One of the common barriers to happiness is the false expectation that one thing—a book or a teacher, a princess or a knight, an accomplishment, a prize, or a revelation—will bring us eternal bliss. While all these things can contribute to our well-being, at best they form a small part of the mosaic of a happy life. The fairytale notion of happiness—the belief that something would carry us to the happily ever after—inevitably leads to disappointment. A happy—or happier—life is rarely shaped by some extraordinary life-changing event; rather, it is shaped incrementally, experience by experience, moment by moment.

— Tal Ben-Shahar

I am all about self-improvement books, both for applying the knowledge to my own life and in my work with clients. I love reading about it, talking about it, listening to podcasts, trying new theories and learning about all the latest trends. I’m not limited in my areas of interest; I enjoy reading about psychology, emotion, relationships, food, exercise, spirituality —  you name it, I soak it all in. I’m constantly alternating between my latest self-improvement + murder-mystery books.

Healthy combo, right? 

I figured this would be an appropriate place to share some of the books I read for those also interested in this area. You can take it or leave it. Because the thing about self-improvement is that you get to decide what works for you + what doesn’t. You even get to decide if you agree with some of these theories! You determine what applies to your life + what you can do without. You’re in charge.

My latest read is called Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar. In this book, he discusses how we can all achieve greater levels of happiness in our own lives. (Because that’s always the end-goal, isn’t it? I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want happiness). He recommends that we stop asking “am I happy?” as this suggests that being happy is a definable end-point, the end of a pursuit which doesn’t actually exist. Instead, he recommends that we ask ourselves, “how can I be happier?” because this acknowledges that happiness is an ongoing, never-ending pursuit. It’s not a place we end up, it’s a something we must repeatedly find within ourselves along the way. Even if we already feel that we are happy, there is always room to become happier.

Ben-Shahar identifies four archetypes of happiness and invites readers to do some soul-searching and reflecting in deciding which archetype most reflects their life:

  1. The Hedonist: Seeks pleasure and avoids pain. These individuals do what feels best in the moment with no regard for long term consequences. (Think people who use drugs, steal, cheat).
  2. The Rat Racer: Lives for the future by sacrificing the present. These are the people that live by the motto“I will be happy when….” (insert some accomplishment/life event that inevitably doesn’t bring them happiness)
  3. The Nihilist: Someone who has lost their spark for life. They live for neither the present or the future and choose to sulk over the past. They have given up on being happy and have resigned themselves to the fact that life has no meaning.
  4. The Happines Archetype: These individuals have solved the happiness riddle. They are able to enjoy the present moment without sabotaging their future. They know that the activities they engage in will contribute to a fulfilling life.

Which one are you? The good news is that if you don’t like your current archetype, there’s time for change. Ben-Shahar describes practical tools for achieving The Happiness Archetype, such as expressing gratitude, creating rituals, and simplifying our lives. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in evaluating where there might be room for growth/change within their current values + priorities.

A great reminder that the journey is more important than the destination.

P.S. I’m always looking for recommendations, send me your latest reads!