(Updated: Sept 30 2021)
Mental strength can come in many forms. Whether you’re looking to improve your focus or cope with hardship, improving your mental strength can better equip you to face each day with confidence and ease. No matter what type of mental strengthening you’re looking to do, there is an excellent book to guide you.
This list is full of diverse approaches to improving mental strength. Some authors write about personal resilience and grit, while others tackle positive thinking, mindset, or productivity. Check out some of the best book selections on mental strength ahead.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
A classic record of the Roman emperor’s private philosophical thoughts, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in self-improvement. Start here if you want a historical foundation for the rest of the books on this list.
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
David Goggins’ book is part memoir, part self-help book. He tells the story of his early life, marred by poverty and trauma. He also introduces the “40% rule,” in which Goggins claims most people only tap into 40% of their capabilities. Discover how he made the most of his strengths and ways you can, too.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini was an Olympic runner before enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1943, his bomber plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, beginning an incredible journey of survival and resilience.
Zamperini floated in the ocean for weeks before washing ashore an island controlled by the Japanese military. He then survived as a prisoner of war, living to see the end of the war. His story is inspiring and a perfect example of mental strength.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Sheryl Sandberg writes from the heart in this book about grief and resilience. Sandberg’s husband died suddenly, leaving her and her children reeling. Using this experience, she and psychologist Adam Grant discuss ways people can heal from loss and hardship. The title encourages readers to make the most of “Option B” when “Option A” is not available.
The Power of the Other by Henry Cloud
In this book, Dr. Henry Cloud examines the effects of personal and professional relationships on success. Cloud explains how some relationships have a positive impact, while others can be draining. It will force you to consider the effects of the relationships in your own life.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth argues that “genius,” or the talents we’re born with, are not as important to success as passion and long-term perseverance.
There’s something for everyone here: People who feel a lack of intrinsic ability will be inspired by Duckworth’s own story, while those with extraordinary gifts will be challenged to continue to put in effort to improve and strive for more.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor Frankl’s memoir describes his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps from 1942 to 1945. He lost his parents, his brother, and his pregnant wife to the genocide.
But this book is about more than his horrific experiences during the war. Frankl describes ways in which people can cope with trauma, finding meaning in it, and move forward. He believes the primary driver in life is discovery and pursuit of what a person finds meaningful.
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
This is a light-hearted self-help book filled with inspiring stories and simple exercises. Jen Sincero encourages readers to identify their own self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors and adjust them to reach their goals.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
This book helps you tackle self-limiting beliefs by focusing on the “four agreements” we make with ourselves and one another. The four agreements are: “Be impeccable with your word,” “don’t take anything personally,” “don’t make assumptions,” and “always do your best.”
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
This book summarizes research on the impact of mindset on success. Carol S. Dweck introduces the simple psychological idea: fixed vs. growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are fixed, while those with a growth mindset believe they can develop their abilities with hard work and effort.
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
In another book about the impact of our mindset, Norman Vincent Peale gives practical advice for using positive thinking to tackle difficult situations. He helps readers overcome self-doubt, reduce worry and stress, and problem solve.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
This book is the exact opposite of “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Mark Manson argues that positive thinking keeps us from truly improving. Instead, he wants people to learn how to deal with life’s disappointments, rather than overcome them. Manson writes with humor and profanity, making this a refreshing take on the classic self-help book.
Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg uses true anecdotes to explain why some people are able to achieve so much. The best part of this book are the stories. Duhigg uses “Saturday Night Live” to explain how groups can work together effectively and tells the story of how the movie Frozen was saved by last-minute changes to the production team. This book is sure to inspire you to become more effective in your pursuits.
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
This is a classic productivity book that laid the groundwork for many other self-help concepts. It’s often referenced by other authors. The idea is simple: 20 percent of customers account for 80 percent of business revenue and 20 percent of our time accounts for 80 percent of the work we complete. With this in mind, Koch shows how we can maximize our time and effort by focusing on that most important 20 percent. If you’re looking to become more efficient and cut out the unimportant things, this is the book for you.
This book is great for anyone seeking to start their own business. Mark Rampolla is the creator of ZICO Coconut Water. He uses his experience in starting his business and scaling it up to illustrate how entrepreneurs can find success by going after goals no one else is willing to try.
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
If you’re inspired by the success stories of others, this book is perfect for you. Author Tim Ferriss interviews extremely successful celebrities, athletes, and billionaires. He captures the habits that helped them achieve success and turns them into actionable steps readers can apply to their own lives.
Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum by Neil Patel, Patrick Vlaskovits, and Jonas Koffler
In this book, “hustle” doesn’t mean working harder in pursuit of success. The authors give advice for how to use your own passions and dreams and leverage them for success. By letting your dreams guide you, work will become enjoyable.
The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte
Resilience is our ability to bounce back from hardship and loss. This book provides seven key techniques to improve your ability to deal with setbacks. It starts with a questionnaire to establish your own levels of resilience and then teaches you how to increase them. This book is especially helpful because it provides practical ways to improve resilience.
Micro-Resilience by Bonnie St. John and Allen P. Haines
If you’re looking to make small changes that have a big impact, check this book out. The authors of this book argue that small changes to our daily routines can lead to increased resilience. These changes can prevent burnout and increase focus and energy. The habits include thought patterns, food and drink, rest, and movement.
Choosing one Brené Brown book to help increase mental strength is very difficult — many of her books will support your growth. In this book, Brown focuses on the importance of getting back up after failure. Brown’s work always centers vulnerability and emotional awareness. In “Rising Strong,” she gives examples of people who recognize the power of emotion and lean into discomfort.
Mental Training for Peak Performance by Steve Ungerleider
Steve Ungerleider is a leading sports psychologist who explains the ways athletes use mental strategies to achieve great success. His book was first published in 1996 and over two decades later, the field of sports psychology is huge. But these techniques can be applied to any kind of work that hinges on high-pressure situations, making this a great read for athletes and beyond.
Tim S. Grover outlines 13 essential traits shared by some of the most successful athletes and businesspeople that contributed to their relentless pursuit of success. The “relentless 13” will help you to control your emotions, thrive under pressure, adapt to any situation, and identify your opponent’s weakness.
Unbeatable Mind by Mark Divine
For those looking to strengthen their minds like a Navy SEAL, this book may be the right fit. Author Mark Devine is a retired SEAL who works with businesses, athletes, and others looking to maximize their potential. This book is designed to help readers develop the mental toughness necessary for success in high-stress fields and prepare for unexpected situations.
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal uses research to explain the science of self-control. She explains what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. She says willpower is a biological function that can be improved, not a virtue some are born with. She also explains that it’s not an unlimited resource and that everyone needs to take a break from self-control.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
According to author Cal Newport, “deep work” describes the ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks. As our work and personal lives become increasingly disrupted by email, social media, and other online distractions, achieving a state of “deep work” is more difficult than ever. Newport embraces boredom and stillness as a strategy for improving your “deep work” ability.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This book is all about making small changes in your daily life to lead to “remarkable results.” James Clear is an expert on habit formation and in his book he lays out the ways people can break bad habits by creating systems that work. If you’re looking for a manageable way to make changes in your life, this is a great book to read.
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
If you’re a morning person (or aspire to be one!) then Hal Elrod’s book is for you. His philosophy is that an early morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day and breeds success. Mornings start early — like 5 a.m. early. But by getting up before the sun, Elrod believes you give yourself time to do important self-care rituals like exercise, meditation, reading, and journaling, that would otherwise get lost in a busy workday.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
This is one of the most famous productivity and self-help books available. If you haven’t read it, it can be a great primer to transform your mindset from day-to-day. The habits are applicable to all aspects of life and can help you become mentally stronger as you face adversity.
The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova
If you like poker, definitely check this book out. It’s a self-help book told in the context of the card game. Author Maria Konnikova learned poker during a difficult period in her life. She was studying the role of chance in life and was directed to the game of poker as the best way to learn what can and cannot be controlled. Konnikova went on to become a professional poker player but her book is about the life lessons she learned by playing the game.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown
This book is for anyone who feels overwhelmed by life’s many demands. In it, Greg Mckewon explains his theory of “essentialism,” which is a way of life that prioritizes only the most essential things and eliminating the rest. Mckewon lays out the criteria for identifying what is essential and helps readers gain control over their chaotic lives.
Mark Divine is a rare breed of Navy Seal that will teach you his methods of leadership that allowed him to make monumental improvements to the Navy BUDS program. This book is thoughtful and funny at times – not what you’d expect from a typical Navy Seal.
” An invaluable toolbox full of wise and accessible practices that heal our brains and hearts. Most importantly, Hanson teaches how these practices can become life-long resources that we can draw on during difficult times. ” – Reviewer
“Its a lovely book that mirrors the style of the book The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. And if you love The Obstacle is the Way, The Power of Habit, and The Motivation Manifesto…then you’ll love Amy Morin’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. ”
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H McRaven
This is another devotional type of book that you can place beside your bed and read daily. It teaches discipline and small things that can change your life …very similar to Tiny Habits.
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Jocko has been very popular recently with the podcast fame from Joe Rogan. His book will teach you in most situations; you control how you think and what you can get out of it. Having the “buck stops here” mentality can be super freeing and a way to kill your inner victim mentality.
No list on mental toughness and strength of character would be complete without this book. James Clear’s simple but effective method has rocketed his book to record best-selling numbers. There’s a reason why so many swear by it!
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