We all want to live meaningful lives.
What gives life meaning is a sense of purpose, a sense that we are meant to be here.
While we all want that sense of purpose, finding it isn’t always easy.
It’s normal to feel lost sometimes. It’s normal to feel confused, and it’s normal to wonder about your life’s purpose.
Fortunately, this completely natural human search for purpose and meaning has led the authors mentioned in this article to write some fantastic books on the topic.
So, if you’re thinking about meaning and purpose in your own life lately, this article about books on finding your purpose is for you.
Ten best books on finding your purpose
Below you’ll find ten of the best books on finding your purpose and living a meaningful, fulfilling life.
Like the search for meaning, you may not find all the answers you seek in one book. There is no exact blueprint for a purposeful life.
Discovering your sense of meaning and purpose is a unique journey, so remember that what works for one person may not work the same for another.
Still, the books below all offer insight and valuable lessons on approaching life from a purpose-led place.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Man’s Search for Meaning is the compelling story of psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s experiences in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Captured during the second world war and deported to a concentration camp far away from his wife and children, Frankl and millions of others were forced to labor under horrific conditions.
How could one possibly attain a sense of meaning and freedom in such dehumanizing conditions? Such is the question Frankl raises and answers.
Frankl, already an established psychiatrist before his internment, explores in his book the possibility of inner freedom regardless of external circumstances and the perspective we can take to transcend even the most horrible of circumstances.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist is frequently included on must-read book lists. Unlike the other books on this list, it is fiction but an essential lesson on personal development.
The story follows Santiago, a young shepherd who dreams of a great treasure. Throughout the book, Santiago meets an array of characters and has experiences that teach him the importance of following one’s destiny.
We see the regret and sorrow of characters who forego their destiny in favor of distraction and comfort and get to follow Santiago on his quest to fulfill his ‘personal legend’ – a calling in life, the vision of what one believes the Universe has in store for them.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho
12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is more of a life manual than a self-help book.
Across the twelve rules Peterson has shared, he reminds us to think about what’s essential in life, such as our mental health, relationships, and how we show up in the world.
What values do we admire, and how can we live our lives closer to those values? What do we want? And is a lack of self-awareness keeping us stuck in behavior patterns that do not fit our age?
12 Rules for Life draws on key principles in ethics, philosophy, psychology, and religion to offer readers a solid, researched, and inspiring volume of advice that readers can apply today.
“Attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them – at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.”12 Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson
The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
We can help ourselves discover our true calling by listening to our inner wisdom. We access this wisdom through self-awareness.
Goins emphasizes that self-awareness is key to finding our purpose and passion in life. Without sufficient self-awareness, we may miss out on the opportunities life wants to show us.
Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work includes easy-to-follow and practical exercises to help us increase our self-awareness and understanding, ultimately helping us uncover what it is we were born to do.
Listing major life events, assessing and adopting the right attitude, and taking time for self-reflection are just some exercises in the book aimed at increasing our self-understanding.
This book is for anyone interested in self-help and may be particularly helpful to those looking to re-invent their career or change their direction altogether.
Through a mindful reading of Goins’ work, we can uncover hidden knowledge within ourselves that reveals the path forward.
“For now, if you are intentional and willing to appreciate the fact that you don’t see the whole narrative, you can enjoy more of the journey.”The Art of Work – Jeff Goins
Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Have you ever become so absorbed in what you’re doing that you don’t notice time passing – so taken by the art you’re creating that the creative process seems to take on a life of its own? So in the zone, you feel transcended yourself, even for a moment? This state is known as ‘flow’ and is explored in depth in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s 1990 bestseller Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
In this book, author Csikszentmihalyi explains the significance of the flow state and how we all can access it. This state, the author emphasizes, is key to unlocking our intrinsic creativity.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Best books for self-awareness
The below are some of the best books you could read on self-awareness.
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul is an accessible, straightforward, and beautifully honest look at what it means to be a soul having a human experience.
Singer does not claim to be a guru or to know all the answers but instead explains in simple terms the spiritual perspectives and practices that can free us from much of our unnecessary suffering.
The book focuses on identifying areas of your life in which you feel held back and identifying how you might be the guard of your own prison. He helps readers realize that we all have the power to free our souls from the limits placed on them, by ourselves and the world around us, by welcoming life instead of resisting it.
“Only you can take inner freedom away from yourself, or give it to yourself. Nobody else can.”The Untethered Soul – Michael A. Singer
The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
What if your purpose in life is not to reach some destination or goal but to fully immerse yourself in following that goal? This is the question Chris Guillebeau, author and founder of the blog ‘The Art of Non-conformity, ‘poses to his readers in The Happiness of Pursuit.
Guillebeau offers readers an unforgettable book about purpose and fulfillment in life. He wrote the book retrospectively of his decade-long travels around the world, during which he managed to visit every country.
Guillebeau’s writing is generous – as readers, we feel a sense of confidence and inspiration about our own ‘life quest.’ This life quest, he explains, is far more conducive to a happy life than immediate pleasures or always staying comfortable.
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”The Happiness of Pursuit – Chris Guillebeau
Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming The Life You Were Meant To Live By Martha Beck
When we ask, ‘what is my purpose in life?’, the answer is often found surprisingly close to home.
The answer to our biggest questions is often found within, in the deep inner knowing that we all possess. The problem is we lose sight of this capacity to answer our questions.
Life gets in the way of our highest visions for ourselves, and somewhere along the way, we disconnect from that deep sense of purpose and knowing.
In Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck, Ph.D. teaches us how to get back in touch with our internal compass, identify and clarify our desires so that we can more effectively meet them, and establish a sense of trust in ourselves when we feel that we have lost our way.
The North Star of the title symbolizes our right life, the life purpose waiting for us to realize it.
“Almost everyone who feels stymied, aimless, directionless is carrying an unresolved emotional wound. A lack of enthusiasm for life is always a sign that the deep self is hurt. Every person’s essential self is pure, productive energy, and yours will return and send you into a fulfilling life almost automatically if your psyche is in good repair.”Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming The Life You Were Meant To Live – Martha Beck
When we feel stuck in life, we often seek inspiration and guidance outside of ourselves. However, our most profound, a truest sense of purpose in life can only come from within.
You’ll find plenty of guidance, wisdom, inspiration, and encouragement in the books listed in this article, but don’t stop there.
Take what you learn from the messages these authors have generously shared and apply it in your life.
We can read all the books on self-discovery and self-improvement we like, but we are likely to notice significant change once we make the journey within.
Discovering your own purpose is an exciting journey, one of many answers and even more questions.