Top 3 empowering books that keep on giving

I find these three books to be a constant source of empowerment. More than that, they can profoundly change the way we approach life.



1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl recounts his experience of surviving Nazi death camps and how the lessons from his theory, logotherapy, helped him find meaning and cope with it:

  • There is a gap between what happens and how we respond to it. In that gap is the power to decide what we will do and who we will be. When we are aware of the gap, we stop reacting and start responding

  • Life does not have a meaning of its own, but we create that meaning

  • Knowing one’s ‘why’ helps overcome any ‘how’

  • Success & happiness are side-effects of contributing to a greater cause

  • Every human being unites both the potential for ‘good’ & ‘evil’ inside of themselves. ’Good’ and ‘evil’ are not properties of people, they are potentials either acted upon or not. And they are not markers differentiating people – or groups of people – from each other; rather, they are potentialities in each of us

“Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” (Viktor E. Frankl)


2. Into the Magic Shop by James R. Doty

The story of how a small boy from a dire background was taught how to focus his mind and connect with his heart through exercises in mindfulness and compassion, became a successful neurosurgeon, only to feel isolated and unhappy, realizing he had put his mind & intellect over everything else:

  • Practicing mindfulness consistently can deeply shape how we view the world and how we respond to it. It can increase our focus, discipline, and sense of personal power. It helps us be a bit more conscious about what we do and how we think

  • Practicing mindfulness without compassion (mind without heart) means being efficient but perhaps not effective: doing things very good, but perhaps not doing the right things. Practicing compassion, being kind to oneself and others in word and deed, connects oneself to the heart and thereby to others

“You need to understand that what you think you want isn’t always what’s best for you and others. You need to open your heart to learn what you want before you use this magic, otherwise if you don’t really know what you want and you get what you think you want, you’re going to end up getting what you don’t want.” (James R. Doty)

3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Apart from the valuable life lessons he shares (with himself - he never intended his reflections to be published), the fact that he, Emperor of Rome, took time daily to reflect on his life rather than being swept away by whatever the day brought, makes this a useful reminder for those moments when we think we are 'too busy':

  • We are in control of how we respond to events, and when something gets in the way, we can always adapt and persevere

  • Doing the right thing because this is what we are here to do, not because of glory and recognition

  • The humility to reflect, acknowledge we are work-in-progress, aware of one’s shortcomings even at the height of success

  • Life is short

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” (Marcus Aurelius)

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