I’ve worked as a career counselor for over a decade, and without a doubt my clients undergo a period of soul-searching before they get serious about choosing the right meaningful career.

During this time of self-reflection, they grapple with issues around identity, meaning, and purpose. Who am I? What kind of life do I want to live? What kind of difference do I want to make?

Therapy, life-coaching, journaling, a reinvestment in creativity, and reading books are often part of the soul-searching phase. Though they don’t answer the question, “What do I want to do with my life?” or “What job should I choose?”, they can be helpful primers before learning how to choose the right career for you.

Related: Why Therapy Didn’t Help Your Career Change

If you’re in that soul-searching phase, here are some books I think you’d enjoy.

5 Books to Read When You’re Soul-Searching

1 | The Four Agreements

Every human should read this book. The idea is that we “agree” with all of our beliefs, even the ones that are damaging. The path to freedom is to break the harmful agreements and make new, healthy ones. Four of them. If you feel like nothing is going your way, people are horrible, or you still don’t get what you deserve even though you try really hard, start with this book.

“That is why we need a great deal of courage to challenge our own beliefs. Because even if we know we didn’t choose all these beliefs, it is also true that we agreed to all of them. ”

— Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

2 | The Art of Possibility

Feel stuck? Trapped by circumstance? This book is for you. Don’t worry; this book will not just tell you to change your mind and think happy thoughts (‘cause no one feeling stuck wants to hear that). But it will tell you amazing stories and give you mind-bending challenges that will allow you to see past your perceived limitations. Read. Underline. Reread. Hug. Reread.

“In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.”

— Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility

Related: Is Positive Thinking Sabotaging Your Career?

3 | Man’s Search For Meaning

Written by Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, this book is about finding meaning in life, even in the worst of circumstances. Perfect if you need a healthy dose of perspective and are searching for meaning, yourself. I re-read this one every few years.

“We needed to stop asking ourselves the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.”

— Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Related: You Don’t Have A Purpose (Yoinks! I Said It.)

4 | The Crossroads of Should and Must

There are things you should do, and there are things you feel you must do. At that crossroads, which do you choose? This is a delightful book filled with personal stories, illustrations, and short exercises. Good if you’ve got a bad case of the “shoulds” and are looking to shake things up.

“She said, ‘Have you ever tried to look for your dream in real life?’ […] I refused to consider it, but her question lingered, and eventually, I began to wonder…When you decide to look for your dreams in real life, where do you go? Craigslist, I thought.”

— Elle Luna, The Crossroads of Should and Must

Related: Why You Should Go For It

5 | The Alchemist

Could any list of soul-searching books be complete without The Alchemist? Pick this one up if you’d rather read a story instead of non-fiction. Learn about your own epic journey as you follow the story of Santiago, a young shepherd.

“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”

— Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

Related: How I Knew It Was Time to Quit a Career I Loved

When Books Aren’t Enough to Help You Find Direction in Your Career

Eventually, my clients learn that all of the reading and self-discovery in the world is not going to help them find direction in their career. They don’t lack self-knowledge; they lack a strategy for how to apply what they know towards making a wise career choice.

To learn the exact strategy that’s working for my clients, you’re invited to watch my free training.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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