6 Self Development Books for a Positive Mindset (Updated)

Originally Published: June 27, 2016

Life is noisy. Blaring news stations, cars honking their horns, your kids pulling at your pant leg, conversations happening here, there, and everywhere. In the silence, you may find that even your mind gets a little loud from time to time. That being said, it’s not only okay to accept constant solitude, but I encourage everyone to carve designated time out of their lives to talk to themselves, create a bit of comfort, and enjoy a little quiet in this whizzing world.

One of the best ways I find to get connected with myself is through reading. There’s a spectacular Churchill quote that comes to mind when I think about how books enrich my life.

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.” – Winston Churchill

I have always felt it true that well-rounded people start as well-rounded readers. The life we live today is built on both our lived experiences as well as what we have come to understand about the lives of others. Books, the collective sharing of knowledge, are a fast pass to gaining the broadest insight a person can possess. They are a pillar of our understanding of the world, as well as ourselves.

I am a voracious reader. I always have been, and I always will be. I am an active reader, meaning I like to evaluate, dissect, and take something of value away from everything I read. I think that is why biographies and personal development books have long been my genres of choice. They provide a wealth of life-changing, motivational material that is timeless and that you can refer to over and over again.

So before you start your next Hulu marathon, set down the remote and pick up a book.

Need some tried and true suggestions? I’ve rounded up six personal development books you should read in 2021. These are books that have been the most influential in my success and that I return to time and again for inspiration.

1. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (1952)

This is my favorite personal development book and has been very influential on my choice to have a positive attitude. I know people constantly telling you to be positive can start to sound like a bunch of lip service after a while, but Norman Vincent Peale focuses on real-life examples and the correlation between a positive mental attitude and the results you get in your life. If you’re serious about changing your outcomes, this book is a must read.

2. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (2010)

In much the same way Norman Vincent Peale talks about a positive attitude, this book talks about the effects of having a happy core on your health, relationships, success—you know, all the important things in life. It also discusses something else I strongly believe: Circumstances aren’t going to make you happy. You need to learn to be happy in your circumstances and make them better.

3. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (1903)

The analogy I often use about weeding the garden in your mind comes from this book. 

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

Written at the beginning of the 20th century, it is a true personal development classic full of ideas and wisdom that still ring true today.

4. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937)

Yet another book that focuses on the power of your thoughts. Are you starting to detect a theme? Hill spent years studying incredibly rich people like Andrew Carnegie and determined their success was a result of how they think. My favorite line from this book is, “Thoughts are things.” That’s powerful stuff.

This is probably the most well-known book in the personal development genre. Even though it was written a little over 30 years after As a Man Thinketh, I actually consider it a next chapter to Allen’s book and highly recommend reading both for the full impact.

5. The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson (2014)

Anyone who has heard me speak or reads my work knows I greatly admire Winston Churchill.

He was truly an amazing leader, and I think this book is an excellent recent assessment of him. Instead of being just a biography, the book focuses on his attributes—his strength, courage and tenacity—that make up the “Churchill Factor” and the role they played in so many events that shaped Western civilization. It’s a very eye-opening book about the lasting effect one great leader can have on history.

6. Pushing Up People by Art Williams (1985)

Of course, this book is near and dear to my heart because it was written by Primerica’s founder at the peak of his career and near the beginning of mine with the company. But it’s also an important book because it shares a philosophy I think a lot of people in business need to take to heart: You personally get ahead in life by pushing people up instead of pushing people down. These days I see a lot of the opposite happening, so I think this is a book everyone trying to build a business needs to read if they want to be successful as well as respected. It wouldn’t be a bad refresher for some established businesspeople, either.

All of these books are available online, and I encourage you to pick one up soon. Whether you’re seeking knowledge or searching for solitude, books are a haven that will offer more than stories to your life. Books add value. Books open your mind. Books allow you to understand things outside of your realm of lived experience, helping you become a more considerate, altruistic, and well-rounded leader.

Happy reading.

Looking to improve your focus and become a stronger leader? Check out some of my tips for decluttering your mind.


  1. Dean Kirchner

    Have four of the six already. Thanks for the other two.

    • John Addison

      Sounds like you have a great book collection, Dean! Thanks for checking out my list. You’ll have to let me know what you think of the other two books.

  2. Steve Jenkins (UK)

    Thanks John thanks for this not heard of the happiness advantage before have all the others thanks for your tireless mentoring appreciate you

    • John Addison

      It sounds like you have a well-stocked library. Go ahead and add “The Happiness Advantage” to your shelves! You won’t regret it. Thanks so much for your continued support.

      See you at the top!

  3. Devon Goulbourne

    Thanks for that list John, I have all of them except for The Churchill Factor and The Happiness Advantage which I will be purchasing soon. Thank you for your leadership John, you’ve inspired in so many ways.

    • John

      You’re more than welcome, Devon! Appreciate you!

  4. Kenny Annunziato

    Gonna have to add “The Happiness Advantage” and “The Churchill Factor” to my shelves.
    As for the other four, in my humble opinion they ought to be “required reading” to pass elementary school- we vastly underestimate children’s ability to devour, and put to action new information. Fact: Kids are far smarter than adults as they are more robustly connected to not only their own creativity and imagination, where limits do not exist but also an un-calloused fearlessness toward experimenting with new insights.

    Also am of the belief that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ought to also be mandatory. Gives an understanding of humility and respect that is very difficult to replicate.

    John, Thanks as always for your thoughtful and very helpful insights. We need more leaders like you, to help us see the way and borrow the courage you displayed so readily.

    • John Addison

      Kenny, you are very welcome. I hope you love the books!

  5. Queenie Parvin

    I am halfway to success! I have read 3 of the 6. I am committed to reading the other 3. I would add 3 additional books:
    1. All You Can Do…by Art Williams
    2. Succes Through a Positive Mental Image by W. Clement Stone
    3. You Were Born Rich by Bob Procter
    4. Acres of Diamonds by Og Magdano
    I meant these 4.

    • John Addison

      Queenie! Thank you so much for reaching out and for sharing your success! Here’s the thing, though, I know you have a number in your head, to read the 6, and to say that you are halfway to your goal, but I like to see that you are already achieving your goal because you took the time to start reading ANYTHING! They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I believe that the act of undertaking that very first step IS an act of success. I think you are the kind of person who wants to create positive change, and you are willing to do the hard work and put in the effort to get there. You have an attitude of success, and THAT is the most important kind of success…the willingness to undertake the mission, even when it’s challenging. But congrats, and you will have to let me know when you reach your goal! And I do think you have a stellar list from which you are pulling. Those are some of the greats, let me tell you. But I am sure you will know soon enough, if you don’t already. Enjoy!

  6. A. B. M. Masudur Rahman

    Thanks for your good analysis of these books. Thanks for good leadership. Best wishes!❤️

    • Addison Leadership Team

      You are so very welcome! And thank YOU for taking the time to read and to comment. I appreciate you!


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As Co-CEO of the largest independent financal services company in North America, John Addison’s skill as a leader was tested and honed daily. He retired in 2015 after taking the company and it’s people to massive heights. He’s just not done helping people get to the top. Today, he’s at the helm of Addison Leadership Group, INC working daily to mentor and educate new leaders.