What are some good books to read about psychology and human behavior?

Psychology has so many flavors, and they’re all fascinating! One way to select what to read is to focus on solving one specific problem and getting to its root cause.

Here are 5 problems most of us encounter on a regular basis, and 5 books that provide unique solutions to each one:

  • How to deal with perfectionism
  • Your mindset and how it affects behavior
  • How to build daily habits to get motivated and work smarter
  • Focusing on work and dealing with distractions
  • How to overcome resistance and fear of failure

Recommendation #1. How to deal with perfectionism.

The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben Shahar. A unique take on perfectionism and how it can be a major obstacle in life. The book differentiates positive (optimal) perfectionism from negative perfectionism. The negative perfectionist rejects failure (and therefore never processes or deals with it), all negative and painful emotions, and ultimately reality. In contrast, the optimal perfectionist allows himself to experience the entire human experience: he accepts success and also failure, believes it is OK to to feel the full spectrum of human emotions, and by accepting reality he is better equipped to make progress towards the future.

Recommendation #2. Your mindset and how it affects behavior.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. This book is an exploration of mindsets and human psychology, and how the view we adopt for ourselves profoundly affects the way we lead our life. Dweck explains the difference between a “fixed mindset” (believing that our qualities are set in stone, that we can only have a certain level of intelligence, personality type or moral character) and “growth mindset” (believing that we can develop our qualities through deliberate and continuous efforts, and that we can change and grow with our life experiences).

Recommendation #3. How to build daily habits to get motivated and work smarter.

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. Being busy doesn’t always mean we are being productive, and there are ways to work smarter instead of harder. The book provides powerful real-life examples of why it’s important to develop motivation to accomplish our goals, how we can strengthen focus by building mental models, and how daily rituals can give us space and time to think about the bigger picture and what we should designate as our true goals.

Recommendation #4. Focusing on work and dealing with distractions.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. This book explains the concept of deep work as the ability to focus without distractions on a cognitively demanding task. The author explains using many real-life examples why this is a challenge in the world we inhabit that revolves around emails and social media. He also provides practical suggestions how to deal with distractions and how we can master our deep work so that we can excel at whatever we do.

Recommendation #5. How to overcome resistance and fear of failure.

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin. This book explains how an exciting and new job can quickly turn into a nightmare at the first sign of an obstacle. The question is how to overcome the resistance towards dealing with it. To quit or to stay? The author explains the difference between those who give up without a fight, and the ones who look forward to the challenge because they know the bigger the obstacle, the greater the reward. It’s all about staying focused on what’s important and thinking two steps ahead.
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