I love reading. I’ve got two English Lit degrees and there was a time when reading was part of my job (well, my studies!) One could argue reading is still part of my job, because you can’t write if you don’t read. But, you know how life is when you’re working full-time (and the rest). Reading, even if it’s career-enhancing stuff, often goes to the bottom of the must-do list.
I’ve taken this week off work to chill out and prepare for my comp. My own little staycation. One of the things I wanted to do was read more – such a simple thing but such a pleasure.
Here’s what I’m reading during “peak week” as I countdown to my first bodybuilding comp (4 days… 4 days…)
Authentic Happiness (Martin Seligman)
My friend and client Dean Weller (@thecareersguy) lent me this book last time I was at his office. He bases his own work on the principles of positive psychology – ie the study of what goes “right” rather than what goes “wrong”. This book is fascinating, uplifting and food for thought. It looks at why some people are happier than others, how we can all be happier, and what that means. Why bother being happy? How can we make ourselves into one of those happy people? Why do we have positive emotions? How does being happy affect our everyday lives (and longevity?)
I’m only part-way through but this book is perfect reading for me at the moment. I love those feelings of (seemingly) spontaneous, blissful happiness that can wash over you for no apparent reason. And, this week, with my carb-deplete, my moods are all over the place. So it’s really interesting for me to read about the psychology of happiness (since most psychology books seem to be about mental illness/unwellness or sadness). Thanks for the lend, Dean!
NLP but it has very relevant applications to competitive sport, and to training towards a goal. My Mum is a Master Practitioner (and very kindly gave me some free NLP training when I popped over there on Monday – thanks, Mum!) and so I know a little bit about it and find it fascinating. So, when I was sent “Mental Mastery” a while ago, I read it straight away. It’s all about NLP and psychology of sport.
The bits I’m going back to this week are sections on belief, confidence and emotions. I really recommend this book to anyone who sets themselves sports-related goals.
National Velvet (Enid Bagnold)
This might seem an odd addition to the list, but here’s a secret – “National Velvet” has been my self-help book of choice since I was a child. I can’t remember who gave the book to me but I’d like to thank them. Not many people know this but – as I told Dr Karen Throsby when she interviewed me for her research into Channel swimmers – I believe reading “National Velvet” was one of the things which sparked my dream of swimming the English Channel. Forget the leading lady, her horse and the whole Grand National story. What spoke to me – and still does – is one of the backstories, that of Velvet’s mother who (in the book) was the first woman to swim the English Channel breaststroke.
It’s full of quotations which inspire me, fortify me and keep me going when my goals seem very far away or too tough to reach. For sure, bodybuilding prep is a different kind of endurance and pain to swimming across the English Channel, but there’s one quote in particular which I can type out verbatim without having to locate my dog-eared copy of the book. Velvet’s mother quietly says to her:
“You can call it pain. But what is pain? Depends on who you are, and how you take it.”
There are loads of other gems in this unassuming little book. Just promise me, forget the film, where they turned ugly, freakish, ghost-like little Velvet into Liz Taylor (!) and her sturdy little pony The Pie (“pie” being piebald) into a great big chestnut racer.
Autobiography of a Bodybuilder (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Of course! Not only is Arnie one of the greatest of all time (bodybuilders but also – in my opinion – sportspeople) but his book is fantastic. It’s a real insight into the man and his mind, how he came to be the champion he was, how he thinks, how he drives himself, how he keeps motivated. Actually, it seems he never really had a problem with any of those things, they just came naturally. Perhaps that’s the point! There are loads of great quotes from Arnie, including:
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”
“This area of pain divides a champion from someone who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
“Good things don’t happen by coincidence. Every dream carries with it certain risks, especially the risk of failure. But I am not stopped by risks. Suppose a great person takes the risk and fails. Then the person must try again. You cannot fail forever. If you try ten times, you have a better chance of making it on the eleventh try than if you didn’t try at all.”
And so he goes on…
Which reminds me, I must watch “Pumping Iron” again this week. And “Ali”. And “Elf”. What? “Elf” makes me laugh til I cry! 😉
What books and films do you turn to when getting ready for a challenge or nearing the end of a goal? Do you have a “self-help” book which is special to you?
Currently reading… books to inspire & motivate is a post from The Fit Writer blog.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.