While I am fully aware that New Year’s Resolutions get a bit of a bad rep these days, I personally love the idea of taking some time at the natural closing of one chapter to think about and reflect on what happened and what you would like to work on moving forward. It is what I do at the end of each month, each week and (in a smaller way) at the end of each day. For me, it is a necessary practice for being in a position to consciously design your life.
This year I feel like I am starting the New Year in a better headspace than ever before — particularly in the way I am approaching goal-setting, planning, routine, habits and all that good stuff that I am slightly obsessed with (tell me I am not the only one). For the past few months, armed with the commitment to overturning my mindset and technique regarding these practices, I have been researching and learning about different methods and ways of doing things. Bullet journalling, a morning routine, minimalism and habit building are all the main focuses of my 2019; but, unlike in previous years, I am well aware that finding my sweet spot is going to be a process of trial and error (“Rome wasn’t built in a day” yada yada) and I am being realistic in a way that is surprising both myself and the people around me who are used to my debilitating “all-or-nothing” mindset.
Take, for example, the fact that I have given myself one whole month to declutter my inbox, social media channels and podcasts app — all of which overwhelm me to an alarming extent. So, each morning I unsubscribe from a few email newsletters, unfollow a few people on various platforms and delete/rearrange my podcast subscriptions. Just a couple of minutes a day, compounded over the month, is going to help me re-find joy in these small elements of my life.
If you are looking to modify or (as in my case) transform the way you live your life, these five books have had a significant impact on my thinking, doing and being and I highly recommend giving them a shot. Easily manageable — I think I read each in a couple of days max — but mighty, I find myself often referring back to the book notes I took. So I thought I would share the current inspirations…
Here is the fantastic part about the way I have consciously designed my life, I have no routine. Here is the overwhelming part about the way I have consciously designed my life, I have no routine. Since I graduated from university in Spring 2016, I haven’t worked in an office nor had anywhere I “have to be” on a regular basis. This was fantastic, for a while, until I realized that I needed some sort of structure to keep me sane. Enter: The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. In this book, Hal takes the greatest practices that have been refined over centuries of human consciousness and condenses them into a daily morning ritual to ensure you win the morning, thus winning the day. Based on the SAVERS (Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing), this morning routine is a surefire way to regain control of your first waking hours. What I love about this routine is that it is highly customizable for you and can be done in as little as six minutes, while also guaranteeing that you have time for the things you care the most about. I am still very far from feeling confident in my ability to practice the “Miracle Morning” each day (going to sleep at a reasonable hour continues to be a challenge) but I am working on it! I also read The Miracle Morning for Writers which combines the principles of the “Miracle Morning” with proven writing habit techniques and strategies. There are several variations for specific careers which may align more with your path.
I had already decided that my 2019 “word of the year” was minimalism; but, upon reading Everything That Remains: A Memoir By The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus I was certain that this is the way I want to live my life. After eagerly pursuing the “American Dream” and working long hours at a job he hated to be able to pay for things he didn’t want (while amassing a mound of debt), Millburn started questioning his life choices and wound up finding the concepts of minimalism and simple living. Described as “not a how-to book but a why-to book”, this memoir demonstrates the power of creating a better life by having fewer possessions. I already announced my plan to embrace a curated wardrobe but this year I am focusing on applying the principles of minimalism to all aspects of my life and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Seriously, I stay awake at night dreaming about it. It is going to be a process of several months; however, IT IS HAPPENING. I purchased this book for a friend who has recently been thinking about some of the same things and I am excited to hear her thoughts and (hopefully) be able to support each other through the course. Even if you have no interest in fully embracing minimalism, I recommend this book as an interesting push to think about your relationship toward “things”.
If Everything That Remains is based on the removal of concrete items, Essentialism is centered on decluttering ideas, actions, and projects. (They make a delightful combination.) The book cover reads this is “not a time management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.” I loved the way this book lays out both why and how we each should not focus on getting more things done, but instead fixate on getting just the RIGHT things done and how it is about “creating a system for handling the closet of our lives”. The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. It means making our choices deliberately so that other people’s agendas don’t control our lives. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book was a breath of fresh air in a world where it seems that the only way to operate is through saying “YES” to everything — even when it is detrimental to ourselves. And, considering Arianna Huffington said that this book is “an Essential read for anyone who wants to regain control of their health, well-being, and happiness”, you know it is a good one.
The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life by Christine Gross-Loh and Michael J. Puett
A brilliant Christmas gift (thanks Aunty Norma!!!!) The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, I devoured in two nights. Given that I majored in Asian Studies (and Political Studies woot-woot double major) in university, I spent a considerable amount of time reading, analyzing and writing about various strands of Chinese philosophy. However, the material was never presented to me in a way that related to modern-day life, which is probably why the Harvard class on which this book is based has become one of the university’s top courses. Even if you have never heard of Confucius (the father of Confucianism), the book is really accessible and is packed with insights and new ideas about how to live life. Probably the most radical idea within its pages — are you sitting down????? — is that there is no path for you to follow in the first place; instead, we create our own journey anew at every moment by seeing and doing things differently. I enjoyed the ideas about relationships — “good relationships come not from being sincere and authentic, but from the rituals we perform within them” — as well as how we create a good life — “a good life emerges not from planning it out, but through training ourselves to respond well to small moments”. If you are looking for an overhaul of how you approach life (or just want a reinterpretation of Chinese philosophy), then this is a must-read.
I will be the first to admit that I hate my bad habits and I often feel lost in knowing how to approach them and what to do about them. OH, YOU TOO? Well, great, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life by Charles Duhigg can help both of us out! Habits work, according to Duhigg’s intensive research, in a cycle — cue, routine, reward. Therefore, to change a habit, when a cue strikes you have to implement a healthier routine to yield the same reward. In other words, you keep the cue and the reward but change the routine. Obviously, this isn’t an overnight kinda thing. You can only truly hack your habits when—through enough repetition—your brain comes to crave the reward. And, crucially, if you have the belief that you can change. In addition to explaining to me how habits work in the brain, what I enjoyed about the book was that it provided an in-depth look at how habits construct the success of both individuals from Michael Phelps to Martin Luther King and companies such as Target and P&G. If this is the year you tackle your habits, then this book is certainly the place to start.
What books have you been reading recently?
Let me know any recommendations you have in the comments below!