Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"This Year I Will..." by M. J. Ryan

I feel the need every once in a while to read a "self-help" type book, if for no other reason, I think, than to realize that I'm not nearly as messed up as I thought. This is one of those titles that's been in my branch for a while and I've kept thinking how it looks interesting. Well, I finally decided to check it out. It was worth it, too.

Did I accomplish anything after reading this? Yes and no. I haven't made any decisions as to what I will do this year, just that I know now how to approach a change. This book is not a how-to-lose weight, or a how-to-quit-smoking, or anything like that. Rather, it is about how to make ANY kind of change that you feel is necessary.

Ryan goes about discussing the science of how habits are formed, which I felt like I mostly already knew. I will admit that refreshing myself on how long it takes for the habit to form, etc, wasn't a bad thing; helps for the next time I attempt to make a change in my own life. There's a lot of good, very digestible information here, perhaps the most important of which is Ryan admitting that not everything works for everyone. You have to keep track of what seems to be working, what's not, and adjust accordingly. You might have had a friend who was able to quit the ciggies cold turkey, but trying that tact yourself could lead to total disaster. It doesn't mean that you have less will-power or what have you than he/she did; it just means that you don't form your habits in the same manner.

One of the best pieces of advice, one that I don't think I've ever seen in a book like this before, was that when you have a slip-up, you need to forgive yourself. Yes, you read that right. Forgive yourself. The author is quick to point out that this is not a license to make excuses or to stop trying. Rather, it's something that you would probably do if the person who slipped was anyone other than yourself. I found myself thinking, "She's so right - I would never say anything harsh to my friends about their backslides!" For example, I've had several people in my life who have smoked and tried to quit. I have never, ever made snide, rude, or just plain mean comments about them when they've started smoking again, regardless of how long they've managed to not smoke this time around. Why would I? I've watched them struggle with the addiction, and seen how hard they've been on themselves when this attempt to quit doesn't work. So it does beg the question, why do I berate myself and call myself every name in the book when my attempts to eat healthier and exercise fail?

This is definitely a good little book to read for anyone contemplating a change in his/her life, whether it's something as minor as promising to floss every day to something as major as getting out of a bad relationship. I plan to look for more of Ryan's books and I hope they are just as promising as this one.

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