6 Books that Will Help You Through Your Existential Crisis
In a recent episode of “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” the First Lady talked about how we’re spending a lot more time alone than what we are used to. Not only are we stuck indoors, but we’re also stuck in our own heads which can be maddening after an extended period of time.
“I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression.” -Michelle Obama
Feeling this way is normal, but during the year of COVID-19, these are not normal times. The usual coping mechanisms are unhealthy distractions or temporary reprieves, but after months of quarantine and one crisis after another, the usual tactics don’t seem to be as effective. It becomes more difficult to ignore those existential questions such as “What am I doing with my life?”, “What is my purpose?” and “Am I happy?”
Two years ago, I went through a severe existential crisis and turned towards books as a lifeline. I figured that if what I’m doing now isn’t working, I need to learn something new. Here are six books that I cherish and still reach for when I need guidance:
“Ikigai” by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia
Learn the secrets of how to live a long and happy life, shared by the oldest people in the world (at least 100 years old and going strong). Here’s a hint: it starts with simplicity and community.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl
The true story of a Holocaust survivor who survived a concentration camp by immersing himself in his purpose. It’s a powerful reminder that even if you might not be physically free, you can choose to be mentally free. You’ll come out of this story feeling immense gratitude.
“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson
Screw being happy. Manson argues that the tough experiences are what gives life meaning. Learn how to prioritize yourself and shut down the noise while still being a good person. He also has a great weekly email newsletter.
“The Courage to Be Disliked” by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi
Being true yourself might mean upsetting others because you can be viewed as a disruptor of the norm. Written in the form of a dialogue, this book teaches you how to remove the obstacles that keep you from being your authentic self.
“The Quarter-Life Breakthrough” by Adam Smiley Poswolsky
The new mid-life crisis is the quarter-life crisis. Adults in their twenties and thirties are starting to feel restless, despite having a decent job and having their basic needs met. Filled with key takeaways, exercises, and resources, this personable book helps you through your quarter-life crisis in a much healthier way than running away to Bali or paying for a graduate degree that you don’t know what to do with.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey
How can you become a better person? Covey gently leads you into the deep end of the reflection pool in this timeless book packed with relatable anecdotes, practical tips, and exercises for each habit. Grab a pen, highlighter, and a notebook because this book is a gold mine of information.
After I read these books, I kept wondering why it took me so long to find them. I wished that I had read these books ten years ago, but I don’t think I would have been ready for them. When you’re in your twenties, you think you have everything figured out.
When I hit rock bottom a couple years ago, my usual tactics didn’t work for me because I wasn’t trying to actually grow from the experience, I was just trying to get through it. Change and growth starts with the mindset, and the behaviors will follow. You have to rewire your brain and unlearn some bad habits to make room for new ideas and perspectives.
If your mind is keeping you up at night, give it something else to think about by picking up one of these books. I recommend reading the books in the order that I listed them. The first four books focuses on shifting your mindset and the last two are more heavy on the exercises. If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts or recommendations of other books that helped you through your existential crisis.