Best Books to Figure Out What You Want in Life

Best Books to Figure Out What You Want in Life

These are the best books to figure out what you want in life. You can use the advice in these books to pursue work that truly inspires you. 

Do you feel like you don’t know what direction to go in your career? Feeling unhappy in your current position?

It’s not just you. Workplace satisfaction is at an all-time low for many employees today. 

One survey found that over half of all workers actively seek new employment or intend to do so soon. It’s also evidence that the Great Reshuffle that began during the pandemic is still in effect.

The employee turnover rate is through the roof. There is also no indication that these numbers will change for the better. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted both the workplace and the job market.

You could be wondering, “So what?” Workers who enjoy their jobs are likelier to report high happiness levels, regardless of their financial situation. The reverse is “learned helplessness,” where people give up and abandon their goals.

With the percentage of workers concerned about getting laid off at a record high of 56%, we are seeing more and more of this trend. Anxiety, depression, psychosomatic symptoms, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness are all more prevalent among workers dissatisfied with their jobs.

More people pursuing work they are enthusiastic about will lead to greater enjoyment, fewer health problems, and better efforts to address pressing issues like global warming and extreme poverty.

These are the best books to figure out what you want in life and the kind of employment that ignites your passion.

1. The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna

Goodreads Choice

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna

This book is perfect for any new college grad, artist, seeker, or someone contemplating a career shift.

The number of books out there on the topic of discovering your life’s work is staggering. The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna stands out from the pack. 

It’s not a difficult read at all, but it does have some weight to it, and that’s what makes it worthwhile. Moreover, the book’s visuals are a delight. Luna is also a painter and designer, so she includes several vibrant paintings and drawings within the text.

How realistically can everyone identify and pursue their life’s true purpose? If it’s true, then why don’t more people do it? How does one forge and walk one’s path when society at large would have them conform?

Author Elle Luna delves into these topics in her work.

“There are two paths in life: Should and Must. We arrive at this crossroads over and over again. And every day, we get to choose.”

Choosing Should is accommodating other people’s preferences over your own, for example, clinging to a job you hate because you’re afraid of disappointing family and friends.

Choosing Must means always following your deepest values. It entails accepting yourself as you are and paying attention to the part of yourself that urges you to pursue your true passions.

This book is a living testimony to what you can accomplish when you discover your Must and follow it consistently.

2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, William J. Winslade, Harold S. Kushner

Best Seller

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, William J. Winslade, Harold S. Kushner

This international bestseller is as relevant now as it was originally released. It is about finding meaning and strength amid profound sadness.

There are very few books that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime, but this is one of them. It’s one of the most popular and best books to figure out what you want in life.

People are naturally inclined to pursue happiness. But if you let your desires guide you, you’ll never discover your life’s purpose.

Man’s Search for Meaning is a guide to discovering your life’s true calling. It’s also a manual for thriving in the face of adversity and learning to live on your terms, no matter your circumstances.

Pick up this book when you are confused, stuck, or suffering.

3. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, Lou Aronica

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, Lou Aronica

A ground-breaking book on talent, passion, and success comes from one of the world’s preeminent thinkers on creativity and fulfillment.

Losing your identity to blend in is a surefire way to lose your enthusiasm for life. You can go nowhere where your abilities and expertise will be accepted and valued. And it is always a battle to win the approval of others.

Do you ever feel like you don’t quite belong anywhere? If so, you should reconsider your choices. Reading this book will lead you to reevaluate your life, help you uncover your true calling, and guide you to your ideal career.

This book by Sir Ken Robinson teaches you to:

  • Face your anxieties
  • Strengthen your mental fortitude
  • Discover your strengths and use them
  • Get over your self-doubt
  • Reevaluate your life’s goals

4. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow

Randy Pausch’s lecture became a phenomenon. And this book captures the author’s wit, inspiration, and humor into a permanent medium. The book will be read and reread for many years to come.

How would you spend your days if you knew how limited your time on Earth is? Could you make a positive adjustment that would improve your life? Do you want to stop wasting time and start living?

Inconsequential minutiae surround us. And sometimes, we waste precious time on them without realizing that our lives are too short.

Put your life to good use. Discover your life’s true calling by reading this book and taking action on its advice.

5. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

This book, compiled from a series of lectures the author gave between 1987 and 1994, is a treasure trove of advice for pushing forward in the face of overwhelming grief and difficulty.

Do your worries, pains, and aches keep you from living your best life and realizing your goals?

When Things Fall Apart is one of the all-time best-selling books. It delves into themes of growth and self-improvement.

In this book, discover how to harness fear to propel yourself ahead, find your purpose, discover your most incredible self, and love every moment.

6. Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin

Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin

Bestselling author Steven Pressfield’s manifesto, Do the Work, argues that superior ideas aren’t what matters but rather the discipline to see them through.

Maybe you have a clear idea of what you should be doing with your life, but you keep putting it off. Perhaps you have a burning desire to do something, but you’re holding yourself back for various reasons. You may be very motivated and driven, but something keeps you from reaching your goals.

Many of us unconsciously trick ourselves into feeling that we are incapable, unworthy, or inadequate. Get this book, and you’ll learn the difference between helpful and damaging forms of self-talk.

7. The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau

The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau

The Happiness of Pursuit is a book that will motivate and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds. It encourages us to take charge of our lives and give them meaning while also urging us to have a level head about the dedication required. This book provides a road map for living a meaningful existence.

Chris Guillebeau is a very inspiring human being. Several of his books encourage readers to ditch the 9-to-5 and choose their unique path in life.

After he had been to every country on Earth, he wrote The Happiness of Pursuit. He shares his experiences and those of the many like-minded adventurers he has encountered. He refers to these endeavors, in which people seek deeper meaning in their lives, as “quests.”

Discovering yours is the focus of this book.

What I took away from this book are three key points regarding quests:

  • Take heed when the world tries to get your attention.
  • Make changes to your routine to fit your quest.
  • The journey itself is a reward, giving you a sense of direction.

8. The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins

Jeff uses personal experience, engaging case studies, and the latest research on motivation and skill to help readers uncover their calling and prepare for the long, difficult journey to finding and pursuing it.

Few succeed in finding their life’s purpose since it’s risky and scary. Finding your life’s purpose is the subject of The Art of Work. It has to do with the work you must accomplish. It’s that thing of incalculable value for which you’re on this Earth.

According to Jeff Goins, following your passion is the first step in a longer journey. When our passions align with the world’s demands, we begin to live for something greater than ourselves. Life takes on a rare and desirable quality for those lucky to stand at this crossroads. It’s not easy, but anyone willing to try can live a life like that.

Jeff guides you through discovering your calling and the challenges you’ll face along the way by drawing on his anecdotes, illuminating case studies, and the latest findings from the study of motivation and ability.

9. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

The ten wholehearted living guideposts make this book practical. The guideposts teach us how to transform our lives and families and help us overcome self-sabotaging expectations.

You brought a dream into the world on the day you were born. But it was your parents’ dream, not yours. They imagined what a brilliant and talented person you would one day become.

You probably didn’t have much to add to the conversation during your formative years. You only realize you have a unique ambition later in life. But if your parents don’t support your dreams, having your own is okay.

Parents typically mean well. However, they also struggle to accept their children’s decisions.

Have you taken a stand and made your way? Or did you cave in and allow them to influence your life so that you might achieve their goal rather than your own?

You’ll learn the skills you need to build mental fortitude and accept yourself with dignity and affection from the pages of this book.

10. Find Your Why by Simon Sinek

Find Your Why by Simon Sinek

The exercises in this book can help guide you toward long-term success and fulfillment in the workplace, whether you’ve recently started your first job, are managing a team, or are the CEO of your own firm.

The first step in any business or career growth is to figure out why you’re doing it. That is the central idea behind the book Find Your Why. It’s not just about finding and defining it but also about applying it to make your career thrive.

Using the “Golden Circle,” Simon Sinek demonstrates how some of the world’s most renowned leaders attained extraordinary achievement. Among the notable figures he mentions are MLK Jr., the Wright brothers, and Steve Jobs. What set these individuals apart from those who were similarly qualified and had access to more substantial resources?

By reading this book, you can discover how Sinek may help you discover and pursue your life’s purpose.

11. Discover Your True North by Bill George

Discover Your True North by Bill George

This book teaches future leaders to face today’s complexity with passion, empathy, and moral bravery by staying loyal to their ideals and realizing their full potential in the face of enormous adversity.

Your True North is the essence of your humanity, the compass that keeps you headed in the right direction as a leader. Your beliefs, your interests, and your goals serve as its foundation. If you’re leading from a place of authenticity, others will want to be associated with you and follow your lead. 

If you ever feel lost and the world is spiraling out of your control, turning your attention to your True North is a way to get back on track. Throughout this book, you’ll discover the five types of ideal leaders and how to develop your self-awareness and ethical compass.

12. Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Understanding how to organize the data that enters our minds is the central message of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. It explains how we can find lasting fulfillment, realize our full potential, and live better lives.

First published in 1990, this exploration of the concept of “effortless work” remains relevant.

Csikszentmihalyi argues that the most meaningful experiences happen when people push themselves beyond their physical or mental boundaries to achieve a goal they value.

To put it more succinctly, we give our all when our work is important to us.

Have you ever been so absorbed in your task that you lost track of time? That’s not a mere coincidence. It’s a natural result of being in a “flow state.”

Being in this zone allows us to forget about our difficulties and give complete attention to whatever we do.

This book will show you how to identify and, more importantly, capitalize on such opportunities. Why? Because once you do, you’ll be on the verge of discovering your true calling.

13. The Renaissance Soul: How to Make Your Passions Your Life—A Creative and Practical Guide by Margaret Lobenstine

The Renaissance Soul: How to Make Your Passions Your Life—A Creative and Practical Guide by Margaret Lobenstine

This book offers guidance, doable exercises, useful tools, and discussions with accomplished Renaissance Souls.

Are you unable to commit to one career path? Does the prospect of expanding your horizons excite you, or do you find yourself looking for something else to pursue once you’ve reached a certain level of success in your current endeavor? If that’s the case, you might have a Renaissance Soul.

Margaret Lobenstine’s groundbreaking book, The Renaissance Soul, is ideal for anybody who worries about becoming a “jack of all trades and master of none.” 

Learn the secrets to creating a life you love and how to:

  • Use Renaissance Soul time management techniques to maximize your productivity.
  • Maintain a wide range of interests without becoming disorganized or stressed.
  • Follow your passions even if they don’t pay much.
  • Never let your day job stop you from pursuing your passions.

This well-planned self-help book includes inventive, practical tasks, relevant resources, and conversations with accomplished Renaissance Souls.

14. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro has chosen to explore a wide range of themes in his novel, the most crucial of which is identity. Tommy’s dissatisfaction at Hailsham may be attributable in part to his inability to express himself creatively. Since nobody appreciates his talents, he assumes nobody appreciates who he is as a person. Never Let Me Go does, however, also deal with sentiments of nostalgia and friendship.

One of the best books to figure out what you want in life is a dystopian science fiction novel set in England in the late 1990’s.

Never Let Me Go is a coming-of-age story, and at its foundation lies the idea that one’s identity is fluid and changes with time.

The story begins with Kathy H. reflecting on her childhood at Hailsham boarding school in the lovely English countryside. With its distant, pastoral location, Hailsham is described as one of a few “privileged estates.” 

The kids and teachers at this exclusive school have developed their own distinct culture, with parents and teachers placing a premium on encouraging students to think critically and creatively rather than simply memorizing facts. Thus, Hailsham might be emblematic of the rich culture typically associated with fictional prestigious universities.

Those fortunate to obtain entry reassure themselves that the trade-off is worthwhile and that it is preferable to choose the road of assimilation rather than risk being seen as rebellious. The allure of joining an exclusive club proves too strong. And the students fail to consider who or what they are pledging allegiance to or at what cost.

15. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Goodreads Choice

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The novel explores themes of self-discovery as it follows protagonists Ifemelu and Obinze as they mature and figure out their position in the world. In sum, the novel’s settings and characters illustrate the interplay of cultural, racial, economic, and individual will and choice in the formation of an individual’s identity.

Characters in Americanah suffer when they are not allowed to express their feelings and thoughts. But they ultimately find fulfillment when they are free to do so. Truths, no matter how painful, only get worse when hidden.

The deceptions necessary for immigration cause emotional stress and feelings of inadequacy and invisibility. As Ifemelu searches for work under a false identity, she takes great pride in receiving junk mail with her name on it.

Specifically, Ifemelu and Obinze’s relationship exemplifies their respect for and pursuit of open communication. Because of Obinze’s admiration, Ifemelu learns to appreciate her candor and embrace who she is. And throughout the narrative, she searches for the sense of comfort she had at the beginning. 

Obinze is aware of the stress his divorce places on Kosi and Buchi. However, he makes it clear that he doesn’t want Buchi to develop a habit of lying, reinforcing his belief that the path to lasting joy is facing unpleasant realities rather than avoiding them.

What might these books teach you?

Don’t simply comply with your parents’ wishes without questioning them. 

You care a great deal for your parents. But let’s be honest. Your parents care more about your financial stability. They worry about you and want to make sure you’re okay and can make ends meet. So naturally, they will steer you toward the safest, highest-paying option, whether they realize it or not. Will they support your decision to uproot your life and relocate to Africa to work for a non-profit organization? 

Probably not! However, that sounds wicked awesome.

It’s better to love what you do daily than to detest what you do and then spend the extra money on things like parties and holidays to attempt to make things bearable. So if you don’t have a lot of debt or a family to support, choose a marvelous experience above high income.

Besides, this background will serve you well if and when you decide to launch your own business or seek employment with a prestigious international firm.

Dismiss the myth that you must wait to pursue what you love because of a lack of experience. 

By selling dish soap or moving boxes on PowerPoint, you will not become a good businessman, stylist, or whatever your ambition. Many of the most influential startup founders lacked any prior experience in the corporate world. 

To borrow Warren Buffett’s words, doing the work you hate today so you can do the work you love tomorrow is as smart as putting off having sexual relations until you’re older. 

Working in a corporate environment is not a prerequisite for success as an entrepreneur. 

It’s easy to get drawn into a job and stay there longer than you had planned. When your attention starts to waver or glaze over, corporations expertly dangle a tempting treat in front of you, like a raise or promotion.

If you’re willing to take an honest look at yourself, flaws and all, to discover the path to massive success and happiness, these books are for you.

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