“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things,” wrote Albert Einstein. Goals give us purpose when our feet hit the floor in the morning. When we set a goal to achieve something—especially something that is tied to our character strengths—we are practicing what some happiness researchers define as authentic happiness: The joy we feel when we are striving toward our full potential.
We have hand-picked these 10 inspiring, action-oriented books to help you set goals, stick with them and finally, accomplish them. The bonus? You will feel happier, not only once you achieve your desired goal, but also in the pursuit of it: The journey of mastery and self-discovery is just as important as the destination.
Positive change is possible, writes Harvard-trained happiness researcher Shawn Achor, once you recognize that happiness comes before success. When we begin to see our world more positively and realize we can overcome challenges, we summon the drive to achieve personal and professional goals.
2. Nine Things Successful People Do Differently
By Heidi Grant Halvorson
Social psychologist and motivation expert Heidi Grant Halvorson focuses her research on why some people give up when things get challenging while others persevere. She believes anyone can reach their goals using scientifically-tested strategies to succeed. In this book, Heidi presents studies showing that people who anticipate obstacles and use positive thinking and a plan to persevere outperform those who just dream about a desired outcome.
3. Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide
By Caroline Miller
Life coach and positive psychology expert Caroline Miller offers a research-based guide to setting and hitting your goals through interactive assessments and quizzes. Discover how to coach yourself to set goals and create physical and social environments that will foster success. When you hit one goal, Caroline explains, the happiness you feel has a “spillover effect” that will help you you achieve additional goals.
What you do today matters. What you do every day matters more. The key to successfully achieving your goals is to take small, simple actions and compound them over time, writes Jeff Olson (full disclosure, founder of Live Happy magazine). “Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in,” he writes. For example, bringing your lunch from home instead of eating out for one day makes no difference; but do that every day and you’ll save hundreds of dollars per year.
5. The Power of Positive Thinking
By Norman Vincent Peale
The Power of Positive Thinking has helped millions of people achieve their goals since it was first published in 1952. “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination,” writes Norman, in the original self-help manual. These words still resonate with readers more than half a century later.
Want to achieve self-mastery? Psychology-of-change expert Tony Robbins provides a plan based on the following four steps: 1) Get clear on what you are committed to achieving; 2) Be willing to take massive action; 3) Notice what is or is not working; 4) Continue to change your approach to achieve what you want.
In The Achievement Habit, author and Stanford engineering and design professor Bernard Roth shares tools and exercises to overcome obstacles and accomplish goals. Believe you are a doer and achiever in order to become one. Be open to learning from your own experience and from those around you. Ignore distractions that prevent you from achieving your goals. Part memoir and part personal development guide, this book offers a glimpse into a brilliant and creative mind, and many suggestions for ways to develop and test your own new ideas.
Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin writes that our habits are the invisible architecture of our daily life. It takes some work to form a new positive habit, but once we do, we can harness the energy and regularity of habits to meet our goals. In Better Than Before, Gretchen offers 21 clever strategies to make habits stick and encourages readers to select the strategies that best suit their personalities. Master habits, the book advises, and you master your goals.
9. The Magic of Thinking Big: Acquire the Secrets of Success… Achieving Everything You've Always Wanted
By David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.
“You are what you think you are,” writes David J. Schwartz, Ph.D. in The Magic of Thinking Big. Exceeding your goals is possible when you believe in yourself. Get over the fear of failure and use the power of a positive attitude to achieve big things. “When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”
Author of dozens of books on personal development, Brian Tracy explains the 12 steps necessary to set and accomplish goals both large and small. The author emphasizes self-discipline and persistence and two keys to achieving your goals. He also encourages readers to clearly establish their goals: Write them down and be specific. Make sure you can easily explain your goal to someone else, Brian says, and know exactly when you have achieved it.
Sandra Bilbray is a contributing Editor to Live Happy and the founder and CEO of TheMediaConcierge.net.