If you’re ready to make a lifestyle change, are looking for motivation, or simply need a kick in the pants to move you to achieve your goals, chances are there’s a podcast for you. With their casual, conversational attitude, podcasts offer the listener a glimpse into the minds of some of the world’s most successful people.

According to Podcast Insights, there were over 28 million podcast episodes broadcast in 2018. While this provides a wealth of information it also creates sensory overload. How do you find the best of the best? We’ve done the work for you. From bestselling authors to business gurus, these podcasts encompass the best in cultivating wellness, personal development, and happiness.

If you’re ready to start living your best self, do yourself a favor and tune into some of these top lifestyle podcasts.

Good Life Project

At the Good Life Project, listen to inspiring stories and influential conversations that focus on how to lead a purposeful life. Guests run the gamut from researcher Brene Brown and author Gretchen Rubin to less-well-known individuals, but every story focuses on helping you live a better life.

Entrepreneurs on Fire

Hosted by John Lee Dumas, Entrepreneurs on Fireexplores what it is that makes top entrepreneurs so successful. Dumas interviews leaders in their fields to find out their secrets for success, providing motivation and inspiration to anyone looking to improve his or her life as an entrepreneur.

Zero to Travel

Does your ideal lifestyle include the ability to travel the globe? If so, tune into Zero to Travel. Host Jason Moore is your guide in all things travel. Find topics including online work opportunities, how to travel on a budget, and how to make travel the main theme of your life.

The School of Greatness With Lewis Howes

Regularly appearing in the top 50 of all iTunes podcasts, The School of Greatness brings together some of the biggest game-changers in the world to discuss business and self-development. Each inspiring interview is facilitated by host Lewis Howes, a bestselling author and former pro athlete.

Happier With Gretchen Rubin

Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin brings her expertise to your ears, offering advice about forming good habits and cultivating happiness. Tune in on Mondays for a short episode featuring a story or quick tip, and then listen Wednesdays for an in-depth discussion or expert interview.

Get Busy Living

On Get Busy Living, host Benny Hsu explores many of the things that deter people from reaching their goals. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or need the motivation to move forward, give this one a listen.

Youpreneur FM

If you want to hone your brand, you need to listen to Youpreneur FM. Host Chris Ducker is a bestselling author and speaker who interviews guests who offer a fresh perspective on what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Achieve Your Goals

Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod offers inspiration and motivational action plans to propel you forward according to your goals. His successful guests offer personal development and self-help advice that can benefit just about everyone.

Extreme Productivity

If you’ve ever wondered how some of the world’s most successful people have time to do it all, Extreme Productivity may offer some answers. Host Kevin Kruse shares productivity and time management advice from a variety of people such as entrepreneurs, Olympic athletes, and self-made millionaires.

The Sean Kim Show

Sean Kim is the CEO of RYPE, an online language learning platform. His podcast brings together a variety of minds to discuss how listeners can become the best version of themselves.

Noah Kagan Presents

Noah Kagan takes a deep dive into a variety of topics designed to help you improve your productivity, grow your business, and be more successful.

Operation Self Reset

Every so often you need to take a step back and reevaluate how you’re doing things. Operation Self Reset helps you with the tools you need to become more motivated and more self-confident, offering actionable advice to get you moving forward in the right direction.

Beyond the To-Do List

Beyond the To-Do List with host Erik Fisher offers life hacks from some of the world’s most productive people, helping you achieve the always-difficult work-life balance.

The Daily Boost

If you need motivation, you’ll find it at The Daily Boost. Boasting almost 26 million downloads, this podcast provides strategies, lessons and logic to help you stay motivated 24/7.

Project Life Mastery Podcast

Host Stefan James takes his actionable strategies from the Project Life Mastery blog to a podcast. Learn his secrets to success, how to change your mindset, and how to be more productive.

10% Happier With Dan Harris

Author of the best-selling book ”10% Happier” and ABC News journalist Dan Harris uses his podcast to interview some of the world’s leading health experts, meditation pioneers, and psychologists to discuss strategies to train your mind.

The Art of Charm

Increasing those networking and people skills goes a long way in helping you improve your lifestyle. The Art of Charm focuses on these important elements, touching on topics such as self-doubt, healthy relationships, and habit building.

Optimal Living Daily

If you don’t have time to scroll the web for the best lifestyle advice out there, Optimal Living Daily can help. This podcast brings the best in web content on personal development, finance, health, and more straight to your ears.

The Fizzle Show

Fun and informative with a lot of actionable advice, The Fizzle Show touches on a range of topics from self-employment to productivity to managing a work-life balance. If you’re ready to change up your lifestyle and build your own business, this podcast is for you.

Aubrey Marcus Podcast

Aubrey Marcus is the founder of Onnit, a company that focuses on mind and body optimization. He brings this expertise to his motivational podcast, discussing wellness and mastering your life with some of the biggest and brightest minds in athletics, science, and business.


When you’re told, “Listen!” by someone, most often you think, “I need to hear this.” Listen to your teacher’s instructions; listen to your parents’ rules; listen to the information your friend is sharing. But listening is so much more than hearing. It’s what happens when we not only open our ears, but also open our minds – and sometimes our hearts – to another person. 

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
Larry King

boy with hand to ear

Good listening isn’t something that we should limit to authority figures. It’s something you can do with everyone you encounter: your friends, your family, significant others, new people in your life – and even yourself. Effective listening offers you many benefits, and encourages the speaker to feel valued as well.

Being a good listener is important for a number of reasons. There’s the obvious practical side – you can’t do well academically if you don’t pay attention to instructions, you’ll get in trouble at home if you drown out your parents when they’re laying down the rules, and you won’t keep a job if you ignore your boss’s orders. Good listening connects you to the world around you and helps you understand your responsibilities.

Aside from the practical benefits, being a good listener is important for the quality of your sociallife. What kind of relationship would you have with someone who talks all the time and never listens to you? No real relationship at all. There is reciprocation in the communications involved in any good relationship – a “back and forth,” a mutual exchange. If you’re being talked at without being listened to in return, that’s no relationship; and the same goes if you’re the one doing all the talking. Being a good listener fosters meaningful relationships with those around you.

Finally, listening to others, and listening well, is important for your personal developmentbecause it allows you to expand your horizon. As Larry King points out in the quote above, we don’t learn things from what we have to say; we learn from what others have to say. We each have a world of our own, filled with our thoughts, ideas, opinions, values, experiences and perspectives. Collectively, these make up our horizon. One of the best ways to expand that horizon is to expose ourselves to other thoughts, ideas, opinions, values, experiences and perspectives. We do this by opening our ears and minds to them. We do this by listening.

Listening vs. Hearing

“When you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively,
then you are listening not only to the words,
but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed,
to the whole of it, not part of it.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti

A good place to start on your way to becoming a better listener is to think about the difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is a sense – it happens when sound hits our ears and involves the processing of sound in the brain. I hear a truck outside my window. I hear my roommate’s footsteps upstairs. Hearing is a passive physical process. In this sense, saying “I hear” is almost too generous, since it describes hearing as an action I perform. It’s not something that I “do,” it’s simply that sound is heard by my ears and, to some extent, by my brain.

Listening, on the other hand, is an action we consciously take. When we listen, we go beyond simply hearing words by giving our attention to what is being said. In the section above, we went over the practical, social and personal developmental benefits of listening well. Now, let’s consider what kind of attention is required to listen effectively in these three areas.

  • Practical: This one’s pretty basic. When you listen to instructions, you pay attention to them with the intention of understanding them. This allows you to do well on tests, stay out of trouble, keep a job, and do what you are supposed to do among other things.
  • Social: When you listen to another person attentively and try to understand him or her, you go beyond the words to the speaker, him- or herself. This may be what Krishnamurti was getting at in the above quote – we should listen to the feeling withinwhat a person says. Speakers and their intentions or feelings are part of the words they speak. Until we consider those intentions or feelings without immediately butting in with our own, we’re not listening to the whole of the speaker’s words. Listening involves empathy – the act of putting yourself in another’s shoes, attempting, to the extent possible, to understand what he or she feels. In this sense, listening involves not only the brain and ears, but the heart as well. When we give our attention to the person speaking as well as to the words spoken, we are treating that person and his or her feelings with respect.
  • Personal Development: When we give our attention to other people and try to understand them, we are treating them as people with something potentially valuable to say. In this way, we acknowledge that the individual before us, whose experiences and perspective are different from our own, may be giving us something of a gift. Listening well is how we set ourselves up to accept that gift, with the full understanding that our own world is limited and that the speaker may be able to expand our horizon and improve our understanding of the world around us. When we listen to another, we allow ourselves to reflect, learn and grow as we work to make more informed choices in our own life. 

boy with hands over his ears

It should also be noted that effective listening involves paying attention to what is said, but not judging it at that time. Judgment is a different faculty, and one that should certainly be used after you have listened to another. Paying a person respect with your attention doesn’t mean accepting everything another person says. Sometimes, what people have to say is not very valuable, or could even be harmful to us – their “gift” is no gift at all. But we can’t judge another person’s offerings very well if we have not first allowed them into our minds and hearts, nonjudgmentally, by attentively listening to them. Only by listening first are we in a good position to know if we’ve been given a gift or something never to be a part of our thinking or our lives. 

Why Don’t We Listen?

While being a good listener is certainly important for getting by in the world, for the quality of our relationships with others and for our own development, it likely doesn’t come naturally for most of us. One study, reported in the book Business Communications: Strategies and Skills, found that the average person retains only about 25% of what he or she hears. That means most of us are missing out information when we’re not paying close attention. Here are some common reasons people don’t listen well:

  • Self-absorption: Frankly, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds, populated by our own thoughts, values, ideas, opinions, etc. In a sense, we’re each the center of our own universe. It can be easy to forget that we aren’t the center of everyone else’s – that each individual has his own universe, and one of the ways each universe expands is by allowing another to share part of theirs with you. A “me-centered” attitude is a huge impediment to good listening.
  • Know-it-all attitude: As mentioned above, listening is one of the most effective ways to learn and grow. However, sometimes we like to think that we’ve already got it all figured out. So we don’t allow the perspectives, knowledge, ideas, opinions, etc. of others entry into our minds and hearts. Sadly, we’re wrong – none of us, no matter how old, smart, cultured, mature – has it all figured out. So long as there are different perspectives and experiences in the world – and there are as many different perspectives and experiences as there are people – there’s always something new we could learn from someone else.
  • Distraction: Sometimes we simply get distracted. There is no shortage of distractions today, particularly with the number of smart phones, apps, text messages, viral videos, memes and so on drawing our attention away from people in the flesh to the screen. It’s commonplace for young people to pull out a phone at work or in the middle of a conversation and start texting, “liking,” browsing the internet. We may also simply drift off in thought when someone is speaking to us – an older but in no way extinct form of distraction.
  • Overestimating our listening skills: If you think you’re already great at something, why work to improve it? The truth is, no matter how well we may listen now, listening is a skill that can be developed. Like all skills, performance increases with practice. Listening well is something we have to work for, and we won’t do that work if we’re convinced we have nothing to improve upon.

We owe it to ourselves and to those around us to cultivate our listening skills. For some of us, this may mean first dropping the ego, accepting that we aren’t the center of the universe and that we don’t know it all. For others, the obstacle may be distraction; this, too, can be overcome. 

Improve Your Life: Become a Better Listener

If you want to improve your life practically, socially and developmentally, become a better listener. Having finished this first part, you can now proceed to Part 2 of this series. There, you’ll learn about common listening mistakes people make, allowing you to more easily identify these and avoid them in the future. You will also find a detailed action plan for developing and implementing better listening skills. It is our hope that this series will provide you with a newfound appreciation for what other people have to offer you and equip you with tools to become a better listener.