Slow down and simplify

Three books for when you’re stuck in a rut

Three books for when you're stuck in a rut: Destination Simple, How To Live A Good Life, Finding Your Element

It is spring, the days are getting longer, I’m enjoying my evening beach walks and I feel great.

Noticing how great I’m feeling now, I realised, I hadn’t been feeling so great through winter. Nothing was bothering me in particular, I just felt a bit flat and unmotivated. I was stuck in a rut.

Fortunately, a change of season was all I needed to switch gears and feel excited about life again. Lucky me. Lifting yourself out of a rut isn’t always so easy. If you’re searching for help to get going again, I’d like to point you toward three books I found really helpful when I felt blah and lost.

Each book guides you through a series of actions to reorientate your life. What I really appreciate about all three books is the emphasis on experimentation. Each offers some general principles along with a range of bite-size exercises designed to get you trying new things or thinking in a different way, rather than a blueprint to be followed.

Destination Simple by Brooke McAlary

When you’re stuck in a rut, you’re often so busy going through the motions you don’t have the time and space to identify what’s wrong, let alone address it.

Brooke McAlary’s Destination Simple is a pocket-sized guide to slowing the hell down. Built around the philosophy that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, Destination Simple focuses on simple daily activities to create a calmer, more intentional life.

The exercises McAlary recommends take mere minutes (mostly 1 – 5, none more than 30) and there is no meditation required. The exercises can very easily be incorporated into your day, no matter how busy you are.

If you struggle with work-life balance, you’ll find the section on “tilting” a welcome relief.

McAlary, her now defunct blog and her Slow Home podcast have been a source of advice and inspiration for me for many years ,and heavily influenced my own #slownotlazy approach.

Great for: when you’re stuck on a hamster wheel and you want to get off.

How To Live A Good Life by Jonathan Fields

I admit it, sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, “Is this it?”. Usually, it’s not immediately on waking, rather in the midst of a crazy stoush with my son over how he wants his banana peeled today, but you know what I mean. I’m a privileged person, the world is my oyster. I have everything to be grateful for, no major crises, but life just kind of sucks.

How To Live a Good Life provides practical exercises (Fields calls them explorations) to propel yourself from treading water to cruising along swimmingly.

Fields conceptualises personal well-being as comprised of three buckets – vitality (mind and body), connection (relationships) and contribution (life’s work). Keeping these buckets full is the key to optimal well-being. The book contains 10 explorations designed to replenish each bucket. There’s a quiz at the start to help you identify which bucket of your most urgently need to top up.

It’s all presented in an upbeat manner, with plenty of inspiring anecdotes and a smattering of research. Most of the explorations aren’t too heavy – more prompts to look below the surface a little or give something new a try. I can now say, from experience, that green smoothies are not for me!

If you have a reading list of self-improvement books as long as your arm, How to Live A Good Life, gets you over the hook. The book covers the core concepts and exercises from a range of popular self improvement books, including Flourish, Mindset, Quiet, The Five Love Languages, in a very accessible way.

Great for: when you can’t quite put your finger on why you feel so blah and you want to get your mojo back.

Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson

Without this book, you wouldn’t be reading this – not just this particular post, but this blog. The exercises in Finding Your Element prompted me to start this blog in the process of finding my own element.

What is your element and why would you want to find it? Robinson defines your element as the place where the things you love to do and the things you are good at come together – where passion meets aptitude.

Finding Your Element is a practical guide to discovering your personal passions and natural talents. Intermingled with stories of people who are living their element, are a series of exercises to draw out what you are good at and what you love to do. The exercises provide a gentle, step-by-step process of self-analysis and introspection, and encourage you to look outward and explore opportunities in the world around you to uncover your passions (which in my case, included starting to blog).

Good for:when you’re stuck in an occupation you hate and don’t know what to do about it.

What are some of your favourite self-improvement books? I’m always looking for a recommendation. 


  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment
    October 22, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing these book recommendations, Amy! I can definitely relate to that winter blah feeling. I was feeling a bit like that until the warmer weather started returning here in Brisbane about a month ago. It’s nice when the seasons change and it feels like you’re getting a breath of fresh air. I haven’t read Destination Simple yet, but I did recently read Slow, also by Brooke McAlary, and thoroughly enjoyed it. She seems like a lovely, genuine person and I got a lot out of the book. I think it’s great that we are seeing more and more books on minimalism and simple living coming onto the scene; it really goes to show how much we all feel we need to slow down since these are the kind of books that are now beginning to sell! Finding Your Element really appeals to me based on the summary you have given. I’m adding that to my to-read list! One of my favourite self-help/inspiration books is The Happiness Code by Domonique Bertolucci. I’m always rereading it because it has such a great message, which (heavily simplified) is that if we do our best, that’s good enough. If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed or ‘not good enough’, it really helps me to put things back in perspective.

    • Amy @ More Time Than Money
      October 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      I’m currently waiting for Slow to arrive at the library for me. The Happiness Code sounds useful. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • The Daisy Pages
    October 24, 2017 at 5:31 am

    Thank you for sharing your recommendations….I’ve been looking for some new books to read recently so I’m going to bookmark this page 🙂

  • Charis
    October 25, 2017 at 1:00 am

    Having young kids I’ve struggle to make reading a priority over the past decade! With my youngest about to start school next year and with the fact that the kids are growing, becoming more independent it means I can get more done! These books are right up my alley! I will definitely be adding them to my “to read” list! I’ve been a minimalist for 2years and only this year have I noticed how much there is out there about it, about intentional living. I recently discovered the slow home podcast too, and throughly enjoy!

    • Amy @ More Time Than Money
      October 29, 2017 at 7:55 am

      Hi Charis, I know what you mean about reading with little kids. Until now, I’ve only been able to read in peace at the end of the day and often I don’t last long!

  • Karina
    November 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing – I’ve added these to my ever growing list of books i want to read. I’m currently reading “rushing woman syndrome” by Dr Libby and it is a great reminder that I need to slow everything down and stop trying to do it all.

    • Amy @ More Time Than Money
      November 24, 2017 at 6:18 pm

      I remember reading snippets of Rushing Woman Syndrome a few years ago. That was very much my life at the time – an endless rush.


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