There are many significant benefits to reading. Not only can reading books reduce stress, enhance your conversations and help you sleep; it can even help you live longer and prevent cognitive decline. In fact, there’s even a form of mental-health therapy called bibliotherapy. It’s the therapeutic use of select reading material to alleviate many different mental health challenges.
You cannot reach your full human potential if you’re not reading. Reading enables you to grow and learn every single day. And if you’re not doing that, you’re not likely to ever reach the version of yourself that you’re trying to attain. So, not surprisingly, I consider reading to be an important aspect of the high-performance life.
I read every day and have done so for years. I typically learn something valuable from all the books I read, but four books really stand out for changing my life. These four books also align with my belief in the importance of four key components of the high-performance LIFE, with LIFE being an acronym that represents love, impact, faith, and energy.
I want to tell you about these four books because I think they can make a difference in your life, too.
L = Love: The Five Love Languages
Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, first published in 2015, has been a game changer in countless relationships. What I love about this book is it focuses not only on how you feel loved but also on what your partner needs to feel loved. Often, they are not the same. The five love languages Chapman discusses are words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
When my wife and I bought our first house, the couple we bought the house from gave us this book and encouraged us to read it. They said it would change our marriage and our lives. We were in our early twenties at the time and laughed about this when we got into our car to leave.
Fast-forward six years. By then, we had a three-year-old and a very colicky, fussy newborn. One day, when we were on the way to my wife’s cousin’s wedding in Northern Virginia, we were stuck in traffic. The windows were down, and the baby was screaming. I downloaded the audiobook so we could listen to it on the ride. We kept trying to find a pause amid everything that was going on to listen to it, but it just wasn’t happening. Finally, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “We need this book. Play this book!”
Do you know why we needed to listen to it? Because we were both loving each other, but we weren’t showing the love that we needed to in that stressful time in our lives. We listened to that book all the way up to Northern Virginia and all the way back. Sure enough, it helped us identify how we feel loved and how we show love. It’s something we refer back to in our lives often. It is a life-changing book. I’m still married, we have great children and that colicky kid is an awesome, healthy kid today.
- What is your love language? What is your significant other’s love language? If you don’t know, please read this book as soon as possible! How can you truly give one another what you really need and want if you don’t know this information?
- Once you know your S.O.’s love language, what are some specific gestures you can make to demonstrate how much you love that person?
- Take this a step further, and find out the love languages of other people who are important in your life — your parents, your siblings, your in-laws, your friends, etc.
- Chances are, your love language is different from your S.O.’s. You might appreciate acts of service, but your S.O. might appreciate gifts. Give according to his or her needs.
I = Impact: Think and Grow Rich
I think the timeless classic Think and Grow Rich is the best example of a book that signifies the importance of making an impact. When I use the word impact, I mean everything from your daily routine to your work and your wealth. What do you do?
This book, which Napoleon Hill (1883–1970) originally published in 1937, is about success in all facets of life, but it’s often referred to as the No. 1 business book ever written. Hill researched the men who built America, including Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other millionaires of his generation. Whether you like them or not, they did successful things that built entire industries and things we still use and do today. After studying these highly successful people for decades, Hill discussed in his book the commonalities he found among them.
I go back to this book often because I love the mentality it encourages. In particular, I often listen to the chapter on persistence because with everything in life, if you persist enough, success is right around the corner. Yet sometimes we just don’t work hard enough. I just listened to the first chapter again on a recent walk. This book is life-changing, and when you go back and read it at different times in your life, a different life lesson will stand out to you. If you are a high performer, if you want to make an impact in any capacity, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is mandatory.
- Have you read Think and Grow Rich? If not, please do so! And if you haven’t read it in a while, read it again!
- Jot down the powerful lessons you learn each time you read the book or a part of it. You’ll probably learn something different each time, depending on what you are going through in your life at that time.
F = Faith: The Bible
This one is a no-brainer. For me, the book that has fostered faith the most is the Bible. My faith has always been extremely important to me. I grew up in a Catholic school, and I went to church every Sunday. My parents and grandparents always instilled in me a tradition, a culture, and a belief that was built around faith.
Whatever your faith is, and whatever book outlines the tenets of your faith, I encourage you to learn more about it. Read it from start to finish. It is empowering!
It took the pandemic for me to read the entire Bible. I had to feel completely out of control in my life before I made the commitment to start every single day with reading a chapter in the Bible. I read through the entire Bible through a 90-day timeline adventure. And then I went back and read through it again. Now I’m re-reading different chapters at different times, and I read some Scripture every single morning. It’s how I start my day. I cannot believe I didn’t do this earlier in my career, earlier in my life. How I functioned prior to reading the Bible in-depth is a mystery to me. It amazes me how pertinent the guidance that was written so long ago still is to my life today — to our lives today. The Bible is truly powerful and life-changing for me.
Because I grew up going to church, I’ve always known about the life-changing lessons the Bible teaches. But reading all the way through the Bible changed the whole dynamic to me. It gave me a feeling of a superpower, knowing I can go back to it at any time and discover something new, wisdom that applies to what I’m experiencing at any given time. It’s much like I return to Think and Grow Rich, but on a much greater scale. In the Bible, the lessons I learn are not just for one aspect of business or life; it applies to all of life — from daily living to relationships to contemplating eternal life.
My faith, and the teachings in the Bible, are the root, the foundation, of everything I do and believe today.
- I encourage you — no, I challenge you! — to read the Bible from start to finish over the next year.
- If you feel really ambitious, consider following a 90-day timeline for reading the entire Bible. I love reading the Bible according to the storyline. The Bible makes a lot more sense to me with that approach, versus just reading chapter by chapter.
E = Energy: A Man’s Search for Meaning
For me, energy can mean anything that fuels your life. It’s different for different people, but it can be health, fitness, nutrition, meditation, or something else. Although physical fitness and health are extremely important to me, one of the most important sources of energy for me is mindset. A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (1905–2007) is the best book I’ve ever read on mindset.
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychologist who survived multiple concentration camps during World War II, while his entire family perished. He survived the Holocaust by finding personal meaning in the experience, which gave him the will to live through it. After he was liberated, he establish a new school of existential therapy called logotherapy, based on the premise that man’s underlying motivator in life is a “will to meaning,” even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Everything he ever worked for, everything he ever believed in, and every person he loved was stripped away from him in the brutal camps. He was stripped of his dignity as well. I can’t even imagine what he and the other people in the camps experienced.
But Frankl realized one day that there were still some things he could control — for example, how he received information; how he responded to someone who did or said something to him; and the choice to appreciate something joyful, like a bird resting on a branch of a tree.
When it comes to mindset, nothing is more powerful than watching someone conclude that they can control their own destiny. They can control how the world sees them and how they want to see the world, regardless of their circumstances. That’s knowing you are a victor, not a victim. It’s amazing to me.
From Dr. Frankl’s story, you can see how powerful mindset is and how much it influences our energy level — and even our will to live. Despite what you’re going through, the choice is yours! When you make a conscious choice to do or achieve something, you control the results, the outcome and so many different aspects of that decision.
- Think of a challenge you have dealt with in the past or are facing now. To what extent have you agonized over aspects of that situation that you can’t control? Focus instead on the aspects you can control. How could that make a positive difference for you?
- If you sometimes get overwhelmed by negative thoughts, make a conscious choice to stop that cycle and replace those thoughts with positive ones. Over time, notice how your energy increases!
Look at your life journey up until this point. Where are you now, compared with where you said you wanted to be years ago? If you feel like your self-development process has stalled, start reading more books! Try to read at least once per month. Be sure to take notes to capture what you learn. Be intentional about transferring the authors’ wisdom to your own circumstances. This can make a huge difference when building a high-performance life.
What book(s) have you read that changed the trajectory of your life? What book do you often go back to? I’d love to know! I’d love to learn from you and from the books you are reading. When people recommend books to me, I often put them on my reading list and then read them. Reading books contributes to my high-performance life, enables me to function at my maximum capacity, and helps me become the best version of myself.