The Best Self-Help Books I Read in 2020 (Part 1)

If you're new here, you should know that I'm a voracious reader. At the end of 2019 I set the lofty goal of reading 50 books in 2020 and, well, I read 50 books in the first five months of the year. Granted I very much have COVID to thank for that as "activities" were quite limited at that point in time but nevertheless reading is a huge part of my life and it always has been. Ever since I learned to read at the ripe, young age of four.

While I didn't necessarily love nor hate school growing up, I love that reading gives me an opportunity to continue learning even into my adulthood. I always want to be learning and growing into a better version of myself each and every day and what better way to do just that than by reading and more importantly putting into practice the things you read.

Which is a perfect segue into today's topic - the best self-help books I've read in 2020. I usually don't gravitate toward fiction but I will say I've entertained it quite a bit more this year. After a while, self-help books can feel redundant when you're powering through one after the other so I like to introduce fiction into the mix to change things up.

That being said, today is all about non-fiction "self-help" books. As I mentioned earlier, reading is a big learning tool for me and I find so much value in reading books from experts who have experienced first hand career setbacks, life challenges, etc. and how they were able to persevere through and what it taught them that they can in turn share with each of us.

In the title above you'll see that this is "Part 1." Well, that's because it's October and there's still two more months left in the year and plenty of time for additional books to make the cut - which I'm hoping they will! So check back in at the end of the year for Part 2!

( is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Please note, all the books you will see in this blog post are linked to As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Let's dive in! Please note, these books are not listed in any particular order.

Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat by Sarah Robb O'Hagan.

Summary: As a child, Sarah Robb O’Hagan dreamed she could be a champion. Her early efforts failed to reveal a natural superstar, but she refused to settle for average. Through dramatic successes and epic fails, she studied how extraordinary people in sports, entertainment and business set and achieve extremely personal goals. Sarah became an executive at Virgin Atlantic and Nike, and despite being fired twice in her twenties, she went on to become the global president of Gatorade and of Equinox—as well as a wife, mother, and endurance athlete.

In every challenging situation, personal or professional, individuals face the pressure to play it safe and conform to the accepted norms. But doing so comes with heavy costs: passions stifled, talents ignored, and opportunities squelched. The bolder choice is to embrace what Sarah calls Extreme You: to confidently bring all that is distinctive and relevant about yourself to everything you do.

Inspiring, surprising, and practical, Extreme You is her training program for becoming the best version of yourself.

Favorite Takeaways:

"Success is understanding who you are, how you are naturally wired and what moves you. Know who you are. What do you LOVE to do every morning you wake up?"

"Grit = the passion for a goal combined with the motivation to achieve it. The point about grit is to find something you love and then do it."

"3 things motivate us effectively in the long run: autonomy, mastery and purpose. The chance to direct our own lives while getting better at something that serves others and ourselves."

"The pain of a failure becomes a personal trainer, pushing you to do better, to prove what you're really capable of. Pain training."

"Failure hurts but the worst thing isn't the pain, it's the fear."

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

Summary: When he set out to visit all of the planet’s countries by age thirty-five, compulsive goal-seeker Chris Guillebeau never imagined that his journey’s biggest revelation would be how many people like himself exist—each pursuing a challenging quest. These quests are as diverse as humanity itself, involving exploration, the pursuit of athletic or artistic excellence, or battling against injustice and poverty. Everywhere that Chris visited he found ordinary people working toward extraordinary goals, making daily down payments on their dreams. These “questers” included a suburban mom pursuing a wildly ambitious culinary project, a DJ producing the world’s largest symphony, a young widower completing the tasks his wife would never accomplish—and scores of others writing themselves into the record books.

The more Chris spoke with these strivers, the more he began to appreciate the direct link between questing and long-term happiness, and he was compelled to complete a comprehensive study of the phenomenon. In The Happiness of Pursuit, he draws on interviews with hundreds of questers, revealing their secret motivations, their selection criteria, the role played by friends and family, their tricks for solving logistics, and the importance of documentation. Equally fascinating is Chris’s examination of questing’s other side. What happens after the summit is climbed, the painting hung, the endurance record broken, the at-risk community saved?

A book that challenges each of us to take control—to make our lives be about something while at the same time remaining clear-eyed about the commitment—The Happiness of Pursuit will inspire readers of every age and aspiration. It’s a playbook for making your life count.

Favorite Takeaways:

"Pay attention to the ideas that draw your interest, especially the ones you can't stop thinking about."

"It's so much more important to do what your heart's telling you."

"Discontent is the match and inspiration is the kindling."

"You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn't exist but by refusing to give it decision-making authority."

"Regret is what you should fear the most. If something's going to keep you awake at night, let it be the fear of not following your dream. Be afraid of settling."

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life From Someone Who's Been There by Tara Schuster

Summary: By the time she was in her late twenties, Tara Schuster was a rising TV executive who had worked for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and helped launch Key & Peele to viral superstardom. By all appearances, she had mastered being a grown-up. But beneath that veneer of success, she was a chronically anxious, self-medicating mess. No one knew that her road to adulthood had been paved with depression, anxiety, and shame, owing in large part to her minimally parented upbringing. She realized she’d hit rock bottom when she drunk-dialed her therapist pleading for help.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies is the story of Tara’s path to re-parenting herself and becoming a “ninja of self-love.” Through simple, daily rituals, Tara transformed her mind, body, and relationships, and shows how to

• fake gratitude until you actually feel gratitude

• excavate your emotional wounds and heal them with kindness

• identify your self-limiting beliefs, kick them to the curb, and start living a life you choose

• silence your inner frenemy and shield yourself from self-criticism

• carve out time each morning to start your day empowered, inspired, and ready to rule

• create a life you truly, totally f*cking LOVE

This is the book Tara wished someone had given her and it is the book many of us desperately need: a candid, hysterical, addictively readable, practical guide to growing up (no matter where you are in life) and learning to love yourself in a non-throw-up-in-your-mouth-it’s-so-cheesy way.

Favorite Takeaways:

"Start where you are without worrying too much about how far you have to go."

"That which you do not deal with deals with you."

"Gratitude helps you see that you have a choice in what story you tell yourself."

"Busy doesn't mean important. Busy just means you are preoccupied. Busy isn't special. Why label yourself something so common?"

"When you expand what you think you are capable of, that's when you become truly capable."

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Summary: After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.

In this edition, Dweck offers new insights into her now famous and broadly embraced concept. She introduces a phenomenon she calls false growth mindset and guides people toward adopting a deeper, truer growth mindset. She also expands the mindset concept beyond the individual, applying it to the cultures of groups and organizations. With the right mindset, you can motivate those you lead, teach, and love—to transform their lives and your own.

Favorite Takeaways:

"Becoming is better than being."

"No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites the ability and turns it into accomplishment."

"What feeds the "gift" = constant, endless curiosity and challenge seeking."

"Mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some physical advantages."

"Character is what allows you to reach the top and stay there."

The Joy of Missing Out: Live More By Doing Less by Tonya Dalton

Summary: Overwhelmed. Do you wake up in the morning already feeling behind? Does the pressure of keeping it all together make you feel anxious and irritable?

Tanya Dalton, CEO and productivity expert, offers you a liberating shift in perspective: feeling overwhelmed isn't the result of having too much to do -- it's from not knowing where to start.

Doing less might seem counterintuitive, but doing less is more productive, because you’re concentrating on the work you actually want to be doing. Through this book, you can learn how to:

  • Identify what is important to you and clarify your priorities.

  • Develop ways to streamline your specific workflow.

  • Discover your purpose.

Named Top 10 Business Book of the Year by Fortune magazine, The Joy of Missing Out is chock-full of resources and printables. This is a legitimate action plan for change. Once you reject the pressure to do more, something amazing happens: you discover you can finally live a guilt-free, abundant life.

Favorite Takeaways:

"Overwhelm isn't having too much to do; it's not knowing where to start."

"We don't just find ourselves on a fulfilling, deeply satisfying path - we create it for ourselves."

"We can't gain more time but we can change our mindset or how we spend our time and where we focus our energy."

"Periods of rest aren't reward for great work but a requirement for great work to happen."

"Stop borrowing from today to make tomorrow great."

How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald O Clifton, Ph.D.

Summary: How did you feel after your last interaction with another person?

Did that person -- your spouse, best friend, coworker, or even a stranger -- "fill your bucket" by making you feel more positive? Or did that person "dip from your bucket," leaving you more negative than before?

The #1 New York Times and #1 BusinessWeek bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? reveals how even the briefest interactions affect your relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. Organized around a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, and grounded in 50 years of research, this book will show you how to greatly increase the positive moments in your work and your life -- while reducing the negative.

Filled with discoveries, powerful strategies, and engaging stories, How Full Is Your Bucket? is sure to inspire lasting changes and has all the makings of a timeless classic.

Favorite Takeaways:

"Whenever we choose to fill others' buckets, we in turn fill our own."

"According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the #1 reason people leave their jobs is because they don't feel appreciated."

"9 out of 10 people report being more productive around positive people."

"Positive emotions aren't trivial luxuries but instead may be critical necessities for optimal functioning."

"Understanding what we do best allows us to survive and grow in the face of adversity."

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

Summary: Our most commonly held formula for success is broken.

Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe.

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research—including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and others at companies like UBS and KPMG - to fix this broken formula. Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.

Isolating seven practical, actionable principles that have been tried and tested everywhere from classrooms to boardrooms, stretching from Argentina to Zimbabwe, he shows us how we can capitalize on the Happiness Advantage to improve our performance and maximize our potential.

Favorite Takeaways:

"If we study what is average, we will remain merely average."

"What we spend our time and mental energy on can become our reality."

"Happiness is not the belief that we don't need to change; it's the realization that we can."

"The people who actively invest in their relationships are the heart and soul of a thriving organization, the force that drives their teams forward."

"When we make eye contact it sends a signal to the brain that triggers empathy and rapport."

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Summary: People are using this simple, powerful concept to focus on what matters most in their personal and work lives. Companies are helping their employees be more productive with study groups, training, and coaching. Sales teams are boosting sales. Churches are conducting classes and recommending for their members.

By focusing their energy on one thing at a time people are living more rewarding lives by building their careers, strengthening their finances, losing weight and getting in shape, deepening their faith, and nurturing stronger marriages and personal relationships.

YOU WANT LESS. You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. The simultaneous demands of work and family are taking a toll. And what's the cost? Second-rate work, missed deadlines, smaller paychecks, fewer promotions--and lots of stress.

AND YOU WANT MORE. You want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends.

NOW YOU CAN HAVE BOTH ― LESS AND MORE. In The ONE Thing, you'll learn to * cut through the clutter * achieve better results in less time * build momentum toward your goal* dial down the stress * overcome that overwhelmed feeling * revive your energy * stay on track * master what matters to you The ONE Thing delivers extraordinary results in every area of your life--work, personal, family, and spiritual. WHAT'S YOUR ONE THING?

Favorite Takeaways:

"Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus."

"When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal."

"Activity is often unrelated to productivity and busyness rarely takes care of business."

"People who achieve extraordinary results don't achieve them by working more hours, they achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work."

"When you see mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at, it starts to feel accessible and attainable."

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle

Summary: A memoir of betrayal and self-discovery by bestselling author Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior is a gorgeous and inspiring account of how we are all born to be warriors: strong, powerful, and brave; able to confront the pain and claim the love that exists for us all. This chronicle of a beautiful, brutal journey speaks to anyone who yearns for deeper, truer relationships and a more abundant, authentic life.

Favorite Takeaways: (Please note, Love Warrior is technically a Memoir but the I found the information inside to be so valuable I had to include it in this list.)

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Summary: This is how you find yourself.