Publication Year: 2002
Subtitled Develop the Courage, Confidence, and Character to Fulfill Your Greatest Potential, this book by “New York Times best-selling” life coach Cheryl Richardson is a workbook-style volume that builds upon her Take Time For Your Life and Life Makeovers books and workshops.
Having recently celebrated (if that’s the word) my 60th birthday, I still seek good advice where I can find it. The best advice I’ve seen lately came from a t-shirt bearing a statement had to do with 14 werewolves. Community standards prohibit me from quoting it here, but if you conduct an online search on that key phrase, you’ll likely find what I’m talking about. (By the way: Yes, yes, by all the gods, yes.) I mention my age and experience as it explains why I consider myself a fairly good judge of self-help books. This one’s about on par with others, which is one reason for its low score.
There’s a common saying in self-help and other therapies which says that you have to work the program in order for the program to work. To put it into context by using a quote from satirist Tom Lehrer, “Life is like a sewer: What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.” This book is formatted and presented as a workbook, with plenty of exercises designed to get you thinking about what limits your own power, encouraging you to develop better personal-support habits in a variety of areas. In this way, it’s very much like any and every other self-help book, with little new to recommend it.
If you’re as busy a reader as I am myself, you may share my self-imposed rule of giving a book 50 pages of your reading time before deciding if it’s worth pursuing; several books have, with me, been set aside either For Now or Forever based upon this rule. In this case, I suggest fudging just a bit and skipping to chapter four (p. 117 in this edition). Entitled “Stand Up For Yourself,” it’s a good guide to setting your own boundaries — something that many of us in (or in need of) therapy can use some help with. The workbook nature of this book is helpful in this regard, and it is what gets this book its second star. (I also award it for her, or her editor’s, regular use of the Oxford comma.)
The downside of this book —indeed, all self-help books — is that it and they must provide the best formulae for the largest number of people, and in so doing, reduce all help and support to its lowest common denominator. Richardson heads this argument off at the pass, warning against the “self-defeating” comment of “Yes, but my situation is different.” Not so, she proclaims from her lofty status of having Gotten There and Making a Profit Off Of It. This was my first warning flag, and plenty more followed. Granted, short of finding a therapist, life coach, guru, or other guide to tailor a program specific to your individual needs, this is about as good as it gets. For this aspect of things, glean whatever you think will work for you and use it.
In my case, this book marks a score of attempts to help myself through this method of self-help; in every case, including this one, trying to use the methods, exercises, and approaches recommended led me to exactly where the author/coach thought I should be, and in no case did it lead me to myself. I’m sure that Richardson would say that “I did it wrong.” However, taking her own advice about setting boundaries, I will assert that no one is allowed to tell me who I am, nor how I’m to discover and develop that unique Self, except me. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got 14 werewolves to find.