Book Review: Live Your Life; Two Giveaways

OK, I’ll admit it—I like self-help books. Here’s why: I don’t expect them to change my life. Or even the next month. I do expect a good self-help book to have at least one solid idea that can help me see a situation, a habit, or a person in a different way.

A book that gives me a fresh perspective is a book that may move my decision-making machinery in a new direction, one that helps me make better decisions.

Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You, takes an interesting approach to self-help. In addition to taking a holistic approach, there is a lot of support, including a downloadable workbook (url is listed in the introduction, another reason to read those.)

In each of the 14 days of the book, you get stories from LeFevre’s own life (which makes the book seem human and the tasks seem achievable.  Each chapter has “Thinking Points,” and “Action Items” which allow you to take the lesson and make it yours, just for your goal.

Each chapter is a day, but it can be a week for you, or a month. The book (paperback) is a slim 130 pages, and you can set the pace that works for you. You might find some of it challenging, but that’s the point, right? If your life is not working now, reading a challenging book will seem like the perfect excuse to blow it off. Dig in instead.

Here’s a sampling of the chapters:

  • Silence the Voices (Yep, she believes in the inner critic, too!)
  • Stay the Course (Making a commitment isn’t hard, keeping it is.)
  • Start Somewhere, Anywhere (Dealing with the overwhelmed feeling.)
  • Just Breathe (Dealing with stress.)
  • Show Yourself Compassion (With  the imposter feeling, shame, or guilt)
  • Let it Go (Making space in your home and your life.)
  • Find Balance (in everything, from bad habits to good)
  • Look for Opportunities (you save yourself, no one comes to do it for you.)
  • Do it Anyway

Was there any part of this book I didn’t like? Sure. I ran across a few grammar errors and they always trip me up (because I teach grammar and am sensitized to it).  There are also a few thoughts that contradict each other, but not in the same chapter.
For example, in one chapter, a cruel professor berates LeFevre (as grad student) for “not being born brilliant . . . you are just a hard worker. . .” In that crushing blow, the professor defines brilliant as the ability to have abstract connections among ideas or emotions.  In another chapter, LeFevre advises ridding your space of items that are not necessary, vital, or have a specific purpose. Those are pretty concrete definitions, and don’t leave much room for emotional attachment and just plain liking, but not loving, an item. Those abstract ideas become important in this chapter.

None of those bring down the ability of the book to help. But if I’m reviewing a book, it’s a good balance to point to things I don’t like as well as those that do. These few small imbalances don’t tilt the scale. It’s firmly in the “helpful” category.

The Giveaway, Part 1: On Friday, February 23, 2018, I’ll give the book away. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog. You don’t have to give a reason, just let me know you want the book. I’ll do a random drawing. Winners will come from the continental U.S. for this drawing.

The Giveaway, Part 2: I’m a coach, both a life coach and a creativity coach. I’m giving away three, one-hour coaching sessions, one session to each of three people. There is no obligation, no pressure, no sales pitch and it’s free. Leave a comment. This is in addition to the book giveaway.
Let me know in the comments that you want to try a coaching session. I will do a separate drawing for the book and the coaching sessions, so if you want to try for both, you can do it all in one comment.

Common-sense stuff:

  • If you are a current or past coaching client of mine, please let someone new try out for the coaching.
  • Winner must be able to call me in Phoenix at an agreed-upon time.
  • Winners must have phone numbers from the continental U.S.
  • Winners must be able to speak to a reason they want coaching–not in the comment. If you are one of the winners, I’ll be asking you.

The book was given to me to review. I am not paid for the review or compensated for the free coaching sessions.

Winners of the giveaway: Kelly Harms has won Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You. Winners of the coaching sessions are: Cynthia Pepper, Linda Marsh and Lynn Thompson. Congratulations to the winners! You’ll be hearing from me for details.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing; she is a life- and creativity coach.

Winning From Within (Book Review)

41PoCXmr73L._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_We negotiate every day, even when we are not aware of it. For example, when we discuss where we want to go to dinner or what movie we want to see.

If you have teenagers, you negotiate their lives with yours.Erica Ariel Fox takes negotiating into a new light. First, she reminds us that when we think through a problem, it’s a form of negotiating with ourselves. Then she combines ideas from Western philosophies and Eastern philosophies to help reconcile our approach to negotiation.

Fox is a coach who helps her clients look for new sides to themselves that they haven’t discovered yet. She explores possible undiscovered points in her book, including

1. we are more multifaceted than we realize.

2. We pick part parts of ourselves to define who we are.

3. The identities we form have some truth to them.

4. Yet, they don’t tell the full truth. We create profiles of ourselves by elevating certain elements of who we are and leaving others behind. That distorts the full truth.

The identity we show the world, and the Performance Gap, the difference between how we see ourselves at work and how our co-workers see us. Neither of the views is wrong, but the difference in perspective can make a big difference in promotion and working relationships.

Fox highlights “The Big Four” sections of our personalities, the pieces we use to make decisions and react: The Dreamer, Thinker, Lover and Warrior. Fox shows how using one or two of these pieces results in friction with co-workers. Using all four pieces in different situations leads to inner peace (or at least inner understanding) and better relationships.

The book also has sections in Balancing Your Profile and Connect to Your Core.

What made me enjoy it was the easy style, the lack of jargon and smugness and an approachable, usable plan to make the four dynamics work for you at home and in the office.

OK, I will also admit that she talks a lot about archetypes and dealing with the darker sides of ourselves–and I’m delighted that it could be a more formal companion to The Inner Hero Art Journal.

–Quinn McDonald knows that to a hammer, every problem is a nail.

Unrealistic Healing

The new yoga teacher looked dangerous. Compact and lithe, she marched to the front of the class, got on her mat with her back to us and began barking poses. It was my first yoga class in a long time. All around me, younger, more flexible people twisted, stretched, and grabbed their ankles behind their backs. I sweated and creaked. Felt like I was hiking a long hard climb up a dark, washed-out path.

A xeriscaped yard has no grass and no ground cover. It has desert-adapted plants and crushed granite.

Coming home, I noticed a flicker of something in the front yard. Tired and stiff, I got out of the car to find my front yard flooded. A xeriscaped yard should not flood. We have drip irrigation so flooding shouldn’t happen. Yet, there, in the light of the full moon, my front yard shimmered with water. Something was very wrong, and had been wrong since morning. Since the yard guy had come to change the watering pattern for the summer.  He’d forgotten to turn it back to automatic. Twelve hours my water had been running. The back yard was floating. Water pressed against the foundation. Cacti standing in two feet of water. Water lapping out of  plant beds and edging toward the pool.

I found the end of my rope really quickly. It was fuzzy and wet and fueled my anger and exhaustion. It took me another half hour to figure out where the shut- off valves were and turn them in the right direction.

After all that work on compassion and forgiveness, I still had wanted to dismember the yard guy. After all the conscious choosing to see the better side of life, I did not live it.

Moon reflected in standing water from

And then I had another realization:  we distrust improving ourselves because we are afraid we can’t keep it up. Not forever. And we can’t. We will slide back. We will do that thing we hate about ourselves.  That’s why I love the Buddhist saying, “Before enlightenment–chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment–chop wood, carry water.”

There is no final goal to self-improvement. We don’t recognize a shortcoming and then cure it. We don’t admit to a flaw and then have it surgically removed. We don’t pull out our bad characteristics and never have to deal with them again.

Even the enlightened get angry, feel despair, make mistakes. None of that goes away with awareness. It doesn’t vanish because we admit to weakness.

No, we have to keep working on it. For years. That’s the strength in change. It requires upkeep. It’s the lie most self-help books tell—take this quiz, work these steps and then you will be perfect. Glowing. Complete.

It’s not true. We have to keep working at our lives. Every day. We do not undergo a transformation and then spend the rest of our lives resting and comfortable. Nope. Transformation is a step, not the goal. The real goal is to become self-aware. We see the shortcomings, the flaws, the mistakes and love ourselves anyway. Then we look at where we ran off the rails, fix the break, load the train (and our life) back on the track and move on. Chop wood, carry water.

—Quinn McDonald is finally ready to go to bed. In the moonlight, the standing water still shimmers, but it’s not rising.

After the MacGuffin

The question that filled up my email box was, “Well, thanks for pointing out the MacGuffin in our life, but then what?” What do you do with the plot point you hang your life on? The belief that you build your story on? “My mom never encouraged my creativity, so now I don’t have any.” “My brother got the attention, so I have no self esteem.” Those stories. We spend a lot of time making other people wrong for our stories. Part of it is blame, and part of it is showing the world the statement is correct and has therefore ruined our life. Deep inside, we are still waiting for the prince to ride up to save us, or the sword in the stone to move under out hands. The magic you seek, however, is most likely hiding  in your own hands.

You'll have to walk your own road, but the hike can be beautiful. This one is in the sandstone sculptured slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area on the Arizona/Utah border.

The sad thing is, we keep refreshing our MacGuffin. Over and over again. How should you change your story? Frankly, I don’t know. I’m not a therapist. But I believe that therapy can help free you. If you want. Unfortunately, if you keep going from therapist to therapist, repeating your story, it won’t fade. It will become a huge center pillar in your life, and you will be chained to it.

I’m also a life- and creativity coach, and a holder of my own MacGuffin, and I can suggest some ways to make the MacGuffin do the right thing, and fade by the third act of your life.These are just ideas, and if one of them resonates with you, take it for a spin through the next week or so and see what happens.

1. The MacGuffin excuse comes in two parts–naming the hurt, (“Mom never encouraged my creativity,”) and pointing to the consequence (“so now I’m not creative.”) Separate them. Make sure the second part is true on its own–without the first part. Are you really not creative? Are you sure? What’s your proof? Is your proof related to the first part of the statement? You might turn up something interesting.

2. If the second part is true on its own, then is the origin still important? We can’t change the past, so you can’t go back and un-do that part of your life. What has to happen right now to make your story shift focus? What can you do to change the direction of the story? In the case of a real MacGuffin in a screenplay, it is useful only until the audience find the main characters capable of overcoming difficulties in the plot. Ask your friends what is wonderful about you. Keep a list of behaviors, actions, accomplishments you can be proud of–even small ones. Write them down. Don’t trust them to your memory.

3. Ask yourself “Who would I be if the MacGuffin fades?” Imagine a great success you would love to have, for example, being a great creative writer.  Is that MacGuffin really keeping you from it? Could you start practicing that skill now? If you immediately say that you are too old, or too far along in another career, ask yourself another question–what can you do to start enjoying the experience itself? You don’t have to have another career, you just have to enjoy. Remember, you are letting the MacGuffin fade, so you aren’t looking for another reason for anger or blame, you are looking for your own power. Take a creative writing course, see what it feels like once you can hold your own power.

Take hiking boots. The trip may be steep going.

4. Art heals. If the topic of creative writing is too steep a mountain to climb, take a dance class, join a choir, learn to knit, sign up for a drawing class. Exploring what you are missing is the only way to discover it.

5. No one will do the work for you. No one will hand you a solution on a crystal platter –and if they did, you wouldn’t value it. Satisfaction, joy and success come from overcoming obstacles. Put on your hiking shoes, it’s going to be an interesting trek.

-Quinn McDonald no longer wonders what her life would have been like if she had gone to a Seven Sisters University,  had a mother who loved her or why the good girls didn’t get the attention the bad girls did. It just didn’t happen that way. She’s now busy living out her destiny.