Your life’s purpose. Your contribution to this world. The meaningful work that you and only you can contribute.
When reading those words, does your heart swell and a knowing smile tug at the corners of your mouth? Or instead, are you filled with a sense of longing, or maybe even discouragement? If you’ve yet to discover exactly what sets your heart on fire, setting out in search of it can feel daunting.
But because time and resources are often required to actively seek out our purpose, it’s certainly not a mission everyone in the world is afforded.
This reality alone should fuel us with excitement instead of dread in our quest to name and pursue whatever will bring us personal fulfillment.
Perhaps you’ve already tried researching your way to your life’s purpose through this list of motivational books (though if you haven’t, we highly recommend taking a peek). Or perhaps you have a thirst that can’t be quenched by undirected motivational advice alone.
Maybe your soul is craving inspiration to help grab hold of a dream or a purpose you haven’t yet solidified. If that’s the case, this list is what you’ve been waiting for.
One last word before you dive into our selection of inspirational, purpose-seeking books.
Because inspiration takes many forms and can be derived from numerous sources, this list contains a variety of genres and authors from different walks of life.
Challenge yourself not to be off-put by titles or what you may know about authors outside of the listed work. There are revelations waiting to be garnered from between the covers of each of these books.
Table of Contents
- 1. Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Hanson Lasater
- 2. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- 3. Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker
- 4. Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Leaving Comfort and Going Scared by Jessica Honegger
- 5. A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life by Bethenny Frankel
- 6. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
- 7. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- 8. Becoming by Michelle Obama
- 9. Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
- 10. Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr
- 11. Perfectly Yourself: Nine Lessons for Enduring Happiness by Matthew Kelly
- 12. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle
- 13. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
- 14. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
- 15. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
- 16. The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
- 17. The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
- 18. The Power of Serving Others: You Can Start Where You Are by Gary Morsch and Dean Nelson
- 19. Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons
- 20. Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher
Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a flexible, toned yogi guru to glean powerful wisdom from this book. Instead, Lasater shows us the other side of yoga–the mindfulness, the empathy, the non-judgment–and she guides the reader in carrying these tenants of yoga beyond the mat and with them into the world.
With questions for reflection ending every chapter, implementing the principles of self-care and well-being into each facet of life is a beautiful journey Lasater maps out for you.
For the woman who cares deeply about her physical, mental, and spiritual health, there is no more inspiring and practical book.
Lasater helps the reader grasp the idea that purpose may not be a calling to some faraway land or earth-shattering feat, but instead to see the magnificence and purpose in the everyday.
I know what you’re thinking. What’s a book about habits doing on a list about finding my purpose?
Think about it like this: you can’t seek out something beyond yourself until you analyze what has you stuck in the here and now. Our daily habits are at the very foundation of where and who we are.
Clear offers you an entire toolkit for finding happiness in the process of change, instead of just focusing on the end goal.
With useful tips on ideas like habit tracking, stacking, and shaping, this read will leave you with actionable steps and quotable nuggets you’ll carry with you as you step onto your path of purpose.
The title truly does say it all. Especially for moms in the magical, mystifying stage of life with young kids, Hatmaker comes alongside her reader, cheering them on with humor and solace.
Each time you pause reading this book, you’ll be left with the feeling that you’ve just had an encouraging chat from a trusted friend.
And while on your path to finding your purpose, Hatmaker’s words will help you embrace the mindset of living in the here and now, even in life’s most discombobulating moments.
Your own quiet, guiding voice will be more audible after reading her honest musings about life’s blessings and blunders.
4. Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Leaving Comfort and Going Scared by Jessica Honegger
If you suffer from analysis paralysis, the weight of self-doubt, or approval-seeking tendencies, Honegger has words to guide you from those feelings of powerlessness to a life of purpose.
By recalling her fair trade business ventures, she illustrates the concepts of “going scared,” collaboration toward a greater goal, and stepping out of your own way.
Intertwined throughout are personal, inspirational stories of overcoming obstacles and learning from mistakes, which are sure to leave you with a sense of fearless initiative to walk down your own purpose path.
Especially if you are toying with entrepreneurial aspirations, Honegger’s advice will spur you to action and encourage you in linking business endeavors to meaningful impact.
Despite the title, this book won’t have you running yourself ragged in an attempt to accept every invitation thrown your way.
Instead, Frankel helps the reader dive deep into their own source of motivation to analyze what makes them tick. Then, in her own no-nonsense fashion, she encourages the reader to set out on your own relentless pursuit of purpose.
Part autobiography, part self-help guide, part straight-talking hilarity, Frankel will arm you with the tools and positive self talk to move toward your most fulfilled, authentic self.
Frankel offers some of the most foundational advice of any on this list, helping to build the reader’s purpose-driven outlook from the internal voice out.
In this awe-inspiring how-to, Gilbert removes creative from the narrowly defined box it’s been tacked into by society and opens up the definition to every outlet that could potentially bring joy and inspiration.
Gilbert allows us to peek behind the curtain of her own creative process, and no matter whether you’re an aspiring artist, novelist, chef, or something in between, she offers gems of compassion, mindfulness, and pragmatism, all of which help bolster us in our efforts to shed fear’s grip on us and “announce ourselves” to the world.
No matter what your version of creative looks like, or whether you’ve yet to name it or have known since you were in kindergarten, no other book will leave you feeling more prepared and excited to unleash your creative muses.
What allows some to keep going through even the most trying circumstances while others quit when things get uncomfortable?
Through psychological research, interviews, and personal anecdotes, Duckworth tackles this question and peels back the layers on the elusive idea of perseverance.
Best of all, Duckworth offers powerful insight and practical advice for how anyone can get more grit and perseverance in their own lives.
For the woman who feels ready to throw in the towel on finding fulfillment (or any area of life), Duckworth offers up research-backed solutions for finding your purpose in life and the confidence to pursue it.
From the first page, Obama draws you into her story with her funny, relatable tone. Throughout her memoir, she returns to the idea of how we see ourselves shaping the way we approach new challenges and the opportunities we choose to seek out.
From growing up on the South Side of Chicago to working her way up as an executive to her time in the White House, Obama relates to the reader how she drew from previous experiences to understand and prepare for new ones.
With her warm and witty tone, she shares with us her call and response mantra, Am I good enough? Yes, I am, and invites us to take it on as our own.
Through her life, she wrestled with, as she calls it, “the universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go,” and invites the reader to garner wisdom from her journey.
Walking alongside Obama as she reflects on how she became the woman she is, we too are encouraged to take criticism in stride, know our own roots and truth, and embrace the life we live.
If you haven’t heard of the enneagram, this personality-based approach to self-discovery may sound like the newest version of Myers-Briggs or your zodiac sign, but there’s a reason this theory is hugely popular.
Both practical and insightful, think of this work as a guide to greater self-awareness.
The knowledge you garner from this book will have you understand more about what makes you tick while also helping you build an understanding of those around you.
And in your journey to finding fulfillment, knowing how you best navigate the world, process emotions, and approach others will have you feeling prepared to seek out what truly compliments your personality and gently pushes you towards your best self. Purpose-seeking approaches are as varied as each individual.
Whether your path to purpose is leading toward business, serving others, or something you haven’t quite discovered yet, finding your Enneagram type and knowing more about your motivations will arm you with the tools best suited for your unique personality.
If what’s holding you back from discovering your purpose is a limiting mindset, Mohr’s book, Playing Big, is exactly what you need to feel unstuck.
Mohr encourages her readers to step outside a limiting mindset, and for those on a path to finding their purpose, her writings will equip you with practical tools.
Her personable but firm coaching will help you silence your inner critic and lead you to discover what she’s found: “playing big doesn’t come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence. It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you.”
Mohr’s guidance on detaching from both criticism and praise will help align your motivations with who you are at your core (not who your parents, friends, or anyone else thinks you should be).
If your path to purpose is aligned with the tenets of Christianity, Kelly offers this life-changing guidebook to help you navigate life’s biggest questions.
This is another selection chosen not because it points you to a place you might find purpose, but instead gives you the tools to improve and love who you are in the moment.
With examples inspired by parenting, marriage, and the business world, his guidance will help you wade through your responses to triumphs and tribulations, all while striving to become all you were designed to be.
The reflections posed at the end of each chapter will give you thoughts to ponder and actionable steps to pursue after placing the book back on the shelf.
For the woman pondering questions of God’s purpose for her life, Kelly offers mantras of self-acceptance and fulfillment balanced with a sense of duty to strive for improvement.
This list couldn’t be compiled without a title from Glennon Doyle, activist and inspirational author extraordinaire. Her reflections join the very few other titles on this list that will have you laughing out loud while also lovingly pointing you toward the shared experiences of women.
While you are hunting for your purpose, let Doyle’s personal experiences remind you not to take yourself too seriously, to give yourself room to be imperfect, and to embrace the roles you play in your life. (And the side stitch you have from laughing will remind just how sweet this life truly is, mess and all).
Doyle gives her reader permission, to be honest about life and simultaneously instills pride in the chaos. You may read this one and realize that feeling of fulfillment is closer to home than you’ve ever realized.
13. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
The fact that Brown has worked on both this list and our list about passion and purpose is a testament to her inspirational prowess.
Even if you’ve read all her other works (and if you haven’t stocked up!), this title offers you insights on connection to community and world through first finding belonging with yourself.
Brown brings her familiar, balanced blend of research and narratives and comes alongside the reader to consider questions uniquely posed to our digital age.
From this book, you’ll be able to tuck endless memorable quotations into your back pocket, remembering and wielding them when the urge to blend in or retreat out of fear creeps in.
Finishing this book will leave you both at peace with who you are and galvanized to embrace the world around you.
Maybe best of all you’ll understand, as Brown points out, that “true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.”
If you’re looking to judge a book by its title, pick this one. Tolle, a spiritual guide and best-selling author of The Power of Now, explores the pitfalls of an ego-based mindset and guides his reader on how to break free to find a better way of life.
And if on your road to the fulfillment you are hoping for guideposts such as enlightenment, the principles of consciousness, and spirituality, A New Earth is a must-read.
Awaken to your greatest consciousness, and perhaps you’ll find your purpose is much different than you ever expected.
15. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
Nothing will pull you back on track to a meaningful, purpose-filled life than hearing how other women found theirs.
Even if you have read this moving autobiography before, revisiting it with a new lens, one of listening for your own life’s mission even when things seem impossible, will open up new possibilities.
Tap into courage you didn’t know you had by accompanying Malala as she highlights the need for equality and opportunity for education.
While you’ll surely feel humbled as you follow Malala’s journey up to and beyond the point-blank shot she suffered at the hands of the Taliban, it’s her quiet assurance that one voice can change the world which will have you cheering for her and women everywhere.
16. The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
A mother-daughter has co-written compilation about gutsy, game-changing women? Yes, please! We all need role models to look up to within our own purpose-seeking journey, and the courageous leaders within these pages are some of the best examples of all time.
An exceptionally powerful read to explore with a pre-teen to a teenage daughter, it’s clear mother and daughter Clinton went out of their way to be inclusive in their selections, including athletes, civil rights activists, and transgender trailblazers just to name a few.
If you feel you’re floundering on your path toward your life’s mission, let this encyclopedia of game-changers inspire you.
Enjoy the back and forth commentary between mother and daughter, and if you’re able, mimic that same style with your own daughter.
The bond and inspiration cultivated from both the book and the experience of reading together will bring lasting memories, sure to encourage you both when questions of purpose arise.
With rave reviews from other incredible women like Brené Brown and Malala Yousafzai (who both also make this list!), you know there’s got to be some special magic waiting for you between the covers of this book.
Pаrt mеmоіr, part wake up call, Gates shares stories she’s gathered from her work around the globe–stories of inequality and urgency–and highlights how, by lifting up women, we all rise.
Gates offers a powerful, emotional read focused on gender inequality that will inspire you to seek purpose through empowering other wоmеn and thus, mаke thе wоrld a better рlасе.
It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on others instead of yourself during your quest for a purpose allows you to get out of your own mind and way.
Morsch and Nelson highlight this beautifully. Morsch and Nelson assert “everyone needs a sense of purpose in their lives that ascends their daily routines…[and] our purpose is to give of ourselves according to our ability to give.”
Through acts of service, you can find a sense of fulfillment as you’ve never known, and as the authors point out, a myriad of opportunities lie within our immediate reach.
After this read, you’ll be left with a selfless, can-do outlook that will spur you to act for the betterment of others and the community.
By doing so, you become part of something bigger than yourself, and that sense of significance you’ve been hunting for will naturally follow.
This isn’t just another fluffy “be grateful for what you have” book. Emmons draws from philosophers, scientific studies, psychologists, and theology to examine the power gratitude can have on our lives.
The tools his purports, especially in the final chapter, will have you finding purpose simply by acknowledging your current reality. The numerous case-studies and pieces of scientific analysis bolster Emmons’ life work and thesis: a grateful mindset can improve an individual’s overall health and happiness.
For the data-driven woman, especially one rooted in both religion and science, this book will help foster a practice of gratitude, which Emmons argues is the key to true fulfillment.
20. Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher
If you’ve ever been told to just pick one thing and stick to it, Sher has words of affirmation and advice for you. Whether you’re a Plate Spinner or a Serial Master, Refuse to Choose applauds your renaissance ways and teaches you how to direct your passion and intentions.
While some of her tips may not hit home for digital natives, her encouragement to redefine what we see as success is something anyone seeking her purpose can benefit from.
For the woman who doesn’t lack direction toward her purpose, but instead feels she has too many directions and purposes, Sher offers practical tools and an affirming new outlook: you should celebrate your diverse interests!
And if this synopsis and the idea of feeling at an impasse truly hits home for you, these tips can help you feel “unstuck.”
Finding your purpose is a journey, and few people experience the birth of their life’s mission as a concrete moment.
It’s likely the inciting moment in which you realize your calling will only be apparent in hindsight, and just as likely that the seed has already been planted in your heart.
Recognize the moments your soul fills with excitement and possibilities, and arm yourself with the words of wisdom from these books.
Then, go forth into the world confidently, knowing the path to purpose is not an easy one, but one great woman has tread triumphantly for ages, and so can you.