Mindset Matters Most: Our Recommended Reading List

Updated: Feb 4

Earlier this year, we wrote a piece for Spotlight called Three Lessons Actors Can Learn From Athletes. If you’d like to check the full thang out and dive a little deeper, go right ahead, but we could probably sum up our research and findings into just one sentence: “mindset matters most”.

While it’s true that The Actor’s Dojo wouldn’t be The Actor’s Dojo without its basis in sports psychology, the importance of this mindset manifesto isn’t exclusive to the world of elite teams and athletes alone. In fact, the very real power of mindset can be found discussed in everything from philosophy to neuroscience, and all the good stuff in between.

Here, we’ve partnered with Amazon to bring you a list of our top five mindset reads. We’ve ordered these books in what we feel would be a helpful flow - especially for those new to the world of mindset psychology - but feel free to pick and choose and do you.

For complete transparency and clarity, while these choices are 100% ours and feature book(s) we’ve personally read and continue to re-read, we do receive a small commission from any sales to help keep free content available at the Dojo. So if you do decide to pick up one or two of the following, we send grateful fist-bumps in advance for your support.

We will continue to update this list, so be sure to check back every few months if you really want to commit to taking your mindset to the next level. It’s worth the investment. Remember, mindset matters most.

1) As a Man Thinketh - James Allen

Kicking things off with a classic, As a Man Thinketh was published way back in 1902. Although it’s a little “ye olde” in language, it’s super short, and provides a great introduction to the tremendous potential within the seed of thought.

It’s one of those philosophical reads that will inspire the desire to actually take action and step up into your greatest self and life. However, it argues (as we do too) that this requires taking full responsibility for your inner life (ie. your mindset), and this, in turn, requires uncommon dedication and discipline. Only then can one effect change over one’s outer life.

Dojo fave quotes:

  • “All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.”

  • “Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting-point for future power and triumph.”

2) Mindset - Carol S. Dweck

This is probably the most foundational mindset book of our time. Think of it as Mindset 101.

Carol S. Dweck is an American psychologist who studies human motivation, and is to be largely credited with bringing the concept of “growth” and “fixed” mindset to the masses (this one idea alone is a game changer).

Because of Dweck’s background, this read is a little more “science-y”, but as a result, is a reliable and evidence-based source of encouragement and direction. That said, it’s surprisingly engaging, and filled with case studies from the best in the world across a multitude of fields.

Dojo fave quotes:

  • “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I'm going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here's a chance to grow.”

  • “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value."

3) The Obstacle is the Way - Ryan Holiday

We’ll let the subtitle of this book give an insight into what to expect: “The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage”

Holiday draws on Stoic philosophy (which itself can provide an immensely practical framework for actors), to show that, often, “what is in the way, is the way”. It’s the perfect companion to turn to if feeling stuck or overwhelmed or frustrated with where you’re at.

It includes compelling real-life examples from visionaries such as John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, and Steve Jobs, and shows how widely this principle can - and has - been applied.

Dojo fave quotes:

  • “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

  • “There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”

4) Grit - Angela Duckworth

Another somewhat “science-y” recommendation from an American psychologist, but this time, from the “world’s leading expert on grit”.

If you’re in need of a motivational boost, a reason to keep showing up, or a bit of a butt-kicking, Duckworth’s New York Times’ bestselling book is absolutely a shout.

Similar to Mindset, it packs in tonnes of research and studies backed by science, and then offers a range of thought-experiments and actionable advice to highlight the path towards your greatest achievement and potential.

Dojo fave quotes:

  • “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

  • “Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They'd rather show the highlight of what they've become.”

5) The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

Wrapping up our list of recommendations is another classic - Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

This happens to be one of our all-time favourite books of any kind, ever published, period. It’s also the book we probably gift the most to family, friends and our team, so if you haven’t read this masterpiece, put your life on hold and do yourself a solid.

Released back in 1988, and actually a novel (i.e. fiction), this beautifully woven narrative reveals itself to be an earnest and intensely transformational “self-help” book.

It’s essentially about following your dream and then maintaining faith in the journey, which we, as actors, can easily and frequently forget to do.

Dojo fave quotes:

  • “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

  • “It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Let us know if you do pick up any or all of the reads above - we’d genuinely love to hear your thoughts. And if you have any further suggestions for the list, shoot us through a message, as we unashamedly nerd out over all things mindset and psychology and next-level-ness 👊🏼