Monday, March 17, 2008

Helping Me Help Myself (eBook Edition)

In case you missed it in my Tolle piece, I'll say it right up front.  I am a cynic.

Actually it is more accurate to say that I am  not a fan of self help books.  I am highly suspicious of quick fixes and have a deep antipathy for true believers.  

I am from the doing school of life.  As a doer,  I find the whole idea of reading about self improvement to be slightly ludicrous. 

Reading, talking and taking seminars is all very nice, but to effect real change you have to DO something! 

Beth Lisick's send up of the self help industry is informative, whimsical, satirical and clever. It's a Cliff Notes version of ten self help programs for $20.00.  Talk about saving time and money!  This is a deal that is hard to pass up. 

Beth takes us on a journey of the self help, self improvement world.  It starts on New Years day 2006 when she looks at her life (which is in disarray) and decides she needs help.  She decides to explore a different self help program every month for a year.  It turns out she only gets to ten, but it hardly matters.  In this memoir she takes us on her journey.  Here's the itinerary:   

  • January - Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup/Success)
  • February - Steven Covey (7 Habits/Success)
  • March - John Gray (Venus and Mars/Communication)
  • April - Richard Simmons (health)
  • May - Julie Morgenstern (organization)
  • June - Thomas Phelan (child rearing)
  • July - Six sentences on intimacy with her husband (BRAVO!!)
  • August - Eleven sentences on slacking (hmmmm)
  • September - Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way/ creativity)
  • October - Suze Orman (finances)
  • November - Deepak Chopra (spirituality)
  • December - Sylvia Browne (death and the afterlife)

This is a painless and humorous journey that kept me entertained.  And the book is a lot like real life -- good intentions and so-so follow through.  You know she meant to get in there do what these gurus suggested.  And yet, it always seemed that somehow life (or her own psyche) got in the way. 

It is not a perfect book.  There are a number of things that could have been done better.  No matter, it is still fun to read and worth every penny.

Here is the publisher's take:

Grappling with her lifelong phobia of anything slick, cheesy, or remotely claiming to provide self-empowerment, Beth Lisick wakes up on New Year's Day 2006 with an unprecedented feeling. She is finally able to admit to herself that she's grown tired of embracing the same old set of nagging problems year after year. She has no savings account. Her house feels unorganized and chaotic. She and her husband never hang out together. The last time she exercised regularly was as a member of her high school track team almost twenty years ago.

Instead of turning to advice from the abundant pool of local life coaches, therapists, and healers readily available on her home turf of northern California, Beth confronts her fears head-on. She consults the multimillion-dollar-earning pros and national experts, not only reading their bestselling books but also attending their seminars and classes. In Chicago, she gets proactive with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In Atlanta, she tries to get a handle on exactly why "women are from Venus," and in a highly comedic bout on the high seas of the Caribbean, she gamely sweats to the oldies on a weeklong Cruise to Lose with Richard Simmons.

Throughout this yearlong experiment, Beth tries extremely hard to maintain her wry sense of humor and easygoing nature, even as she starts to fall prey to some of the experts' ideas, ideas she thought she'd spent her whole life rejecting. Beth doesn't think of herself as the typical self-help victim. But is she?

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