Tag Archives: self-help

Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers

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The twentieth anniversary edition of Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway that I picked up from the library was as ruffled and waffled as if it had fallen in the tub and redolent of someone’s heavy perfume. It was dog-eared, only slightly marked-up, but definitely well-read. Apparently there’s a lot of fear out there and this is a popular antidote. Once I dug into it, it was easy to see why the book showed signs of heavy use.

Susan Jeffers is lucid, logical and refreshing. She doesn’t waste a lot of time spouting wispy logic and buzz words at you–although her habit of attributing famous aphorisms to ordinary people is disconcerting. (Lao Tzu was the one who said “If you keep doing things the same way, expect the same result” not somebody-Janet, a student of Jeffers.) But that’s a quibble. For the most part, the observations and advice in Feel the Fear… are useful and intelligent. I particularly liked the 9-box Whole Life Grid that graphically portrays the elements of a balanced life so you aren’t lopsidedly putting all your emotional eggs in one basket. Fixated on career or relationship and forgetting to have friends, personal growth work, hobbies, leisure time, and solitude? Not too bright–you’re going to be awfully needy and unattractive with that approach. Fill in those boxes and expand your attention so the loss of one thing isn’t the loss of everything in your life.  

And more good advice–see everything as opportunity. If it’s an unwelcome thing, see it as opportunity to learn something new or prove to yourself that you can handle whatever comes along. You can make no wrong choices–just wrong suppositions in dealing with the consequences. Takes the charge out of tough decisions and some of the sting out of life’s little unpleasant surprises. I wasn’t wowed on every page, Jeffers recycles conventional wisdom as part of her system for shaking off paralysis and getting on with your day. But she does it with such rational good sense that you start mumbling cliches like “Why didn’t I see that?”

So, good book. Worth the read. High utility value. I am very very close to acquiring this one because I suspect it will be valuable to re-read it now and then. And it is in such heavy demand at our library that it will probably be confetti if I ever try to check it out again.

Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway   Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. | Ballantine Books   2007

The Magic – Rhonda Byrne

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I never read bazillion-seller The Secret, although I did see lengthy excerpts from the movie. It seemed like a very cleverly packaged version of the Law of Attraction and other manifestation practices based on older traditions of being in harmony with what surrounds you. Interesting enough. So, as I reluctantly returned A. N. Wilson’s The Elizabethans (great book) to the library half-read–can’t renew it if someone else is waiting for it–I picked up Rhonda Byrne’s The Magic which was sitting on the new-book shelf. I believe in magic–a deep, pagan, animistic, astrophysical, inspiriting force that is omnipresent, innate and infrangible–and I am always happy to explore theories and thinking about it. This was not that book.

What The Magic is is a book-length reminder to practice gratitude, not a bad thing to consider. Real gratitude, the understanding and appreciation for what exists in our lives, is more or less trained out of us in this consumer culture. Gratitude requires reflection, focus, savoring the moment, recognizing a true gift, seeing with the intelligence of the heart. It is very positive and very powerful and can shift your mood, your behavior, your relationships, and your beliefs almost instantly. For me, at least, it’s a lesson to learn over and over again and has more to do with stepping outside the facade of this illusory world and into clear, spare being. Needs more work.

Byrne has produced a workbook with essays in the popular self-help format that targets a general audience. Some of the logic is, um, forced. It’s predictable. You could find several suggestions silly. But beneath the packaged lessons are a few good ideas and a basic premise that can open your eyes. Think about what is good and delightful and valuable for you. Be glad you know it/have it/enjoy it. Say so, if only to yourself. Gratitude can push back the veil that obscures the light we really live in.

I won’t take up Byrne’s 28-day chapter-by-chapter program to change my life–there are stronger ways for me to tap into magic.  But I do like the advice about the magic rock that you hold every night before you go to sleep as you conjure up the best thing that happened in your day. That’s a great idea. So much negativity batters us from all sides, all the time, that it’s easy to forget what blessings we have. I have just the rock, a smooth, palm-size chunk of white quartz that was sitting on the kitchen counter next to a jade plant that has stubbornly survived every possible kind of neglect. Pure magic.

The Magic (The Secret)   Rhonda Byrne | Atria Books   2012

The Fire Starter Sessions – Danielle LaPorte

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Danielle LaPorte crams a lot of type into The Fire Starter Sessions—bold black large fonts and tiny san serif and some red, italic and gray here and there for emphasis. It’s as visual as it is legible. The messages are hard to ignore—which is the point. TFSS is a wake-up call from a Type-A, high-enthusiasm, self-help guru who believes that balance is overrated and doing what you say you’re going to do is the secret of success.

LaPorte is pithy, funny, hip, direct and wise. She’s produced a caffeine-jolt of a book that stuffs you in the mouth of the cannon, aims it at a Really Big Goal and lights the fuse. Since death is inevitable, LaPorte writes, your only intelligent choice is to live your passion—and then she tells you how to do it. Part attitude, part tunnel vision and part divine inspiration will start a business, achieve enlightenment, capture the heart of Rhett Butler, sail you through medical school, raise joyful kids, compose a symphony, invent the next technology after Apple.

All the clever turns of phrase, colloquialisms, cussing and conniving keep the pages moving and the message coming. No slacking, no drudgery, no fuzzy thinking, no selling yourself short. First define your self because, like it or not, you are a brand. Know thyself—and really take some time to find out what floats your boat and which is your favorite flavor. Get spiritual—not all tangled up in religion–uncluttered by meditation, yoga, tree-hugging, journal-keeping, making time and room to just be so the creative ideas will arrive in that cleared space.  

TFSS is crammed with suggestions for positive thinking, from post-it notes with one-word reminders to ditching the daily planner and immersing yourself in the flow. Pick your heroes, Gandhi and Lady GaGa, and write down four of their traits you admire—then acquire those traits. Make art that feels good—why would anyone want evidence of your enforced industry? It will have struggle written all over it and you won’t have had any fun. Remember that inevitability thing about death? Don’t waste your life.

Starting fires looks like your best and only choice as you devour big chunks of this book. It is served up in big chunks, so you won’t be perusing it sedately. From the flaming red cover to the pyromaniacal advice inside, The Fire Starter Sessions will incite you to blaze a new trail through the weedy dullness of your days, embrace your most combustible ideas, prioritize what is sacred to you, and shine.

The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms   Danielle LaPorte | Crown  2012

DO – A.C. Ping

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No, try not! Do or do not! There is no try. I just love that. Yoda is my guru. And A.C. Ping leads off a second packed volume of his self-help trilogy with Yoda’s line from The Empire Strikes Back. DO is the lime-green paperback, appearing between Ping’s other well-received books, BE and FAITH, and it is packed with pragmatic tips and observations culled from traditional and new age spiritual teachings. Ping wastes no time getting to the call to action. This is a serious guide for personal transformation and its mantra might be “no excuses.”

There are lots of good examples of the teachings in action, from the certainty required to manifest through creative visualization to an admonition to “Change your story” when it isn’t going well. Accompanying the advice are methods for doing so—not thinking about it or trying to do it but moving in the direction of your dream. Ping talks about the risk inherent in putting everything on the line, and the necessity for doing so. He gets pretty explicit about it, confessing incidents when he convinced himself to take the easy way out and then missed an important opportunity for growth.

“There is no road” said poet Antonio Machado. “We make the road by walking.” (Another favorite quote.) DO is the imperative, the active verb that machetes the underbrush and clears the way. There is nothing startling and brand new in Ping’s prescriptions. You can find advice about meditating to build inner strength and clarity, evaluating energy transactions between people to determine whether they are positive, writing intentions down to concretize them, daring to be honest and authentic even when it makes you uncomfortable, cultivating the patience to wait for exactly what you want and need and then going for it. The virtue of the book is that so many of the classic teachings about self-realization and creating your own life are contained in one place.

DO would be a great carry-along for a blast of inspiration when you’re stuck in a line or commuting to work. It’s a practical workbook with space to make your own notes as you adapt the ideas to your life and experience. In some ways, this is a compact primer of common sense but it’s full of universal principles, not homespun. Ping’s message is a digest of all the nuggets of wisdom in all those volumes of self-help you’ve read—or despaired of ever reading. Dip into it in the library or the bookstore and see if it speaks to you. Just do it.

Do   A.C. Ping | Marlowe & Company   2004

You Can Heal Your Life – Louise L. Hay

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Whatever ails you, from a stubbed toe to a broken heart, gets space in Louise Hay’s classic You Can Heal Your Life. I had an ancient, yellowing copy of a paperback from an earlier printing that disappeared in some move or another. But the beautiful gift version Hay House printed caught my eye at a time when I was collecting ideas and remedies for life off-kilter and I added it to a shelf of Buddhism, nutrition, space clearing and other uplifting tomes. The dark days of December provided the impetus to crack its colorful cover and revisit the Hay brand of comfort and good cheer.

It’s a beautiful book, glossy pages, painted art illustrating sections, edging pages and filling in the background behind affirmations. And it is easy to navigate, from sections on resistance to change to lists of body parts and their ailments that offer Louise Hay’s philosophical interpretation of how the mind and the action create or cure the problem.

Hay’s ideas are not startling—more pragmatic and insightful. Break an index finger? The index finger represents ego and fear; the shift of mind is the reassurance: I am secure. Those heart problems might be a sign of lack of joy, long-standing emotional problems, a hardening of the heart. Allow joy to flow through your life to dissolve the blocks. Something as incidental as poison ivy could signify feeling defenseless and open to attack. Ease the itching by repeating: I am powerful, safe and secure. All is well. Hay doesn’t say to avoid the calamine lotion or necessary medical attention. She offers an empowering point of view to those who see an integration of body and spirit and want to heal both from the inside out.

There are chapters on relationships, work, prosperity, the body and other elements of life that can go off the rails. Throughout, there are positive affirmations you can adapt or repeat to restore the mental and emotional equanimity that speeds healing—whether the problem is lack of self-confidence, deep-seated anger or a mistaken interpretation of reality that embraces the negative. Louise Hay is all about gratitude, self-acceptance, clarity and going easy on yourself. If the world is beating you up, don’t join in the fray, she counsels. Tell yourself you are worth it and then begin to treat yourself like the valuable property you are.

“The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences,” Hay writes. Her book is a prescription for creating positive experiences, a return to glowing health and a deeper understanding of what drives us off balance. The gift edition is a visually appealing get well card for whatever ails you. It might be a nice holiday present for yourself or an open-minded friend in these unhealthy, unfriendly times.  

You Can Heal Your Life  Louise L. Hay | Hay House   1999

The Trick to Money is Having Some – Stuart Wilde

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Stuart Wilde is a madly exuberant, visionary self-help guru with plenty of ideas about money, prosperity, abundance, and alligator pits in restaurants. His approach to money is straightforward: some is good, more is better, a boatload is a worthy objective. He doesn’t preach hypnotic states of magnetism laced with aphorism or affirmations, although Wilde is no stranger to the woo-woo factor and his imagination ranges wide. His simple directive is to put so much energy on your desire to prosper that it becomes inevitable.

Wilde regards money as energy and details ways you can create it, just in case you are not an heiress, don’t marry for money or successfully rob a bank. First of the Wilde commandments: love thyself. Accept the fact that you are fabulous enough to be entitled to abundance and then create some value that draws the money to you. Invent that supersonic mousetrap, open that restaurant with the rickety drawbridge over the moat full of hungry gators snapping at the shoes of patrons. Make it unforgettable and sell, sell, sell.

Second, be savvy about what money is and where it comes from and who has most of it. Banks have money and the only reason they loan it to you is to make more. Smart people have money which they use to buy up discount properties when the bottom falls out and everyone else is underwater. Cash is king, says Wilde, because it sets you free to make good deals or just dance to your own drummer. Can’t argue with that.

Acceptance of the concept of scarcity is a deal-killer, Wilde believes. You make room for lack in your thinking and lack will take over your life. Act as if you have more than you need and the attitude will begin to inform the reality. This involves bucking a pretty powerful system. Wilde calls it tick-tock, the ordinary world, the destiny of the subservient masses. He recommends that you reject the hamster-wheel-hard work model of prosperity that has you fork over your life for an hourly wage. Instead, decide to acquire serious wealth and upscale your output. Become an opera-singing plumber with a can-do attitude who arrives early and cleans up meticulously after solving the problem. Then charge premium prices for your overbooked service.

The sections about projecting your will on other people are a bit fuzzy. There’s no real model for how to do that and the examples Wilde gives seem nefarious, if not downright sleazy. But he does have an interesting technique for slipping inside the mind of the negotiator across the table to determine what’s really going on about the deal you are proposing.

The 2003 update to this book, originally published in 1989, predicts an economy overwhelmed by debt and the yang energy of unbridled corporate expansion and expensive wars. Give Wilde credit for reading the cards. He outlines strategies for working with cash, investing in real estate—or unloading it, considering stock, bonds and certificates of deposit, avoiding the pitfalls of land ownership, and dealing in precious metals. He also counsels that bankruptcy may be an unemotional part of the game plan and claims that people who stay focused, put out good energy and stay alert for opportunity will accrue great wealth in a down economy. Too early to tell if he is right—but the mix of Think, Believe, Create and Market is a map of positive steps to prosperity, even in the best of times. In these times, Wilde is a wonky but sober read—advice tempered by flights of fantasy—and he just might be right.   

The Trick to Money is Having Some  Stuart Wilde | Hay House, revised 2003

Prosperity Pie – Sark

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 Sark burst into my chaotic life with Inspiration Sandwich, her initial effort in 1992 that matched handpainted, childlike art with scraps of stories and words of wisdom from her own experience and that of a few self-help gurus. A Sark book is full of unexpected moments: a clock that stretches time by repeating one hour over and over, exhortations to choose “succulence” over predictable and dry activities, observations about self-acceptance and tricks to stay open to new ideas. Painting the whole thing together are the line drawings and color washes that characterize her work as exuberant and playful.

Prosperity Pie: How to Relax about Money and Everything Else takes a tricky topic and makes it manageable. Sark shares her own money foibles and sprinkles the stories with thought balloons for you to fill in like a lighthearted workbook. She quotes Rumi—Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder–in painted hand-printing and highlights the whole quote with oil pastel (or maybe crayon) streaks of red, yellow, blue, and green. She harks back to Louise Hay, the octogenarian publisher of Hay House who preaches self-approval and an attitude of openness to life. She talks about all the ways we deify money or turn it into an ogre. “If money was on the table, I was under it” reads one cartoon with a picture of a crouched woman under a small table. She gives chatty advice and lists plenty of other books about how to relax and accept abundance, offer our true work in exchange for abundance, shift our consciousness to encourage abundance.

Prosperity Pie cooks up a cheerful repast to counter the gloomy indigestible buffet of scarcity and bitterness of this wrecked economy. We can change our own world, Sark claims, and fix what’s around us at the same time. Can’t argue with that unless you are a determined pessimist. Try a slice of Sark’s pie to liven up a dull meal. It has all the flavor and cockeyed optimism of childhood to cheer you up and cheer you on to that dreamscape of possibility that just might turn out to be real.

Prosperity Pie : How to Relax About Money and Everything Else    Sark | Simon & Schuster  2002