Five Reads to Pick Up When You Feel Directionless

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  It had been a year of wandering — of feeling in-between and at a complete loss for which direction to go in. The boutique I had been working at closed down unexpectedly, and while I was excited for a new season, my hopefulness quickly dissolved into feeling stuck and confused.

I tried everything the imagination could conjure up to get out of this directionless funk.

But when hours and hours of stressed-out brainstorming didn’t work, I tried to force myself into picking something, anything, to be passionate about. What I failed to recognize was the value in my situation. The in-between can be a magical place — a limbo fit for rest, exploration and ultimately flourishing creativity.

I hadn’t been giving myself the time or space to just be. To play and explore. To not have it figured out yet. So, instead of trying to force myself into a career box, I decided to do a project instead. It was then that I noticed one of my favorite bloggers was doing a 40 Book Challenge for the year. I was inspired.

“I could do that!” I thought.

Not only would a book challenge give me a passion project to focus on, it would give me an excuse to learn about a lot of different topics and spend time playfully exploring the realm of possibilities! Plus, reading is LIFE.


So, in January I committed to reading 40 books over the course of 2017. I’m on book 12 currently (I know — I’m behind). So far, these are my top five recommendations of those that have impacted me most during my season of wandering. If you’re feeling directionless too, pick one up and join me.

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

When you have no clue what to do with yourself, grab a novel or a fairytale. It’s reminiscent of childhood and will open up brain pathways that may be a bit dusty from adulthood’s many stressors. This book’s praises were sung non-stop to me by many creatives, so I finally relented and made it number one on my list of books to read this year. It feels like a parable, but focuses a lot on calling and on paying attention to ‘omens’ in our day to day. It suggests that coincidences are life’s way of directing us towards our purpose, and that our dreams depend on us paying close attention to their guidance. For someone needing a bit of mystical storytelling and inspiration, this is a top-notch choice!

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

It turns out that this book and its method of tidying really is magic. Using the KonMari method is a great thing to do when you’re at a crossroads and trying to discern your passions and desires. You’ve probably heard it a million times (because this book is everywhere) but for those of you that haven’t, the KonMari method is a tidying method that has you pick up each and every single item you own in a categorized order. You face the item and you pay close attention to your emotional and physical response to it. Does it bring you joy? Does your body get excited holding the item? If not, you get rid of it. And trust me — Marie Kondo means it when she asserts that getting your home in order helps get your life in order. You train yourself to know which items bring you joy and which don’t — and it becomes easier to apply that same training to the rest of your life.

3. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

This book is a hefty biography about Deitrich Bonhoeffer — a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, conspiracist against the Nazi regime, and martyr during World War II when he was executed for his role in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Pretty heavy, I know. While I don’t necessarily think you need to read this biography in particular, I deeply recommend picking up a biography or autobiography on someone that inspires you, especially when you feel stuck creatively or professionally. There’s something wildly refreshing about delving into the life of someone else when your own feels unclear.


4. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

If you’re a chronic over-committer (like myself), you need this book. Greg leads you through how to go from Non-essentialist living (overcommitted, scattered and stressed) to Essentialist living (focused, intentional and simple). It made me see just how much I had overextended myself in the midst of my search for purpose. So, I stopped saying yes to every offer and started only saying yes to things that made my soul leap with excitement. He says as long as you focus on the 10% of things that are essential and eliminate the rest, you can pursue what really matters and live a life of impact. Too many options can lead to even less clarity about what we want.

5. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you were a part of The Yellow Collective last quarter, chances are you read this book — which means you know how much of a kick in the gut it is. It’s essentially about procrastination, or “resistance” as Pressfield calls it. About how evil it is because it distracts us from our calling to create beauty in the world. I read this book thinking he’d have nothing to teach me, since I didn’t know what my calling was anyway. Boy, was I wrong. More than anything, this read showed me that deep down, I knew what I loved and felt called to the entire time; I just wasn’t ready to acknowledge it quite yet. It may not have the same effect on you, but if you need accountability to stop procrastinating on something you know you need to do for the world, pick this one up soon.

If you want to keep following along as I continue my 40 book challenge this year, follow me on Instagram!

Photos by:Valerie Denise Photos


Rachel Neal

Director of Stories at Yellow Co.

Rachel is the Director of Stories for The Yellow Collective! When she’s not working with Yellow, she helps run a house-church out of her home in Whittier. She spends most of her time listening to the Moth podcast, reading memoirs, and trying to artfully merge humor and vulnerability.