The chaos of flight delays, office parties, and family gatherings is now firmly in the rearview, which means a brand new year and another opportunity to cultivate purpose and meaning in your personal and professional life. Sure, it’s a no brainer to reach for traditional self-help guides and autobiographies from heavy-hitting business icons for guidance. But that’s not the only place to find a little inspiration.
These four books written by dynamic women offer some life lessons with authentic stories that evoke self-reflection. Their solid prose and vulnerable narratives prove a perfect way for us to dive into the New Year and forge a path toward transformation in work, in life—or both.
1. Stop worrying and start wondering
Taking a leap and cannonballing into the unknown is hard, but so is living a life that lacks purpose and joy. Amber Rae’s book Choose Wonder Over Worry encourages readers to get curious about what they really want.
With the help of bold graphics and thoughtful writing prompts, Rae shares her own story of dissatisfaction in a destructive workplace. She shows readers that it’s possible to leave imposter syndrome behind by getting curious in the face of fear. All it takes is a pen, some paper, and a thought-provoking journal prompt.
2. It’s okay to change lanes
What looks like success doesn’t always feel like it. Few people know this better than Forever First Lady Michelle Obama. Her book Becoming tells the story of her journey to the White House while also offering a remarkable and honest narrative of a woman who followed a clearly defined career path, checked all the boxes, and still felt something missing.
Obama followed her desire to engage her South Side Chicago community, build relationships with young people, and increase access to services in order to improve quality of life. Despite the challenges associated with adjusting sails mid-career (including the side-eye from other professionals) this book shows that it is possible to pursue purpose when you’re in search of more balance and joy at work.
3. Be authentic. Be vulnerable. Be you.
Actress Busy Philipps is best known for her roles on cult classic TV shows like “Freaks and Geeks” and “Cougar Town.” While she’s made her living pretending and playing characters, her book This Will Only Hurt a Little proves one of the biggest keys to success is actually keeping it real.
Whether it’s discussing the struggles of motherhood, the challenges of a waning career, or confronting difficult moments, this collection of essays is proof that authenticity is an essential element of real success for any working woman.
4. Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t run with the boys
Even an Olympic medalist, American record holder, and elite distance runner can sometimes feel like it’s a man’s world. But in her book Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way To Victory Deena Kastor shares an inside look at what it takes to break into the fold. After she moves to Colorado to pursue more intensive training, she joins the ranks of a group elite men and navigates the gender divide with grit, resilience, and at times, even a little grace. In addition to showcasing what it means to finally run with the boys (and pull past them), Kastor offers women unique guidance on sharpening the mind through positive reframing and mindfulness to become a champion in any setting.
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Jill Nawrocki is a Licensed Social Worker and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer living in Brooklyn. She is an ultra runner, freelance writer and social justice warrior with a background in program management, direct practice, mindfulness and advocacy.