Vanderkam thinks you're probably wrong. First she shows how most people don't really know where their time goes, then she tells you how to figure out where your time is going, and finally she helps you determine what you want to be spending your time on and how to make that a reality.

2. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
How do airline pilots make decisions in high-pressure, emergency situations? They pull out the relevant checklist and start going through the steps. If you're going to craft the life you want, you need some tools, and a checklist is a deceptively simple but ultimately powerful one to have in your toolbox.

3. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
It's hardly worth building a life where you do all the right things if you can't be vulnerable enough to experience the highs and lows that make life worth living. In this fiercely honest book, Brown will show you how to rise above shame and fear to live as a "wholehearted" person.

4. Finding Your Own North Star by Martha N. Beck
Many of these books help you achieve your goals, but what if you don't know what your goals are in the first place? Beck provides specific exercises to guide you step by step through the process of identifying your life's passion, identifying and overcoming the obstacles to achieving it, and dealing with the inevitable fallout of making a significant life change.

5. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Rubin has reviewed all the theories and research related to happiness and come up with her own approach, one that requires determining what makes you feel good, feel bad, and feel right. Her systematic program involves focusing on one area of your life each month of the year, trying new things and building up habits that generate more happiness in your life.

6. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Sethi allows zero excuses when it comes to getting your personal finances in order. None. If you're willing to put up with his tough-love approach, then he's got a week-by-week program that will let you define what "rich" means you to and then set you on the road to getting there.

7. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
How could I not include this book when talking about getting your life on track? Kondō's approach is intended to help you declutter so thoroughly that you will end up owning nothing but what you love or need, organized in such a way that you can always find what you want, and she guarantees that if you do it right the first time you'll never relapse. So far my own experience has borne out this lofty claim.

8. The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman
Wiseman blasts apart the idea that some people are just lucky or unlucky. He shows how lucky people tend to share similar traits (which unlucky people are lacking), and he's been able to train people in the necessary skills to improve their "luck." A must-read if you feel like your ideal life is out of reach because bad things just keep happening to you.

9. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Although this isn't the greatest book I've read on behavior change research, Duhigg manages to translate the available research into specific steps that individuals can take to create (or break) habits in their own lives. He explores why habits matter to making change in our lives, how new habits are formed, and what happens when the habits built are destructive.

10. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
McGonigal teaches her own class, The Science of Willpower, which provided much of the material for this book. (And wouldn't you like to take a class with Professor McGonigal?) Although it's better to set up an environment in which doing the "right" thing is easy, there will always be times when you have to "choose the harder thing," and that's what this book tackles. Chapter by chapter, McGonigal presents suggestions for how to strengthen and apply one's willpower, with a variety of interesting exercises to try.

Bonus reading: Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, which will make all your eating experiences better and more intentional, and Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein and Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, for more on behavior change as it relates to organizations and populations.

What books would you add to the syllabus for a class like this?

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