I really enjoy reading and tend to go back and forth between fiction and creative nonfiction. There are many books that I barely remember anything about, and then there are those that stick in my mind for years. These five books are the latter kind. You don’t even need to be an athlete to learn something from each of these books. If you have big goals and dreams in any area of your life, I would highly recommend putting these on your reading list!
1) Grit - Angela Duckworth
In this book Angela Duckworth dives into the question of why some people succeed and others don’t. She demonstrates that the #1 predictor of success in life is grit - the blend of passion and perseverance. I love this book so much because I feel like it describes exactly why I’ve had success in various aspects of my life. It wasn’t because of talent or simply hard work, but because I was resilient in the face of challenges and passionate enough to not give up on my dreams. This book has the best mix of scientific research and real-world examples, making the information easily digestible and fun to read. Lastly, Angela provides tangible takeaways you can apply to your own life if you want to foster grit within yourself. Guys, if you are trying to achieve a momentous goal, this book is for you!
2) Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy - Sheryl Sandberg
After losing her husband, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) wrote this book on how to move forward after life’s unexpected setbacks and become more resilient to challenges (can you sense the theme I am obsessed with??). Similar to Angela Duckworth, Sheryl combines personal anecdotes with psychology research to demonstrate how to find strength in the face of adversity. It’s real, raw, and will help you develop self-compassion and teach you how to support others during a difficult time. This topic is so important in sport, where you may face defeat, injury, a family illness (all of the above for me), etc. and you need to have the skills to pick yourself back up and keep pursuing your dreams.
3) The Willpower Instinct - Kelly McGonigal
Kelly McGonigal was a guest lecturer in my Psych 1 class at Stanford. As soon as I heard that she had written a book on willpower, I immediately bought it because self-control is something that I struggle with. People may think that as an Olympic athlete you have amazing willpower, but that’s not necessarily true in all aspects of life. I was extremely resilient and dedicated but in some areas I felt so weak in being able to control myself. Even now I continue to struggle with having the willpower to not grab a cookie from the kitchen when I know I shouldn’t, or debating whether I should go to the gym or take a nap even though I know I really should workout.
Kelly dives into the psychology of self-control, how it works, and how you can strengthen yours. This book will help you change bad habits and propel you to reach your goals much faster. It also discusses how to have better control over your emotions, and we could all benefit from this! Kelly provides tangible advice that will help you live a healthier and happier life. It’s a must-read if you want to have more control over your own self!
4) How Bad Do You Want It? - Matt Fitzgerald
Judging by the title of this book you can probably already tell that it’s about mental toughness. Matt Fitzgerald dives into stories of elite athletes who used their strong mental fitness to break physical boundaries and how you can train your mind to do the same. If you haven’t picked up on this already, I believe that mental toughness is incredibly important in sport - more important than talent. Developing resilience to the pain (and at times, suffering) of training is crucial if you want to keep improving. This book was SO interesting to me because it showed me how your mental state can set you up for success or sabotage it, how to train yourself to push past your perceived limits, and how to master your mind. You know the saying “mind over matter” or even “mind over muscle”? This is THE book to help you work on mental strength, which is such an important but often overlooked part of being a successful athlete.
5) The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time - Arianna Huffington
Switching things up a little, I want to recommend this book on sleep by Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post. If you know me well, you know that I’m a big sleeper. I’m not one of those people who can survive on 5-6 hours of sleep. I need a good nine to be sharp the next day, and since I was young I’ve made sleep a priority. Even if you don’t feel it in the moment, sleep does affect your training quality. In this book Arianna calls for a “sleep revolution” in our society because the vast majority of people are not getting enough sleep, compromising our health, work performance, and happiness. I love the way she weaves in her personal experiences and scientific research in a relatable and easily digestible way. If you don’t already prioritize your sleep, this book will certainly change your mind. We can all benefit from a balanced approach to health, happiness, and productivity!