Three little words: suggested reading for 2017

I love January, don’t you?  Crisp, sharp mornings and cosy nights by the fire.  I realise I’m in a minority as a fan of winter. But, at this time of year, I relish that feeling of emerging, mole-like, blinking in the dark.  It’s a time when we can reclaim and rediscover ourselves.  Everything can feel old-new. It’s a season for taking stock, and, of course, to start again.

This festive season was especially hibernatory for me.  It meant I took a proper midwinter holiday (as opposed to the trawl of travelling to visit lots of people).  It also meant the luxury of lots of time to read.  If, like me, you’re curious about the ways in which we can really engage with our purpose, then I highly recommend three of the books that were part of my Christmas reading diet: Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi’s Creativity and Grace Marshall’s How to Be Really Productive.  Each, in its different way, is full of wisdom and valuable insights; perfect reading for renewal and reflection at the point when the year turns from old to new.

Following the cult status of his classic book Flow, Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi is the household name on creativity.  In Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention he outlines the conditions that support creativity:  the right environment, the creation of sustained focus — or ‘flow state’ — a key relationship between the creative individual and his/her social and cultural context.  While not always the easiest of reads (the prose can be a little dense at times), the book demonstrates a dazzling breadth of psychological research.

For social researcher Brene Brown, being creative — as a leader, as a parent and as a human being — means first to be vulnerable, or to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  She argues that it’s  impossible to be creative without it.  Daring Greatly extends her brilliant work (in I Thought it Was Just Me and The Gifts of Imperfection) on shame as the key blockage to us realising or achieving our purpose.  She exposes the cultural myth of vulnerability in our institutions and in our individual selves.  It makes for powerful — and sometimes uncomfortable — reading.

In How to Be Really Productive, Grace Marshall has written a game-changer.  Although tagged as a ‘business book’ , in fact there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a home-maker or business owner, entrepreneur or artist, self-employed or part of an organisation.  It’s a business book shot through with mindfulness; a practical, how-to book with soul.  Far from being a time management tool that suggests we should work harder or longer, it is a guide that encourages us to work at what is important: to identify, in the first place, the ‘why?’ of what we do.

I’m a big believer in choosing three words as a way into, or as shorthand to define, something. (For the last few years – inspired by Chris Brogan –  I’ve started each year by selecting three key words to shape or set intentions for the new year.  You can read here about my choice for 2016).  So, in the following three blog posts, I’ll be revealing three words that, for me, synthesise these three books; three words that could also be used as key words, guiding principles or intentions for the year ahead.

I’ll reveal the first word next week.  But, in the meantime, go ahead.  Feel free to guess what it might be…

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