What is your big goal for the year 2014? Whatever it is, there are two essential questions you need to ask right now:
1. What is the best way to achieve my goal?
Too many people are pushers. They have a goal and then they start pushing. They put more and more effort into getting the thing done. And sometimes they succeed. Quite often, however, they fail. Why? Because they never stopped to really think about the best strategy to achieve their goal.
This is a serious point. There are ways to design your environment and your habits in a way that makes your success almost inevitable. Many of these ways are very simple and straightforward - once you stop and think about them. The key is to remember this simple rule: Stop and think before pushing.
Persistence is good. But why not combine it with some smartness? That way you make yourself much more prone to succeed - and this success takes place much easier.
How to choose the best strategy to achieve your goal? The first three books aim to answer that question.
2. What goals are truly worth striving for?
All goals are not created equal. The best goals not only make us happy at the moment of achievement - The striving itself is already fulfilling. Other goals leave us feeling empty. We achieve them, but the promised happiness doesn’t materialize.
It is essential that you ask yourself: Is my goal a good goal or a bad goal? Good goals give us sustainable happiness. Bad goals keep us occupied but chronically unhappy. Good goals emanate from ourselves: They reflect our true values and aspirations. Bad goals are external to us: They originate from pressures set to us by our parents, by advertisement, by the society. To “fit in”, we feel that we need to achieve them. Yet when we get there, we remain as empty as we were before.
Don’t be one of those fools who waste their lives pushing for goals that are not their own. Instead, build up your personal values and strivings.
How? The last three books are your guide in carving your own path in life.
“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” - Albert Einstein
Without further ado, here are the six essential books you need to read this year. Not only to become successful. But also to become happy:
5. How to achieve your goal?
Never before in human history has there been so much information readily available (think Internet) and so many options to do different things in your life. Because of this, a key challenge for modern life and work-life is information overload. There simply are too many things to remember and to be done that we could effectively get anything meaningful done. Our life becomes one big cluster of stress.
Enter David Allen, whose system for organizing tasks has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of managers and other professionals. Imagine if you wouldn’t have to worry about remembering things, because everything worth remembering would be organized in a reliable system that reminds you what needs to be done and when.
The result: Stress-free performance. “Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.”
So do yourself a favor: Read this book, clear out the clutter, organize your tasks - and start getting things done.
8. 2. Chip & Dan Heath: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
In this highly readable book, the learned brothers of Heath explain how to make a change – in yourself or in your organization.
The biggest obstacle is found in your own brain, where two different systems - the rational mind and the emotional mind - compete for control. Most personal change efforts and most organizational change efforts are designed to suit the rational mind. That’s why they fail.
The only way to make effective and permanent changes is to get your emotional mind on board. Through spot-on stories, this book teaches you how your mind works. And then it offers simple, yet effective strategies on how you can effect transformative change.
Change is hard, they say. Read this book and you just might realize that it is easier than you thought - as long as you know how to do it right.
10. 3. Frank Martela: Willpower: The Owner’s Manual - 12 Tools for Doing the Right Thing
This book - written by yours truly - aims to capture the essential hands-on lessons that modern science can teach you about willpower. It offers a clear understanding of what willpower is and what it is capable of. And it reminds you that often the best strategy is to design the environment so that right behavior becomes automatic. That way the right thing to do becomes the natural thing to do.
The book offers 12 simple yet forceful tools that will help you make sure that you succeed in your projects and do the right thing. The tools - like the 20-Second Rule - are easy to implement, but have the potential to lastingly change your habits and behavior for the better. You learn how to have more willpower - and how to actually need it less in your everyday life.
Give up procrastinating. Read this book and learn how to take charge of your own life!
12. How to find your goal?
The first set of books taught you how to achieve your goals. These three books teach you to find goals worth achieving:
13. 1. Roman Krznaric: How to Find Fulfilling Work
Everyone wants to have a fulfilling work, but not many know where to look for one. This book aims to be your guidebook in this quest. It helps you to identify what are the elements that could make your work fulfilling. Then it offers practical steps that can help you get there - either by transforming your current work or by finding a new one.
Having a sense of fulfillment at work is not only for firefighters and missionaries. Fulfillment is something that can be found in every kind of work. It is not always obvious, and that’s why this book is such a good companion. It guides you to look in the right places for your own fulfillment.
If fulfilling work sounds something you’ve been desperately looking for, start your search by reading this book.
14. 2. Ken Robinson: The Element - How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
The Element is the point at which “natural talent meets personal passion.” That’s the point where we are most productive - but it is also the point where we are the most inspired and elevated. That makes it something to aim for. Offering engaging stories of people like Paul McCartney and Matt Groening, this book sets you on a journey towards finding your own personal Element.
Steve Jobs famously stated: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” This book helps you to connect with the kind of work that you could fall in love with.
16. 3. Daniel Pink: Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us
In this book, Daniel Pink offers a paradigm-shifting approach for thinking about motivation at work. Carrots and sticks don’t work anymore. True motivation comes from within.
When it comes to motivating people, money is not the end of the story, and can sometimes even be counterproductive. If you want to truly engage people, something more is needed. There are three elements that awaken the true passion of the employees: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Recipe is simple: Cultivate them, and people are driven to succeed.
Are you interested in knowing how human motivation actually works? Or how to get the most out of it? Then start with this book.
Frank Martela, PhD, is a visiting scholar at the University of Rochester, NY. His main research interests are related to human motivation, willpower and happiness.