2021 Personal Growth Booklist

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Start your new year off with a bang! And we don’t just mean popping the champagne to celebrate 2020’s end. As 2020 comes to a close, we at BetterUp wanted to leave you with ten of our top reads for the year.

From inspiring to expansively informative, these books have left an imprint on our minds and hearts - we hope they guide you to growth, innovative creation, and personal excellence in the new year. 

We hope you enjoy our top book picks for growth, inspiration and reflection in the new year!

immunity to change

1. Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey

In this book, Lahey and Kegan explore the power of belief. Our beliefs are strong and can make it very difficult to change. But if we can understand the mechanisms behind why change is so difficult, we can move forward and grow into our potential. Filled with “hands-on diagnostic and compelling case studies”, Immunity to Change helps you directly impact your beliefs for lasting transformation.

“I strongly recommend Immunity to Change to everyone passionate about adult development. It’s thought provoking, inspiring and eye-opening. It clearly explains how we’re the architects of our own immunity to change which makes ongoing growth and development so difficult. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey provide a lot of real client examples that can guide you on how you can overcome your and your client's immunity to change systems.” - BetterUp Coach Evangelos Bertsekas, ACC

the inner work of racial justice

2. The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda Magee

We all have habits we want to change. Mindfulness is an effective way of reviewing those habits to create a lasting impact. In this thought-provoking book, Rhonda Magee pairs mindfulness with the internal work necessary to defuse unconscious racism, dissolve personal barriers, and identify microaggressions so we can become more empathetic and connected through our unique differences as a global community. 

The Inner Work of Racial Justice encouraged each of us to recognize the  individual, family and group identities we learned as kids, grew into, and participated in as adults.  The strategies allowed me to look at my own experiences of “other,” and the associated vulnerability. As a result, I became more open to hearing about the experiences of more people and able to listen with less reactivity.” - BetterUp Coach Dina Markind, PCC, RN

why meditate

3. Why Meditate by Matthieu Ricard

Ever wondered if you ought to try meditating? In this short book, Matthieu Ricard explores the theory and spirituality of meditation, with a deep-seeded and fine-tuned understanding of the historical texts and Buddhist masters. This rich background leads to practical guidance paired with real world examples on how daily meditation can profoundly enrich and impact how we see ourselves and the world.

“For those wishing to begin or refine a meditation practice, I recommend Why Meditate: Working with Thoughts and Emotions by Matthieu Ricard. As both a scientist and a monk who’s lived in the Himalayas for more than 40 years, Ricard provides concise yet complete instructions on working with the mind. In addition, he gives an overview of the theory, spirituality, and practical aspects of meditation, bringing Eastern teachings to Western readers in an easily understood format.” - BetterUp Coach Julianne Davidow, PCC

already free

4. Already Free by Bruce Tift

Therapeutic process and deep spiritual realization are more intricately tied than we think, and embracing this duality can lead us to freedom. In his book Already Free, Bruce Tift engages these two seemingly at-odds perspectives in a provocative dialogue. Through exploration of psychotherapy’s ‘developmental’ approach and examination of it’s support and contradiction of Buddhist philosophy, Tift shows us the always accessible path to personal freedom.

“In Already Free, Bruce Tift highlights the practice of personal responsibility as an antidote to unnecessary suffering. He insightfully integrates a Western therapeutic model with Eastern thought principles, bringing awareness of how we can break free of attaching our state of mind to external circumstances. He effectively creates space for acknowledging how developmental experiences impact our well-being, while also recognizing the power of mindfulness, being present, and accepting what is.” - BetterUp Coach Karen Doll, PsyD, LP

the art of happiness

5. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler

The Dalai Lama is always happy – how does he do it?  It starts with and flows from his core belief that happiness is the purpose of life. In this book, co-authored with psychotherapist Dr. Howard Cutler, the Dalai Lama shares his experience to explore how we can all deal with anxiety, depression, disappointment and the day to day obstacles life throws at us, and be happier. This book was among the first in the genre of happiness books and is considered the cornerstone of positive psychology.

“I find this book helpful to my life as a professional coach and human being. Containing a wealth of powerful ideas, I like to keep it nearby to look at a bit at a time, exploring, savoring, and reflecting on the integration of concepts and practices with the potential to uplift the human experience.” BetterUp Coach, Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC

designing your work life

6. Design your Worklife by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Our workspace has an enormous effect on our productivity and feelings of ease and success at work. Burnett and Evans explore Design Theory and how it can materially affect workers success and happiness. Step by step and chapter by chapter, Burnett and Evans give the tools to build positive change, whether you want to make your current job more meaningful, or move on. If you want a more meaningful, engaged, productive and fun work life, this is a great book to read.

“This book uses design thinking exercises to help the reader reflect on their work life and set realistic goals, while providing a toolbox to address common work life problems.  Design thinking empowers the reader to reframe their own dysfunctional beliefs when addressing obstacles that make them feel "stuck" in their jobs.” - BetterUp Coach Marie Stevenson MSOD, ACC

the source

7. The Source: The Secrets of the Universe by Dr. Tara Swart

Neuroscientist, former psychiatrist, and Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, Dr. Tara Swart brings evidence to the manifesting world. In her book, she talks about the “latest breakthroughs in neuroscience and behavioral psychology, including lessons in neuroplasticity, magnetism, emotional and logical thinking, and even hydration, self-care, and relaxation”, and how they overlap with the Law of Attraction. Paired with her personal evolution from doubter to ardent believer, her book provides practical knowledge with inspiration and insight in helping people stuck in unhappiness move into confident fulfilment.

The Source: The Secrets of the Universe lends scientific rigor to concepts well-known to many coaches, like “think it, believe it, achieve it,” and “thoughts become things.” Far from magic, Dr. Swart Bieber demonstrates why tools like affirmations and vision boards work, and how each of us can create the lives we want by first changing our consciousness, from which our actions ultimately flow. For all looking to take their lives to the next level, this book is a worthy addition to your collection.” - BetterUp Coach Rob Michelucci, PCC

positive intelligenence

8. Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine

Looking for personal and professional fulfilment? Often we’re our own worst enemy. Chamine’s research found 10 common ways that this self-sabotage can cause significant damage to anyone trying to achieve their full potential. He then helps you identify how much potential you really have and provides concrete steps towards realizing it, bringing welcome stress relief and happiness as your progress.

“In Positive Intelligence, Shirzad explains the concepts of Sage and Saboteurs. Exploring how simple practices like using PQ reps can weaken your Saboteurs and strengthen your Sage, Shirzad helps you achieve your highest success and sustained happiness. Of all the personal development work and coaching training I have done, this is the simplest and easiest to implement, and has benefited me greatly. Better yet, I get the same feedback from my clients.” - BetterUp Coach Kristina Liu PsyD, ACC

humble inquiry

9. Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Rather Than Telling by Edgar Schein

Oftentimes we speak before thinking. And when we don’t check in with the person we’re speaking to, our conversations can miss the mark and leave people around us - especially our employees - feeling irritated, unappreciated and shut down. When we instead begin our conversations with humble inquiry and a desire to learn, we can spark collaborative and creative dialogues that lead to greater team success and cohesion.

“In this slim volume, Schein urges leaders to try out the philosophy, policy, and practices that turn leadership from a "telling" orientation to a "drawing out" orientation.  Leaders, he argues, will "arouse positive helping behavior" and motivate teams by leading from "an attitude of interest and curiosity" and "a desire to build a relationship".  Members exploring how to adapt to new leadership challenges have found this guide useful, especially in underscoring how team success doesn't only have to be up to them.” - BetterUp Coach Ross Dworman, MA, BCC

how emotions are made

10. How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barret 

Have you ever struggled with your emotions? Wondered where they came from? Now, with ground-breaking research, psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barret finds that instead of being stored in certain parts of our brains, emotions are actually made completely in the moment, lending us more power over our emotions than we previously thought. If you’ve ever wondered where emotions come from, how your children can become more emotionally intelligent, or if emotions impact ideas - this is the book for you.

“I recommended How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barret , because it opened up a breakthrough in my understanding of how emotions are created in the brain. It’s not that emotions are already built-in, waiting to surface automatically in our personal life depending on the situation. Instead,  Feldman shows us that emotions are built. The brain “forecasts” an emotion to surface based on previous experience and learning. This implies we’re able to influence our emotions based on the experiences we decide to have in our lives!” - BetterUp Coach Roberto Cuarón, ACC

We hope you’ve enjoyed our top book picks for 2020. What books are you excited to check out? What inspiring favorites would you add to the list?

Happy Holidays - may your new year be filled with joy, reflection, and expansion.