How One Book Changed My Perspective On Life

how one book changed my perspective on life

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life.” – Helen Exley

I was in my early twenties and I had just ended another promising relationship. The quintessential puzzle pieces for courtship success were there, but I was too busy enjoying my self-centered life to complete the puzzle. Even if you are the heartbreaker, you can’t avoid the proverbial time vacuum that envelopes you when a large portion of your usual routine is turned on its head. I now had a mass of time in which I eagerly needed to fill.

I have always been an avid reader; it’s like Legos for adults, it cultivates the mind and ignites the imagination. I knew of a used bookstore downtown and decided to take a mid-afternoon trek to fill some of my abundant time. The shop was an eclectic mix of post-it notes directing consumer traffic and stale air unique only to old books and nursing homes. I wandered the aisles occasionally flipping through topics of interest, but soon realized this endeavor was not shaving off much of my day. Suddenly, I turned a corner and found myself in a U-shaped corridor brimming with self-help books. Help with divorce? Check. Should I spank my kids? Check. Conquer Stress-induced Depression? Check. It was a bookstore’s pharmacy for the modern-day self-help seeker. And since I was coming off a recent end to an otherwise healthy relationship I thought I may need to tweak my mindset…so I began to browse.

I stood in the section for quite awhile skimming chapters and digesting small bits of insight here and there. At the bottom of one shelf I happened upon a book on the topic of intimacy. Not a subject you talk about around the dinner table, so I was intrigued enough to give it a peek. I opened the book to the first chapter and began to skim, which then lead to actual reading and interest. After fully reading a few paragraphs into the book I slowly looked up from the pages and gazed around the room wondering if I was in the middle of a very, very elaborate ruse. The first chapter spoke to me as if the book was written just for me. The title should have just read “Written for Zachariah—you’re welcome.” I promptly bought the book and spent the rest of my day reading it cover to cover.

I can’t think of any other time in my life where a book had such an immediate impact. It changed my perspective on not only how I live my life, but how I treat others and plan for my own success. One of the overarching questions in the book is: What is the purpose of life? Not exactly a “softball” question. By this point I was more intrigued by every turning page, hoping that a golden goose would soon fly from the pages and set me on a course for excess happiness and purpose! Very short of that, the author answered the question by simply stating the purpose of life is to become the best-version-of-yourself…emotionally, spiritually, physically, and intellectually. Not an earth shattering concept, but I had never framed my life in the context of always making sure I was becoming the best-version-of-myself. I have talents, ambition, and an unquenchable thirst for getting the most out of life, but never really harnessed those life attributes into a devoted purpose.

Today, I always find myself thinking about how I can become the best-version-of-me. Be it learning a new hobby, reading a great book, volunteering for a cause I support, meeting new people, getting in a great workout, counseling a friend, laughing off some stress, or reflecting on how I can continue my own personal success, I always think about my purpose…my story.

I don’t feel like I really matured until my post-college years. Before you find true independence you grow up in a bubble of sorts, always having a structure to follow, be it high school, college, youth group, fraternity/sorority, interest club, or living at home. But you don’t fully understand what life is until that structure begins to fade and you transition into a life of full-time work weeks, bills, life drama, disappointments, missed opportunities, budget constraints, student loan payback, quarter-life dating, and every other detail that makes up your daily trek. Life can punch you square in the face if you aren’t prepared. What I love about my story of finding a simple purpose is that with all the “real” life struggles that make up my days, I always know every opportunity I encounter can help me become a better version of me. Traffic is terrible, work on patience. Work is unfulfilling, cultivate a new skill. Relationships are strained, reflect and reconcile. Short on cash, learn to budget. Life seems dull, find a passion. Weekend is free, enjoy a hobby. Loneliness creeping in, meet new people.

Life is a participatory activity, not a passive venture.

Update: when this post was originally published it didn’t contain the name of the book. Oops! Sorry about that. The book is “The Seven Levels of Intimacy” by Matthew Kelly.

Photo by the bbp

26 thoughts on “How One Book Changed My Perspective On Life”

  1. Please let me know what the book is, my fiancé and I are in a state of disbelief that it wasn’t included in such an article. Curious, thanks.

    1. Agreed. In total disbelief! Give us the name and author of the book. Oh, and fire your editor. He/she should have caught that omission immediately.

  2. A really enjoyable read – thank you!

    I totally agree with your very last point – life is an interactive experience. If you don’t get that and embrace it you could miss out on quite lot of juicy experiences in your life and work, which is a great shame.

    We are not on this earth for very long, so how do we want to spend our time here?

  3. I re-read the post twice thinking I’d missed the title of the book somehow. I’d live to know what it was also.

  4. Please the suspense is killing me. I re-read your article a few times thinking I missed the title of the book! What’s the name of the book?


  5. WOW, My answer to purpose of life keeps changing everyday. And then, I read this. This is probably the best possible answer and I think I’m gonna stick with it now.

    Could you please tell us the title of that wonderful book?

  6. To write such a glowing article on the power of a book (and hence the importance of that book’s author in your life) and not to give credit to the author when you appear to be one yourself seems more than a little wrong. Pages don’t change lives … The people who write them do. You talked about how the author’s words resonated with you … Even shared some of those words. Don’t you think the author deserves credit here?

  7. Matthew 25:14-30 (I know it seems cheap to use bible quotes nowdays, but this one seems to apply to the conclusion of this article)

  8. Seriously??! The title of this blog is “How One Book Changed My Perspective on Life,” and you don’t share the name of the book or the author? C’mon, dude!

    While I couldn’t agree more with the message.. that “the purpose of life is to become the best-version-of-yourself…emotionally, spiritually, physically, and intellectually,” I think you did the author a great injustice by not naming him/her and the title of the work that changed your life…

    Please reply back, as there are quite a few of us who feel the same way. Btw… you don’t happen to know where the fountain of youth is, do you?? hahhaha

  9. Zachariah Smith

    I apologize for leaving out the book title and author.

    “The Seven Levels of Intimacy” by Matthew Kelly.

    Great read, enjoy.


    1. Zachariah, I was beginning to imagine that you were speaking metaphorically about the fact that finding the right book at the right time can change one’s life. I will definitely check this out. Thank you.

  10. Extremely powerful post. You echo some many things that I am going through in this time of my journey and you sum it up so well in the last sentences of the post.
    “Life is a participatory activity, not a passive venture.” So true…so true. Thanks for the food for thought.

  11. Hi, Interesting story.But was the story true or just fiction to make a point? If it was true, why didn’t you say which book it was? Someone once told me that the purpose of life is happiness.

  12. Isn’t wonderful when certain ideas affect us so deeply. It helps us to break up old frames of reference that keep us from what we need and desire to make a change.

    Thanks, great Post

  13. I enjoyed your post a lot but I was disappointed that you gave the title and author it was much more interesting without them. I read a book a few years ago that changed my life, START WITH WHY by Simon Sinek. Well look at me I gave away my secret too, guess I can’t fault you for sharing a good thing.

    Thanks for the post.

  14. Succinct,powerful and attention grabbing…that’s the making of an exceptional writing. Thank you for introducing us to the book and the write, I’m getting it. I’ve short changed myself on some experiences in life and after reading this just opened my head and heart to living to the best version of me in every I do. Thank you Zachariah Smith.

    By the way, the name of the book and author is part of your post.

  15. I loved this book!!! Why was this information not around when I was growing up – this is the most basic information we all need to have healthy relationships and thrive as individual and I have never seen it put together so succinctly and easy to comprehend.

  16. Thank you for the information! I just put The 7 Levels of Intimacy and Start With Why on hold at my local library! Can’t wait to dive in. Thanks again for sharing

  17. I read this. The seven Levels of Intimacy by Mathew Kelly. Should be mandatory reading for every couple, friend, child, parent, being.
    Great article Zachariah – Thak you!
    thanks also for the jab in the side and the wake up and smell the roses reminder, funny how we can forget so easily – drop in a rut move sideways to get out again :)
    Have a great and blessed day.

  18. I knew it! I loved your post – read it yesterday. First thought I had was why you didn’t include the title of the book. I figured you had your reasons or – like was said above – it was intended to be metaphorical. But a few phrases made me think “hmm…that sounds very Matthew Kelly. Great book. Great post.

  19. Jasonwillnaylor

    A very interesting article and I do believe that one book can change your life but I do not believe in your statement that books are like ‘Legos for adults’. Are you insinuating that children can not enjoy a book and learn from it?

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