Thursday, September 11, 2008

Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters by Phillip C. McGraw

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Hyperion, 2000
Price: $13.95
ISBN-10: 0786884592
ISBN-13: 978-0786884599

Life Strategies is a quick, very basic reminder of sound - just as the title states - life strategies. Nothing profound here. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing you probably haven't heard in most contemporary self-help books, in fact. Or from your favorite neighborhood therapist, I imagine. The book may be a good addition to your bookshelf if that is what you seek - something of a reference book, or checklist, to turn to now and then to jog your memory about how to stay on track toward achieving your personal measure of success in life, or just to give yourself a pep talk.

Dr. Phil uses almost annoyingly simple (but precise) language, so I would think it would be difficult to misunderstand anything in these pages unless one is bound and determined to remain deluded and avoid life in general. No doubt, there are many such. Last I heard, the "happiness quotient" in modern society has been slipping, so I won't argue that point, just put it out there ... some people truly are more comfortable being unhappy and avoiding life. But, supposing you are one of those who really would like to stay focused and have a desire to fulfill your potential, this is a nice little starter kit. Basic and on target.

The main message of these life strategies is that a person should take full and conscious ownership of one's own life. The rest is detail. Dr. P. reminds you that no matter what the circumstances, it really is what you make of it and in what direction you decide to take your next step. Sure, that may be much easier for some than many others, depending on your circumstances. But hard or easy is not the issue. Hard or easy, it is still your life, your circumstances, and your choice, and yours alone - where you take it from here.

No stroke of brilliance to hold us all accountable or that nailing down a goal firmly only helps strengthen our resolve to achieve it. The more detailed the battle plan, the better. Just common sense. Those who achieve most in life (and I agree with Dr. P, there is no such thing as luck) are those who keep a persistently positive attitude, have a clear goal in mind, are willing to work hard at it, are willing to take a risk now and then to pull away from the ordinary masses to become extraordinary. I'm not sure the final section that glorified his wife, Robin, was necessary (too saccharin for my taste), nor, perhaps, the stories about Oprah and Andy the cab driver. But the book achieves what no doubt was Dr. P's life strategy: outline the usual behaviors and attitudes that work. We all can use the occasional pep talk and reminder.

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