Read in 2023: Two Self Help Books

April 13, 2023

I do love a good self-help book. SARK’s Succulent Wild Woman came out the year I turned 25 and although I outgrew SARK (lady, I need a job and can’t spend my days in a nap hut) never stopped reading on how to be calmer, better, more vibrant, more confident version of myself.

book covers of wherever you go there you are and atomic habits

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn – This book is part of WM’s collection so I gave it a go. I’m always searching for calm and to try to be happy where I currently am (sitting at a desk that needs to be cleaned up a bit) instead of wishing the time away and pining for my next vacation or even next weekend.

I liked it. It wasn’t gripping and it was very dry but I’m not expecting a thriller in a book on mindfulness. And if I ever want to begin a meditation practice, I can begin one minute at a time.

I smirked at the author of this book written in the 90s railing about how TV, radio, and magazines are terrible influences when it comes to mindfulness. Sir, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Atomic Habits by James Clear – I had heard about this book for years and as someone who has a lot of achievable goals and dreams, the ideas of improving just 1% every day as progress and creating new habits by stacking them on habits I already have are frigging awesome. I am all about achievable. Goodreads has dump trucks full of fantastic reviews on this book. I’m even giving it four stars. Why not five? Here are the three quibbles that prevented me from five-starring this sucker.

  1. There is an undercurrent of “if you’re overweight or not working out every single day or eating junk food you’re in need of being fixed” that didn’t sit well with me. There is one example about a man who wanted to get in better shape so he made these over-the-top contracts with his wife and personal trainer that included large amounts of money given away and having to dress formally in an Alabama summer as consequences for failure. That, my man, borders on disordered. I know that many people’s goals are to lose weight and get in better shape — heck, I gymming 2x/week is one of MY goals! But it wouldn’t have been difficult to swap in other examples of habits to create or break. Like learning a musical instrument or ceasing to rage-honk your car horn.
  2. It’s very “bro.” Most of the quoted experts are men. Some of the male celebrities are jerks. There was a passage about a man who wanted his nails to look better so he asked his wife to make an appointment at her nail shop for him. In the year of our Lord 2018? Looks like someone needed to build a habit around making his own damn appointments.
  3. Who is James Clear? I know he’s an author, a speaker, a writer with a bajillion email subscribers but … how? His story is: high school baseball -> injury -> college baseball -> graduation -> started writing about habits -> 1000 email subscribers after only 3 months of blogging twice a week*, -> author, speaker, writer with a bajillion email subscribers. This seems phenomenal and has to due to more than “I built a habit of writing twice a week.” Who did he know who spread the news about him to influential people? Or how did he have the standing to go to his college counselor and say (paraphrased) “I want to major in biomechanics, a major that doesn’t exist but that’s what fits me” and them say “sure, pal!” Are his grandparents senators? Was he a secret nepo baby rehomed to Ohio?
  4. If you buy this man’s book and you’re looking for his worksheet and trackers, he makes you sign up for his email list to get access. SIR! It’s not bonus content if you have to do more to get it! This is a bonus quibble to my three-quibble list and I’m not making you be newsletter subscribers to get it. Sheesh!

Listen, I loved the book. I signed up for the damn email list. But this was SO CLOSE to being a five-star in my eyes that it bothers me immensely that it’s not.

*I have 23 subscribers.

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