Is getting or staying motivated a challenge? You’re certainly not alone!
Motivation drives us forward in life but it’s a feeling that can be lost as easily as it’s gained. We may start new relationships, jobs, and projects with the best of intentions but if we don’t know how to stay motivated, or if we don’t have motivated and productive people around us cheering us on, it can almost feel like too much effort to achieve success in our personal life.
Worse still, if we’re surrounded by unmotivated people, people who don’t care about personal development, or those that engage in negative self-talk, it can rub off on us and actually prevent us from achieving success in our own lives.
While success means different things to different people, if you want to meet your goals and see your dreams come to life, here’s a wake up call: motivational books can help. No matter where you are in life, reading from this list of the best motivational and self help books can help you push past self limiting beliefs and achieve personal freedom and achieve success.
Still, it can be overwhelming stepping into stacks of motivational books or the business and psychology stacks at your local bookstore. With so many options and endless promises about what these books can do for you, it can be difficult to know what’s worth your precious time, effort, and money.
That’s why we created this list of the best motivational books. Take a look at the one that appeals to you, and use the thoughtful and insightful language to boost your everyday life into a more productive and satisfying experience.
Why is motivation hard to maintain?
So many of us live with self limiting beliefs, and we may not know how to harness our personal power and sustain our intrinsic motivation over time.
Intrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that comes from within, and is fueled by your passion or sense of purpose in life. It’s the thing that gets you up in the morning or helps you push past your fears. Because we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed, sometimes we are forced to set aside our intrinsic motivation momentarily to focus on other things. It can be challenging to get going again, wherever in your creative life or your relationships.
More often than not, we’re guided by what’s called extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is that which comes from outside (society, family, friends, bosses). It’s the stuff we need to care about, but we may not feel particularly passionate about.
When we focus too much on what we “should” be caring about, we can lose motivation quite quickly. This isn’t helpful in work or school settings that require us to maintain motivation over time.
This list of best motivational books can help with personal development, self discovery, ditching bad habits or developing healthy habits, positive thinking, and connecting to the present moment in our everyday lives. Maybe the world is a tough place to be – but getting through it doesn’t have to seem impossible. Start reading, make your own luck, and gain control!
Best motivational books for rebuilding or transforming your life
Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution by Brené Brown
Struggle is part of the human condition for a reason: It’s our greatest call to courage, suggests Brené Brown in Rising Strong.
If you’re looking for a motivational book that weaves personal stories with motivating life lessons about getting in tune with your vulnerabilities and using them to your advantage, this one’s for you.
Brown calls upon readers to recognize that we all struggle with heartbreak, failure, and self limiting stories, but it’s what we do with them that matters most. True to her canon of self-help work, Brown once again encourages us to see our most challenging times as opportunities to achieve deeper meaning, wisdom, and hope.
Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life by Diana Raab
Like a good therapist who asks the right questions, Writing for Bliss is one of those motivational books that asks readers to do the personal work required to make life changes.
With writing prompts that help you tell your personal story in an empowering way, this book really does have the potential to transform your life. All you need to do is begin reading and follow the writing prompts wherever they may lead you.
While writing prompts can help kickstart your journey to self discovery and motivate people to reflect on a deeper level, they can also be overwhelming. Try to give yourself time to let the story unfold rather than rushing the process. If you need to take breaks between the seven steps, that’s more than okay.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Bestselling author Joan Didion brings us into her world in the year following her husband’s sudden and unexpected death. But this isn’t your everyday autobiographical memoir. Didion uses her personal experience with grief and loss to connect with readers on this universal theme and show us (not tell us) how to rebuild life after tragedy.
Whether you relate to her exact experience or not isn’t of importance, either, because we can all find an example of great loss in life. Bearing witness to Didion’s journey through grief, we may find motivation to face our own mortality and move forward post-tragedy with a renewed sense of feeling less alone in this thing called life.
Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Written by a psychologist, this book can help you find your “flow” or the state in which you experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and total involvement with life. More important than finding your flow though is harnessing its full potential. After all, it’s one thing to know what works and another thing entirely to learn how to make it work for you.
Csikszentmihalyi teaches readers how to control their flow rather than leaving it to chance. In other words, if you know what you want in life, you can use this motivational book to help you achieve more success.
Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
This is one self-help book that should be mandatory reading for those of us who’ve developed an apology complex. An apology complex is that nagging voice in your head that’s telling you to move aside, sit pretty, and keep your head down so as not to disrupt the status quo. Remember that well-behaved women rarely make history!
If you find yourself apologizing for your success, ambition, or simply for existing and having a range of emotions, you’re holding yourself back from experiencing your full potential in life. You may be motivated, but you won’t be able to sustain that motivation very long if you’re constantly worried about what others are thinking. Girl, Stop Apologizing is the call to action to stop apologizing that every woman has been waiting for.
Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear
This is one of those motivational books that can encourage people to make small daily changes that deliver lasting results. So what are atomic habits?
Atomic habits are habits we engage in regularly and consistently, to the point that over time they have a compounding effect. This means for better or worse, what you do daily becomes you.
If you’ve been wondering where things went wrong in any area of your life, this motivational book can help put things into perspective as well as provide actionable steps to get where you want to be.
Included in the book are strategies to set you up for success, like changing your environment to promote personal development and make success easier to attain. It also teaches readers where most people fail on their journey to success, and how to avoid common pitfalls.
Additionally, you’ll learn to recognize which atomic habits are detracting from your success and how to finally break free, replacing old ways with new, healthier habits.
Motivational books to inspire creativity
High-Hanging Fruit: Build Something Great by Going Where No One Else Will by Mark Rampolla
High hanging fruit refers to that which is the most difficult to harvest and is therefore often overlooked for easier alternatives. Mark Rampolla is the founder of ZICO Coconut Water, “the” coconut water that paved the way for all the others in the U.S., so it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about high hanging fruit!
The whole point of this motivational book is to help you look up, reach up, and level up on your potential. While written from a business-lens, the message extends to every area of life where you need a boost of inspiration to think outside the box.
F**k It – Do What You Love by John C. Parkin
Part story and part workbook, F**ck It – Do What You Love is one of those motivational books you pick up when you want to make a serious change in your life. Whether you’re stuck in a dead-end job, feel a sense of purposelessness in your life, or are just generally disappointed with adulting, this book really does have the potential to help you discover what you love, why you love it, and how to transform that love into a lifelong passion and even a successful career.
It’s not for the naysayers, the excuse makers, or the people who are too afraid to make major changes. This wonderful book is for the productive people and the motivated people who truly want change but may not know where to begin.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
One of the biggest threats to achieving success in life is the culture of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the idea that if life gives us lemons, we should start making lemonade.
This line of thinking, while well-intentioned, actually kills innovation, creativity, and productivity.
Mark Manson takes a different approach, suggesting we set aside the sugar and start learning to live with the bitterness of lemons. Additionally, he suggests we pick and choose which lemons to eat because, simply put, there are too many lemons in this life to digest them all.
In essence, we’re human beings and we have limits. Embracing our limitations or flaws is where we begin to actually create an authentic and meaningful life. It’s this authenticity that drives the kind of motivation that lasts.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
You may know bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert from her inspiring memoir Eat, Pray, Love or the movie version with Julia Roberts, but Big Magic truly is Gilbert’s hidden gem. Here, she dives into the nature of inspiration, where it comes from, and what it takes to transform an idea into a creation.
Anyone who’s ever experienced a creative block, or who feels stuck on a project or task, should consider taking the time to invest in reading this book about setting fear aside and going after your goals. It could be the fuel you need to restart your creative fire.
Inspirational books that stand the test of time
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
Bestselling author Stephen R. Covey’s infamous book was the older millennial’s introduction into the concept of how our habits shape our entire lives.
Its lessons are just as relevant today as when it was first published in 1988. These gems include: taking responsibility for your actions (being proactive), thinking about the legacy you want to leave, planning your time based on your core principles, and “renewing and improving” yourself or “sharpening your saw” as he calls it.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
The four agreements are promises you can make to yourself to start changing your life story starting today. While they were originally written in the mid 90s, they still offer practical advice for being a better human being and inspiring others to do the same.
If you’ve been feeling like you’ve gone off track with your goals or you’re disconnected from your true purpose, this book may be the starting line for change you’ve been looking for.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Psychatrist Viktor E. Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning in 1946 after surviving Nazi death camps during the second world war. Part memoir and part spiritual exploration of what makes life worth living (and suffering through), this short book acknowledges that as human beings we can’t ever truly avoid suffering, but we can choose how we cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with purpose.
The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results by Norman Vincent Peale
First published in 1952, The Power of Positive Thinking is the original book on the law of attraction and manifesting your dreams into reality. It hinges on the age-old idea that we are inherently powerful and can take control of our destiny.
Lessons you can take away include how to develop your personal power to fuel motivation toward any and every goal, whether it be personal or professional.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends & Influence People is considered one of those motivational books that stand the test of time; it was first published in 1936! It’s been teaching people how to become influencers decades before social media was even a thing.
For the modern day influencer, this book can help set the stage with the basics on winning over a crowd (whether in-person or on social media). It could just be the inspiration you need to get motivated to start putting yourself out there more.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson
“Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a timeless piece of advice. It encourages people to stop wasting precious energy worrying about the little things in life. When this happens, it drains us past the point of being able to maintain motivation or move forward. In other words, when you’re always looking at what’s wrong, nothing can go right!
By reading this motivational book, you can effectively learn how to recognize what’s worth your energy and what’s not. This may sound simple, but you may be surprised how much of yourself you’re giving to things that won’t lead to happiness or more success.
If you need to refocus, find more passion in life, or just learn to let things go, this one’s for you.
Can a motivational book really change your life?
All of these motivational books are only as powerful as their readers’ interpretation of the message and (most importantly) their follow-through. Most, if not all, of these books ask their readers to do one thing or another, and truth be told, if you simply read the book and put it aside, not much is likely to change.
On the other hand, if you approach these books with an open mind and work through the steps or pause for some self-reflection, you’re more likely to find a renewed sense of motivation, inspiration, and purpose. Give it a try!