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A few years ago, I was on a desperate search for a change in my life. Every area was feeling a little out of order and chaotic.

I started looking for things to help and it wasn’t lost on me that the one type of resource I consistently came across that made a big difference was books. 

I’ve always been a book lover, but as a kid I mostly read fiction. While on the hunt for answers about life, I discovered this truth – someone somewhere out there, has most likely had a similar life experience and they probably wrote a book about it. 

Have you wished for a list of personal development books that will change your life? Well, I've got you covered! I've read soooo many personal growth, self improvement, self help books over the years and decided it was time to compile a list of the ones that have improved my life and helped change the way I think the most! Want to see what's on the list? Click through to check it out! #compassmylife #personaldevelopmentbooks #mustreadbooks

That realization was pretty life changing for me. Like literally, the answer to my problem is written down somewhere and available to me, if I will just go find it.

I started reading so many books, my living room looked like a library. You think I’m kidding… I didn’t even have a tv. My couch faced the five full bookshelves we had. It was incredible… and life changing. 

Which is why I wanted to share the books that have changed every area of my life with you. 

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Can a book really change your life?

I think this is something we need to discuss before we get into the books I’m going to talk about for one simple reason: The books that have changed every area of my life, haven’t actually changed my life.

Let me explain… reading a book in and of itself, will not change your life. No. The part that changes your life is reading a book that changes your thoughts/thinking that change your actions. Did you stick with me through that one? 

Let me try to explain that a little simpler… Just reading the book will not change your life. It’s a somewhat obvious statement, I think. It’s why so many people read books and their lives don’t change. It’s not the reading the book that changes things – it’s the reading the book, absorbing the wisdom in it, and using your new knowledge to change the way you have been going about things. That’s what changes your life.

Mel Robbins always says “when you know better, you do better”. I fully believe that’s true. Very few of us walk around life purposefully not living our best lives. We want to do better and the first step to that is knowing better… and that’s where books can fit in perfectly.

The Books That Changed My Life in Every Area

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1) Books About Habits

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Perhaps you’ve heard this quote many times. I can’t help but wonder how many of us truly stop to think about it and put it into action though. If our habits are what bring about excellence – and therefore success in our lives, wouldn’t it stand to argue that habits are also what brings a lack of success and excellence to your life?

And if that’s the case, wouldn’t you also do everything within your own power to change that?

I wanted to start with talking about habits because I think it’s one of the things that affect every area of your life. 

Habits are a powerful thing that can bring you everything you want in life, you keep you where you are… You get to choose.

So, on that note… here are the books about habits that have changed my life.

High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard

It’s probably fair to say that few of us have the patience to wait for an answer for more than a couple of minutes in this info heavy era.

So would you believe it if I told you that the author of this book, Brendon Burchard spent a couple of decades on the research? Well, he did. Crazy, I know.

But if you’ve ever wondered what exactly it is that sets apart your fight to make ends meet vs the somehow does it all and seems happy too people, then this book is for you. Turns out, success really is all about the habits you create in your life.

The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Have you ever laid in bed or on the couch and thought, “I should really get up” but you just kept laying there knowing full well that you were doing yourself a disservice. Yet, you just couldn’t get up.

Whether from sheer exhaustion, depression, or a lack of motivation. yeah, we’ve all been there. 

The Five Second Rule was written by Mel Robbins after she found a tool that helped her break this ever loving, life ruining, perpetual cycle in her own life.

If you want to make some changes and know you should but just can’t do the darn thing, this book helps with that.

The Power of When by Dr. Michael Breus

This book was so helpful to me during a time when we had a lot of transitions. I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling to get on a new schedule.

 Why my creativity felt like it just flowed some days and other days I could barely think on a topic. It even helped my marriage as we began to understand each other better. 

If you feel like you spend most of your days helter-skelter, this one’s for you!

If you want to make some changes and know you should but just can’t do the darn thing, this book helps with that.

2) Books About Mindset

The second biggest thing that has literally revolutionized my life is the way I think. What you think affects what you say, what you do, and ultimately, the results you get in life. 

If you’re always thinking negative things, you talk about negative things, you respond to life accordingly, and see results that match. Contrarily, we all know people who are always positive in the way they speak, act, approach problems, and go through life and we see the difference in their outcomes.

I used to have a fixed mindset. I thought that if you needed to grow, it meant something was wrong with you. What I have sense discovered is that a growth mindset isn’t to fix broken things (although it’ll do that too) – it’s to expand the possibilities of life.

So if you’re ready to think creatively, go bigger, and leave the box, check out one of these awesome books below.

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Have you ever had something really good happen but spent most of the goodness waiting for the other shoe to drop or something bad to happen?

What if the other shoe doesn’t have to drop anymore? What would your life look like?

This was the first book I read that just completely blew the top off my stuck old thinking. It was the beginning of what started the momentum that came to be totally life changing.

There’s a lot of talk about breaking through your upper limits. Which is the idea that we all have glass ceilings on our levels of capacity for goodness in our lives. I’ve found it to be true in my life and watched it play out in everyone’s around me. 

Your greatest life is on the other side of your glass ceiling. If you need help breaking through, The Big Leap can help you.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Resistance.

It lives and moves all around us fighting against what we’re trying to do. 

Sometimes resistance comes in the form of family members, friends, or self sabotage.

More often than not, there’s a force working against us to keep us in our comfort zones and beating resistance will take you to places you can’t even yet fathom. 

If you find that in the pursuit of a better life, life is constantly happening to hold you back – then you need this book asap. It’s a fun, easy, and pretty short read that can leave a lifetime of impact if you let it.

Bottom of the Pool

Currently my new favorite gem of a book.

We read it in a mastermind group I’m part of and it was amazing.

If you’re stuck doing things the same old way and tired of getting the same results everyone else gets in life, this book can help shift your thinking to break beyond all of that.

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

I think many of us (or at least definitely myself) give ourselves less credit and believe in ourselves and our creations less than the universe does. 

I’ve listened to this one as an audio book during my daily walks a couple of time now.

Hearing Jen talk through all the things that helped her get unstuck and break free in life is always the extra energy I need in rough seasons.

If you need a little help with kick butt, put yourself out there, finally do the thing motivation, this one is full of gold nuggets!

Plus, she’s hilarious and blunt and all the things you’d hope someone would be who’s in the middle of telling it to you straight.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

This book was everything to me in a time I needed it the most.

The author, Rachel Hollis, breaks down a series of lies society and women tell themselves.

I laughed, I cried, and I laughed so hard I cried. With each turning page, my mind and soul was set free just a little extra from the mindsets that had held me back for so long.

3) Books About Goals

For years I was terrible at setting goals. My definition of them was writing a daily to do list that included things like “make my bed” and “finish my history paper”. In my college days my goal setting skills got a bit better but still floated somewhere in the “finish college” and “get A’s”… 

You get the idea. Then when I did have a big life goal for myself, I seriously struggled to make it happen.

It wasn’t until more recent years that I’ve come to understand what it means to truly set a goal for my life and then break it down into doable, needle moving, tasks. 

And maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about or totally get the struggle. Either way, these next few books can help! They are the ones I’ve read that have made the biggest difference in how I approach the plans I have for my life.

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

I don’t think this is exactly a sequel to Girl, Wash Your Face but I found it to be the perfect follow up.

Girl, Stop Apologizing was written by Rachel Hollis specifically to share how she sets goals in her life.

Some would consider her the queen of accomplishing goals. She even has a goal setting journal that’s amazing.

She covers tactics and methods for accomplishing goals as well as tips for overcoming the things that hold you back. If you’ve spent years feeling shy, ashamed, or silenced by the dreams that live in your heart, this one’s for you.

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran

Ever felt like you just don’t have enough time to get it all done?

And yet, are completely aware that some people get more done in a day than you do in a week but don’t know what their secrets are?

I used to feel this way. If every person has the same amount of time in a day, why do I feel so behind? This book changed that for me.

The tagline is “get more done in 12 weeks than most do in 12 months and when you apply the methods correctly, it holds true. I wrote a whole review about it which you can read here.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

I used to struggle to “do all the things”. Everything feels important, everything needs to get done, and everything takes time.

The One Thing teaches you how to look at a situation, a goal, or even just your life in general and figure out what One Thing will change everything.

If you had told me that changing just one thing would change everything before this book, I probably would’ve seriously doubted you.

We started using these methods in our lives and it’s revolutionized how we work, live, and have fun too!

The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins

I know I mentioned this one under books about habits, but the tool she teaches in this book is everything for motivation.

We don’t always feel like doing the thing – heck, we rarely feel like doing the thing, even when we know it’ll change our life.

The Five Second Rule helps with the second guessing, confidence levels, and taking action on your dreams.

I definitely consider it a must read for anyone who asks for a book recommendation on just doing the thing! 

4) Books About Health

Being healthy wasn’t something I really understood growing up. There was this idea that salads kept you thin and people who ate “clean” were ridiculous. I realize it’s small minded or fixed mindset thinking but I wanted to tell you that to give you an idea of where I started. 

Then a couple of years ago, I got ahold of The Brain Fog Fix and things started to change for me. I began to understand that health is about the way you feel – not just what you look like. And how you feel, has a great deal to do with the biology and science of how our bodies and brains work. 

The more I understood, the more changes I made that I felt good and happy about. These books below explained things in a way that I had never heard before. They have revolutionized my health and happiness. I hope that you find even a snippet of the information useful.

The Brain Fog Fix by Dr. Mike Dow

This was the first book I read that started to change the way I thought about health.

In fact, I had the most drastic improvements in my life after reading this book.

 So much so that I had people ask me what I was doing and when I shared it with them, I watched as their health was revolutionized as well. 

The book is amazing for exactly what it says. I used to feel tired, mildly depressed, and lethargic all the time. LITERALLY ALL THE TIME.

I would wake up thinking about when I could go back to bed. It was so bad, I tried to hide how much I actually slept from Josh when we first got married because I was so embarrassed. 

Exhaustion, depression, brain fog, and a hundred other things are talked about in this book. It’s truly helpful.

Body Love by Kelly Leveque

This. One. Is. Everything for your food intake. I grew up in an era watching everyone yoyo diet, starve themselves, and snack like their lives depended on it.

Heck, I’ve done the whole “open the fridge – look around – close the fridge” thing a thousands times. I’ve been hungry but wanted to be good so I only ate a couple chips… which turned into the whole bag. I get it. 

Body Love completely changed the way I thought about diets, understood food in general, and felt hungry. In fact, after this book, I rarely do feel hungry.

That’s the great part – it’s NOT a diet. It’s an understanding of food that helps you eat, feel full, ditch the diets, and maintain a healthy weight. Even my husband is on board with this!

5) Books About Finances

For the longest time, I gave into the lie that I was bad at finances because I’m a girl and finances are hard. I was always in debt, and I lived in fear of looking at my bank account and credit card statements. It was bad. 

I decided to make a change to all of that one day. Anything can be figured out and I knew it was time to make a change – time to get real with myself and face the truth of what my money looked like. These are a few of the books that helped me figure my stuff out.

Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

When it comes to learning the basics of finances and figuring out a budget that works for your life, I can’t think of a better person to turn to than Dave Ramesy.

We did Financial Peace University which is the 8 week program that walks you through getting your finances in order and this book is part of that.

If you’re at the “what’s a budget?” stage of your understanding money journey, this is a great place to start.

Yeah, it can be a little painful in the beginning to work your way through your mess, but wow, the understanding  (and peace of mind) financial stability can bring you is so worth it.

If you’re willing to put in the work, trust me when I say it’ll pay off. (I probably found that punnier than I should have 🤣  okay, moving on…)

You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

Money mindset plays a huge role in how you both handle your finances and how much you limit yourself to bring in.

It’s something I worked through for years and continue to work on.

In this book, Jen Sincero tells her story and gives insight on what it means to go from poverty to abundance mindset.

Her books have always been helpful and entertaining to me when it comes to thinking bigger.

If you’re in the market for expanding your money mindset and need a little entertainment to make it easier to swallow, I dare say you’ll enjoy this read.

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

For way too long, I spent first and saved out of my leftovers.

Of course, that’s what we’re taught to do so it makes sense.

At some point though, I began to realize, if something is done a certain way by everyone and everyone has the same results (mostly broke and barely afloat) it might be time to try something new.

Profit First is written as a business book but the principles in it are so amazing, we’ve applied it to our personal finances as well and it has been life changing for us.

6) Books About Personal Development

Have you ever experienced the feeling of knowing there is more out there but not knowing exactly what or how to get there? I used to live with the feeling of being stuck in life. I could see the potential for my life but it always felt just out of reach. It was as if I was stuck in a rut and I didn’t know how to break free.

When I discovered the concept of personal development or personal growth, it really changed things. I used to believe that if someone needed growth in their life, it meant something was wrong with them. 

I recently heard someone say that your life cannot expand beyond the level of your personal growth. It’s not a wonder I felt stuck. I could see and envision a version of myself that required growth but wasn’t actually taking any action to grow. 

Once I finally realized I need some growth in my life to get unstuck, these are the books that changed everything for me:

Take Control of Your Life by Mel Robbins

This one is actually spoken by Mel. It’s a compilation of live coaching sessions and only available on Audible.

In it Mel walks people through their greatest fears in life to make progress in a life changing way. 

Each interview covers some of the most common fears we face. As I listened, it was so easy to see myself in some of the interviewees and use the advice Mel gave to apply to my own life.

There’s also an incredibly in-depth workbook that you can get access to which just levels up the whole experience. 

This was one of those things I listened to over and over. I turned it on first thing in the morning, listened to it in the car, on walks, and sat with it for a long time. It was definitely life changing for me and I believe it can be for you too. Find it on Audible.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

I mentioned this one in the “mindset” section as well.

It’s too good not to share here too though because it was really a huge launching point for my personal development journey in general.

Some of the concepts Rachel talks about in this book really opened my eyes to the lies I had allowed to direct my life.

A big pivot took place in my life after reading this book. My confidence grew, my marriage got better, my life changed as a direct result of the words in this book.

I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown

How many times have you gone through something hard and kept silent about it?

Because you thought you were the only one struggling with it? 

Or you thought it meant there was something wrong with you?? 

I’m over here with both hands up. We isolate ourselves and hide our struggles because we somehow think it means we’re failures. 

But in isolation is where the enemy of our minds, that quite nasty voice can say whatever the heck it wants to us and we just take it. 

I Thought It Was Just Me opened my eyes to the truth of it means to show up for myself, to sit in the difficult moments, to belong, to live wholeheartedly. It’s a soul healing book.

The Road Back to You by Ian Cron & Suzanne Stabile

Have you ever found yourself saying things such as, “Why am I like this?” or “I don’t understand that person at all!”

I used to all the time, but I don’t anymore. 

Taking a deeper dive into the enneagram framework changed that for me.

This book is a journey of self discovery that not only helped me identify the motivations behind why I think and act the way I do, but it also helped me understand those closest to me. 

I experienced a lot of growth in the area of self awareness and emotional intelligence. It has positively impacted every area of my life and helped me to choose peer groups who can help me level up in a way that is best suited to me. 

If you’re looking for growth in your self awareness, this one is my go-to!

The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly

I believe every person has some pull deep inside that calls for them to be the best version of themselves. 

Why else would you be here reading this right now?

In The Rhythm of Life, Matthew Kelly talks about the problems we face trying to get to the best version of ourselves.

He provides some very thought provoking prompts to help guide you through identifying who you want to become.

If you feel like you need some direction figuring out what the best version of yourself looks like and how to get there, this book is gold.

7) Books About Career

When I first graduated with a double major business degree, I thought business skills were everything.

However, in the years since, I’ve come to strongly believe that our ability to level up in our careers has everything to do with personal growth, mindset, and busting through the fear limits we so easily give into. 

Which is why I’ve chosen the book that can help you do all three to put into this category. 

Take Control of Your Life by Mel Robbins

Our careers play such a huge role in our lives. They can affect every part of our life if we let it, which is why I truly believe that Take Control of Your Life is such a powerful listen for this category.

I could list a mile long list of “business” books but that gets further into this topic and too closed off.

My goal here isn’t to get into the nitty gritty of business but to help you evaluate how your career affects your life as a whole. 

There are a thousand amazing business books out there to help you grow your business but this post is about growing your life. That’s exactly how this book helps you.

Re-evaluate your career and the way you approach it through the guidance in this book. It’s amazing and changed everything for me!

8) Books About Relationships

Saying relationships can be hard is a strange form of annoying and accurate. We all know they’re hard sometimes and as a relationship evolves, so do new aspects of navigating the many many differences between two people. 

The thing I love about the books below is that while they do relate very well to romantic relationships, the principles in these books have the power to transform any kind of relationship if you’ll put in the work. 

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Sometimes classics are a classic for a reason and I think it is safe to say that this is one of those!

The Five Love Languages series speaks well to understanding how the people in your life give and receive love.

Feeling loved and appreciated plays such a huge role in our relationships but what this book helped me discover is that the way I show love, may not be the way that someone in my life feels loved.

It’s a great book for expanding your emotional awareness and giving you tools to create stronger relationships.

The Road Back to You by Ian Cron & Suzanne Stabile

I can truly say with 100% certainty, that this book changed every area of my life, but especially, my relationships.

 It is an incredible tool for building awareness about the best way to interact with others based on their type and diving into the motivation of why people do certain things.

Have you ever found yourself asking,”Why do they do that?! I just don’t understand them!” I have a few people in my life I feel that way about and this book has helped me through that so much.

I will say, this book is really about self discovery, but I’ve found that both understanding myself better and having an overview of all nine types, has helped me navigate my relationships at a whole new level. 

The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile

Written by the co-author of The Road Back to You, Suzanne Stabile.

This book takes us to a whole new level of bridging the gap between the different types in relationships.

I love this one as a follow up to the intro into the Enneagram.

Sometimes if I’m really struggling in a relationship, I’ll revisit this book to help me. If you feel like you need a little help bridging the gap in some of your relationships, this is a great place to begin.

9) Books About Self Care & Soul Care

I used to think self care was the idea of taking time for yourself to do whatever you wanted alone and unbothered (although, that sounds pretty awesome too. Enneagram 5 here). I’ve come to realize that self care is more about soul care than anything else. If your soul feels tired, burned out, and overwhelmed trying to maintain and keep up with everything, you won’t be at your best. 

We’ve heard the cliche, “you cannot pour from an empty cup” but I like to think of it more as a, “you cannot function well if your soul is in survival mode” sort of thing. 

These are the books that helped me learn what soul care and living a life that fills me up (or a wholehearted life, as Brene Brown calls it) is for me personally.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

This book was so beautiful and I read it at just the right time in my life!

I dare say any time is the right time for this one though.

The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown has a core message all about letting go of who you thought you were supposed to be to live a wholehearted and joyous life. If your soul is needed a little care and grace, this one’s for you!

The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly

What does the Best Version of You look like?… And can you get there without taking care of your self and your soul?

If you’ve been working to truly figure that out and work towards creating your best life, this book by Matthew Kelly is a must.

It gets deep and brings some incredible “ah-ha” moments with it.

Each chapter holds some incredible wisdom I had never thought about before and the exercises at the end of each chapter is eye opening.

If you need a little help figuring out how to get to your best self, definitely give this book a read.

10) Books About Home Life

As someone who has moved literally a couple dozen times in my life, I’ve come to hold dear the fact that home life should be a place you feel good in – the atmosphere, the physical space and clutter or lack thereof.

Our home is meant to be a safe haven, a place of rest, and where we create beautiful memories. I think many of us don’t feel that way about our homes though.

Instead they feel cluttered, enclosed, and become a space of frustration. I was only 24 when I realized I had created a home for myself that I did not love. In fact, I kind of hated it. So I started to reconsider everything and these books below helped me immensely.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Have you ever thought about your relationship with “stuff” and how it correlates to your home life?

I never had until I read this book. Reading this book was a very real eye opening experience in understanding how I viewed my things, shopped, and even cleaned my house. 

If you’re looking around your house and seeing a lot of overwhelming clutter, this book is what really helped me change that. 

Side note: if you love seeing books play out in real life, check out the Netflix Original Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Homebody by Joanna Gaines

Beyond having a clean and organized house, I’ve always wanted a cute cozy little place.

My abilities to look at a space and create a magical and decorative atmosphere – zero.

Trust me when I say it’s been a point of great dismay in my life.

If you can relate, Homebody is a great resource to help give you a sense of design styles, what goes together, and just figuring out decor in general to help you create a space and atmosphere that you feel good about!

11) Books About Extracurricular Activities

It’s a little harder to give you a really great list of books for this category simply because everyone loves different things. I guarantee though that your favorite thing lives in a book and is just a google search away. 

However, I did want to give you something for this category so I’ll say that The Gifts of Imperfection helped me discover what my most fulfilling extracurriculars are and how to lean fully into them.

I think it’s so easy to be in such a rush in life that we overlook this category completely but it’s usually the things that fall under this that bring us the most joy in our lives. Which is why I believe it’s so vitally important to living a wholehearted life. 

If you need a little help tapping into the side of you that lives beyond work and the daily grind, The Gifts of Imperfection did that for me. 

Last Thoughts

There you have it, the books that have changed every area of my life! You now have all the same tools I used to shift from living my life feeling chaotic and unsure to moving in a direction I feel good about. 

It’s quite a list and I read them over about a year or so as I put the concepts into place. You can do this too!

Feeling ready to dive into one of these but aren’t a huge reader?

Check out this blog post I wrote for 5 Tips on How to Read More This Year.

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ABOUT ALLISON SUE

Allison Sue | Compass My Life

hey there!

I’m a personal growth blogger, a nerd when it comes to books, and a lover of all things journals. When I’m not with you online, you’ll find me with my family, traveling somewhere, or watching Chinese shows on Netflix with my husband. Empowering you with tools to navigate to a life you feel confident about is always on my mind. I’d love to be on your confidence hype squad!

30+ Books That Changed My Life in Every Area