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Seven books to change your mindset

Life has its ups and downs and most of us have experienced times when EVERYTHING seems to be conspiring against us. And yet, some people bounce back from hardships way more easily than others. But what is it that makes the key difference? According to many scientists, life-coaches and even some religions, the answer is simple: OUR MINDSET.

Mindset is defined as “the established set of attitudes held by someone”.  While we cannot control what happens to us, we CAN control what type of attitude we have towards what happens to us.

Of course, factors such as genetics, upbringing, environment, and luck play a role: For reasons that aren’t entirely down to our own merit, some of us have been blessed with a naturally more positive and proactive mindset than others. But fear not if you are the kind of person who tends to be fearful of change, sees the glass half-empty or suffers from anxiety and depression: 

You are not a finished product

It will take some inner work, but your mindset is something you can learn to actively control. The first step, however, is believing that:

  1. A change of attitude is possible
  2. and that if you change your attitude, so will the world around you

In some cases, changing your mindset requires little more than deciding to do so. In other cases, it takes work and effort to reset your attitudes and patterns.  

Of course, mindset is not something you can buy or “achieve”: It is a process and a life-long one at that. This is why it may help to think of your attitudes as plants in a garden:  While certain attitudes may need to be weeded out, others just need a little bit of nourishment, water and sunlight in order to grow more strongly.

And the good news is this: The more you cultivate the right plants (aka: attitudes), the easier it gets. Why? As Wayne Dyer elegantly puts it: IF YOU CHANGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT THINGS, THE THINGS YOU LOOK AT CHANGE.

This isn’t magic. It’s simply the power of mindset.Whether you are an entrepreneur, graphic designer, artist or simply a human being who wants to live a little more happily: Cultivating the right mindset is key.

To help you get started, we have done some research, read a lot of books and put together our favourite book-recommendations to change your mindset. 

Best books for a mindset-reset

These seven books, written by designers, entrepreneurs, scientists, writers and…yes…the Dalai Lama, all have one thing in common: They will inspire you to think differently.

1. FROM ZERO TO ONE

BY PETER THIEL

Peter Thiel is a German-American billionaire, mostly known for co-founding Paypal and investing in Facebook, AirBnB and SpaceX. His best-selling book “ZERO TO ONE” is only 224 pages long and much more than a business book: Whether you an artist, designer or entrepreneur: It will inspire you to start innovating instead of copying what others are already doing.

Key takeaway:

Legendary entrepreneurs are not so different from legendary artists:

They dared to disrupt the status quo. 

Our favourite quote:

Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius” – Peter Thiel

Buy the book here or listen to it on audible .

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2. BIG MAGIC

BY ELIZABETH GILBERT

Elizabeth Gilbert is mostly known for her best-selling book “Eat Pray Love”, which details her personal quest to find healing (and herself) by traveling to Italy, India, and Bali. In her 2009 Ted-Talk “Your elusive creative genius” she asks us to change the way we think about art: Instead of idolizing the artist, we should instead think of ideas of independent entities that come to us. This frees us from taking ourselves too seriously or putting too much pressure on ourselves.

In “Big Magic” she delves into the topic of creativity in more depth. While the book is primarily aimed at artists or people who (secretly) want to be one, anyone with the urge to innovate (in whatever field) can benefit from reading this beautifully written and wise work. 

Key takeway:

We don’t “have” ideas. We receive them.

Our favourite quote:

Do you have the courage to bring forth the hidden treasure within you?

Buy the book here or listen to it on audible

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3. DO THE WORK

BY STEVEN PRESSFIELD

Steven Pressfield’s book “Do the work” is the kick in the ass you need. And Pressfield only needs 112 pages to do it. His basic point is that being an artist or innovator is not about talent or genius.

It’s much simpler:

All we have to do is sit down and do the work.

The reason only few people succeed, is because only few people manage to overcome their inner resistance. While his other bestseller “The war of art” goes through the topic of overcoming procrastination and fear in more nuance, “Do the work” is as close as you can get to having someone coach you through the process of…actually doing the work.

Key takeaway:

The only enemy you have the beat is the resistance within.

Our favourite quote:

Start before you are ready” – Steven Pressfield

Buy the book here or listen to it on audible.

Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way

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4. THINKING FAST AND SLOW

BY DANIEL KAHNEMAN

Daniel Kahneman is a nobel-prize winning economist and psychologist who has spent decades researching how we make decisions. And it turns out that we are way less “rational” in our decision-making than we may believe.  In “Thinking Fast and Slow” Kahneman talks us through his research and findings in a way that even the layman can understand.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, designer or artist: This book will help you better understand how our minds work and how easily they can be tricked. It will change the way you think about thinking.

The question that remains is:

What will you do with that knowledge?

Key takeaway:                                         

You are extremely easy to manipulate.

Our favourite quote:

Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance

Buy the book here or listen to it on audible.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

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5. BEAUTY

BY SAGMEISTER & WALSH

The graphic designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh have teamed up on a quest to look for…beauty.

Their aim:

To reinstate beauty, which has gone out of fashion, in its rightful place.
“Beauty” practices what it preaches:

What has emerged isn’t a book, but an artwork.

This book will take you on a journey that covers Greek philosophy, Coca Cola bottles and Instagram posts.

It is a journey worth taking.

Key takeaway:

We should not underestimate the power and importance of beauty.

Our favourite quote:

What’s the difference between God and Le Corbusier?
God does not think he’s Le Corbusier.
But then, of course, God is not a Modernist

This book isn’t only an interesting read but will also enhance your coffee table. You can buy it here.

To find out more about Stefan Sagmeister, check out our article on “Ten Revolutionary Graphic Designers”.

Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty

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6. ATOMIC HABITS

BY JAMES CLEAR

James Clear is a writer and speaker who has devoted his life to researching and teaching the power of building good habits. While the idea “You are what you repeatedly do” (Aristotle) isn’t new, James Clear’s book is an insightful and practical guide to transforming your life by building the right habits and making them stick.

Key takeaway:

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Our favourite quote:
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.

(James Clear)

You can buy the book here or listen to it on audible here.

Atomic Habits

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7. THE ART OF HAPPINESS: A HANDBOOK FOR LIVING

BY DALAI LAMA, HOWARD C.CUTLER.M.D.

In the age of competition, productivity and self-improvement, it is easy to forget that in the grand scheme of things our everyday problems are not that important.   

This book, which brings together Western clinical psychology with Ancient Buddhist teachings, reminds us that compassion, tolerance and…yes…patience, can help us navigate our problems, relationships and lives.

You don’t need to be interested in Buddhism or spirituality to find value in reading this book. You can use the principles the Dalai Lama talks about in all areas of your life.

Key takeaway:

Much of our unhappiness comes from the fact that we think of what we don’t have, instead of being grateful and appreciative of what we already have.

Our favourite quote:

When life becomes too complicated and we feel overwhelmed, it’s often useful just to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal. When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then reset our priorities on the basis of that.”  

(Dalai Lama)

You can buy the book here or listen to it on audible here.

The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living

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Conclusion

It was difficult to keep the list down to seven. After all, humanity has come up with some pretty mind-blowing things in the past few millennia. 

Two other books which almost made the list are:  

A Choreographer’s Handbook (by Jonathan Burrows)

and

Deep Work (by Cal Newport)

But what struck us most when compiling this list is how certain ideas have a tendency to stick around. For example: The idea that we can transform our lives by transforming our habits goes back at least as far as Aristotle.

It also seems that there is a lot of overlap. There are some ideas that keep re-emerging in different form.For example: Whether you are reading a book about business, art or psychology:

The problem isn’t lack of talent or brainpower. It’s usually our lack of discipline and courage that keeps us from reaching our goals.

And of course it’s important to remember that what matters isn’t what we know, but what we do with that knowledge.

While the books above may provide a (much needed) change of perspective on how we work, create and live, they can’t do the actual work for us.

Let’s end with a quote by Robin Sharma:

Whether you want to start your own company, finally send that job application, write that book or simply start leading a more fulfilling life:  

“Nothing works unless you do the work”

Agnes Theresa
Agnes Theresa has been writing for Xquissive since 2021. She is passionate about art, design, philosophy and entrepreneurship.
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