Jen Gotch is the founder and chief creative officer of ban.do. During Mental Health Month—and really, all year round—she’s challenging us to think differently about good mental health. In fact, she’s going to be doing just that on a new Girlboss Radio Network podcast calledJen Gotch Is OK…Sometimes. Subscribe here so you don’t miss a thing—and tune in to the teaser NOW to prepare for the first episode dropping May 29.
Ahead, Jen rounds up her 10 favorite self-help books—and there isn’t a single time waster in the bunch. Naturally.
I was actually listening to self-help way before I was reading it. My mom loved to listen to cassettes of Wayne Dyer when I was in middle school and high school. Obviously, as a teenager, all I really wanted to do was listen to Prince or Madonna instead. But then, in college, after I went through my “read-about-every-serial-killer-known-to-man phase,” I found myself looking to build self awareness and emotional intelligence (although i didn’t use those words, that’s definitely what I was doing). So, I got deep into self-help.
Since then, nine out of ten times that I pick up a book, it is some sort of self-help—whether it be for business, relationships, creativity, or spirituality, self-help is definitely my genre of choice, especially since I still suffer from PTSD after all of those true crime books.
When Girlboss asked me to share some of the best ones with you, I went over to my bookshelf and started pulling out what I felt were the most influential self-help books I have read. I stopped myself at twenty-two books off the shelf and then narrowed it to ten. These are books about philosophy, enlightenment, creativity, productivity, and optimism. They are like a time capsule for me, as they are essentially a collection of my favorites from college until now. I hope they help you gain insight into yourself and others. Oh, and a few other authors I love are Gary Zukav, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer (yes, the cassettes-in-the-car guy), Malcolm Gladwell, and Seth Godin.
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Ok, this is a very old book. Not like 70s old—more like 4th century BC old. It’s Chinese philosophy. I swear I did not put this book on the list to impress you. I went through a big Chinese philosophy phase after college in order to “find myself.” Spoiler alert, I’m still looking! Taoism is thought to be a precursor to Buddhism, so expect similar philosophies in there.
Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life by Shakti Gawain
Published in the late 70s, found by me in—you guessed it—the 90’s! This was my first foray into creative visualization, and really the book that planted the seed in my mind that thoughts are energy and we can use that energy to our advantage or disadvantage.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
Ruiz is a leading member of the New Thought movement, which is worth Googling. This book encouraged me to adopt my “I DID MY BEST” philosophy. This passage encapsulates it: “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret…”
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
Ok, this one is from the 50s so some of the ideas and references are quite archaic. That said, it’s essentially about how to achieve optimism through positive affirmations and visualizations. If you are a pessimist who is longing for a better life, this is a good place to start.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
This is essentially a time management book that helped me a lot when ban.do started to grow, like when i actually began being held accountable to getting work done every day. It’s a little intense, but there are nuggets in here that have stuck with me for years.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Another great book from the 90s that has guided me on my path to enlightenment. That sounds so new-agey, and it is, but the ability to practice mindfulness, or to live in the now, is a powerful tool to have in your emotional and physical toolbox.
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman
Ok, apparently I’m obsessed with 90s self-help books. I’m not going to say that this book saved my marriage, because it didn’t, but it did help me understand why some relationships work and others don’t. It explains the five ways that most people express and experience love and it works for all relationships, not just the ones involving sex.
The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield
Jack wrote all of the Chicken Soup for the… books, which were a very big deal in the 90s. This book is about how you can use the law of attraction to get the life you want and become the person you want to be. It is very empowering to learn that a lot of the secrets of success lie within us and are not something we have to wait for someone else to present to us. I have used these principles throughout my life and career and they have never let me down.
The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry
After years of stalking Todd via his Accidental Creative podcast and reading all of his books, I am now happy to call him a friend. He is so smart and gives thoughtful, useful advice about having to create on demand. If you are a creative professional or even work with creative professionals, this would be a great book for you.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
Brené Brown is pretty epic. She’s written lots of great books and I think there’s even an online class you can take with her, but I also might have made that up. [Editor’s note: she didn’t make that up—this is the course.] What I know for sure is that this book is a revelation about the power of vulnerability—something I already inherently knew, but it was a great reminder. Also, if you don’t feel like reading right now, she’s got a great Ted Talk called, easily enough, “The Power of Vulnerability.”