The best books to achieve lasting personal change

Christian Jarrett Author Of Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change
By Christian Jarrett

The Books I Picked & Why

Change: What Really Leads to Lasting Personal Transformation

By Jeffrey A Kottler

Book cover of Change: What Really Leads to Lasting Personal Transformation

Why this book?

Week in, week out, therapists meet people who are trying to change. Kottler is a highly experienced psychotherapist and in this book you will discover all that he has learned about the process of personal transformation through his career – including the obstacles to change (such as procrastination and lack of self-monitoring) and also the factors that make it easier, such as through fostering hope. I particularly enjoyed the passages on what's known as post-traumatic growth - that is, our ability to turn frightening or stressful experiences into catalysts for positive personal development.


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Personality Isn't Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story

By Benjamin Hardy

Book cover of Personality Isn't Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story

Why this book?

There's a theory in psychology that alongside our basic traits, our personalities are also defined in part by the stories we tell about our lives – what's known as your narrative identity. In this inspirational book, Hardy shows how you can change who you are by reinterpreting your own past and, in effect, retelling your own story. As part of this process, you can think of past events as happening 'for you' instead of 'to you'. What's especially compelling about this book is that Hardy has made these changes in his own life and personality. You get to hear how he left behind his difficult youth, transformed into a dramatically more conscientious person, built a successful career as a psychologist, and became a loving husband and father.


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Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being

By Brian R. Little

Book cover of Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being

Why this book?

The author is a psychology professor and a leading populariser of personality psychology. His book will give you a great overview of the most widely endorsed model of personality, which is based on the so-called Big Five traits, including extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness. Little is also renowned for his research into 'personal projects' – the goals you have that are meaningful to you. What I particularly took away from this book is how these projects feedback and shape your personality. So, if you want to have more control over who you are and will become, it is worth thinking about the goals that you are pursuing in life – whether they are satisfying and how they might be influencing you.


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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear

Book cover of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Why this book?

A message that emerges from modern personality psychology is that, at a fundamental level, our personalities are formed from our ingrained habits of thought and behaviour. The implication is that by forging new habits – that is, ways of acting that are effortless and automatic – we can begin to change ourselves deep down. Clear's book provides perhaps the best available advice on how exactly to establish new habits and give up unhelpful ones. The title derives from the author's theory that little changes snowball, so he makes it easy to start and he motivates you to keep going. One nugget is the 'two-minute rule' – reduce any new habit to a version you can complete within two minutes. Studying more becomes 'get out my notes', for instance. Stick with the changes, build them, and over time, you will see your new habits manifest in lasting personality change. 


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Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes

By Jessica Pan

Book cover of Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes

Why this book?

As an introvert myself, and having tried to deliberately come out of my shell – as I document in my own book– I was intrigued to come across Pan's book. Her year-long experiment living as an out-and-out extravert chimes with a key piece of the advice I give on wilful personality change – that is, having switched up your narrative identity, thoughtfully considered your personal projects, and even worked on your underlying habits, at some point, you have to get out there and really walk the walk. For introverts who wish to become more outgoing, that means being more sociable and willing to take risks. My word, Pan does this in spades, including performing stand-up comedy and joining an improv theatre group. Her hilarious stories will inspire you to see that personal change really is possible, if you are determined enough.


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