Book Review: Emotional Agility – Susan David

Title: Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life
Author: Susan David
ISBN: 9781592409495
Pages: 288
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Avery
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help
Source: Publisher

Summary

Sometimes, not confronting your emotions and taking into account how they affect your behavior can make it difficult to react to change in a productive way. Susan David, PhD, introduces her theory of Emotional Agility, a four-step process to help you confront change in a positive way and recognize when you’re locked in damaging cycles of emotional behavior.

Review

I used to smirk at self-help books. “I read a little of everything…except self-help,” I would smugly tell people. I had no time for self-help, because after all, I didn’t need help.

Yeah, right.

It was like a switch flipped when I approached my 30s. I realized it’s not a bad thing to admit you’re trying to improve yourself. I’m not perfect; why should I pretend like I am? I started reading self-help books and never looked back.

I don’t talk about it a lot publicly, but this year has been difficult. There has been a lot of upheaval in my life (family health issues, a new house in a new city, shake-ups in my job and career), so I thought that Emotional Agility, which centers on how to deal with change in a mindful and productive way, would be a great read for me. I was right.

David focuses on self-acceptance as the key to her theory: your feelings do not necessarily reflect fact, but it’s important to acknowledge them. But at the same time, don’t let your emotions drive your decision making: This creates what David calls a “hook,” an unproductive pattern of behavior that can be very damaging. Instead, take a step back and let your head (and emotions) clear.

It sounds easier said than done, but if you read Emotional Agility, David includes great ways to put her four-step theory into practice. She provides examples and anecdotes to help readers practice Emotional Agility in their own lives. The thing I especially appreciated about this book is that it doesn’t feel hokey: a lot of David’s conclusions are common sense. But she puts them into a fresh context that helps readers see how different parts of behavior and reaction are connected, and how we can break damaging cycles of emotions. If you’re interested in behaving more mindfully, I highly recommend picking up this book.

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Book Review: Living with Intent – Mallika Chopra

living with intent mallika chopraTitle: Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy
Author: Mallika Chopra
ISBN: 9780804139854 (Print)
Run Time: 5 Hours, 34 Minutes
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Self-Help
Source: Publisher

Summary

Mallika Chopra, daughter of famed wellness expert Deepak Chopra, tried to put her father’s teachings into practice every day, living a mindful life with purpose and intent. But she found herself floundering over and over again, unable to balance the daily demands from her work and her family with her principles. This memoir is her journey towards living with intent from day to day.

Review

I used to be one of those people who said smugly, “I don’t read self-help books.” The idea that I needed help from the maligned genre was laughable to me; I was doing just FINE. Then I turned 30, and a switch flipped in my head, and I realized that the notion that I don’t need help is laughable. The thought that I’ve got nothing left to learn, and there’s nothing for me to improve within myself is, quite frankly, stupid. I started branching out more in my reading, trying to figure out how I could be a better person, and that’s when I found Living with Intent.

Meditation is a thing I’ve been doing over the past year. I’ve come to rely on it more and more to calm my anxious brain, to help me deal with my stress levels, and so the idea of living with intent wasn’t new to me. My mind seems to be in constant chaos, so I liked the idea of being more mindful about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I’m not great at it, so you can understand my immense relief when I started listening to this memoir on audio, and HEY, it turns out that the daughter of one of the most famous voices on meditation and mindfulness in the world? Also not great at living these principles.

Chopra is very easy to relate to in Living with Intent. She wants to be better, more mindful, but she has trouble actually making it happen in the face of all her responsibilities and commitments day to day. I could definitely sympathize with that, and it was interesting to see how she went about making a change. She is certainly privileged in some of the avenues she is able to take—a week-long retreat—but others are easy for anyone to put into practice. It’s not about doing exactly what Chopra did, or using her journey as a step-by-step to do list. It’s about being inspired by her journey and figuring out the lessons you can apply from hers to improve your own.

I listened to Living with Intent on audio, and it runs about 5 and a half hours unabridged. Chopra narrates it herself, and despite the fact I found her performance uneven, I really enjoyed this production. Listening to this as I was going about my day made me feel somehow more productive, that by putting it in my ears I had already taken my first step towards more mindfulness.

I don’t want to exaggerate and say that this book changed my life; it’s rare that a book has that kind of effect. But Living with Intent did make me engage in a lot of self-reflection and think not only about what I have to do, but how I do it. I like the day of starting each day with an intention, and it’s a change I’m absolutely going to make going forward.

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Book Review: Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes

year-of-yesTitle: Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person
Author: Shonda Rhimes
ISBN: 9781476777092
Pages: 336
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Source: Publisher

Summary

In this untraditional memoir, Shonda Rhimes discusses her amazing success, shattering the glass ceiling for women of color on TV, and how she realized that, despite “having at all,” she still wasn’t happy. That led Rhimes to her “year of yes,” where she was determined to say yes to the things that scared her most and to figure out how to live her best life.

Review

When it comes to celebrity memoirs, it’s not juicy tell-alls that attract me. Instead, it’s the melding of memoir and advice, of seeing how these people who are supposed to have it all try to live the best lives they can. That’s why Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes intrigued me so much. Diversity is a thing I talk about every day, until I’m blue in the face it feels like, and here’s a woman who is actively making a difference in that regard on our television screens every Thursday night. I wanted to hear about what she had to say, about what scares her, and about what she wanted out of her own life.

And this woman. Oh, this woman. I felt as if Rhimes was speaking directly to me while I was reading Year of Yes. Let’s start with the premise of the book: In December 2014, Rhimes had everything, but she still wasn’t happy. She’s an introvert at heart, and had found a way to hide behind her work. She decided that, for one year, she would say yes to the things that scared her most—namely being the center of attention and agreeing to have the spotlight on her—and she found it changed her in so many ways. Having gone through my own “year of yes,” where I forced myself to say yes to things I’d normally decline because I like being at home by myself, this resonated with me so much.

Rhimes also talks a lot about being a woman who has it all in Year of Yes and is honest about her self-doubt and how she gets thing done. Bottom line—she has a lot of help. Help from family, yes, but also paid help. She’s not shy about it and doesn’t pretend like she’s able to do everything effortlessly. It’s hard work that’s gotten her to where she is, and it’s great to see Rhimes talk honestly about these issues and about motherhood.

Rhimes also frankly discusses diversity in Year of Yes. She doesn’t bother to discuss why it’s necessary in television—that much should be abundantly clear. What she does talk about is frustrations and difficulties when it comes to representing all black women, of the fear of failure and how if Scandal had failed, it would be difficult to get another show with a black female lead on TV for years to come. It’s frank, it’s refreshing, it’s honest.

And honest is the best word to describe this book. Rhimes doesn’t beat around the bush, she doesn’t mince words; she has things to say, and she discusses them so well in this memoir. This is by no means a tell-all or a gossipy look into Rhimes’ life. What it is is a provocative self-reflective book that will make you think as much about yourself as it does Rhimes’ own life. It’s amazing how relatable Rhimes is, but any introvert book lover who’s interested in self-improvement should absolutely pick this up.

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Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

life-changing-magicTitle: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Author: Marie Kondo
ISBN: 9781607747307
Pages: 224
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help
Source: Personal Copy

Summary:

A tidy house is a happy house. True? Marie Kondo believes so. Kondo is an expert on tidying, a woman with a months-long waiting list. People hire her in order to bring order to their lives, and in this book, she shares her wisdom to advise people on how to tidy and declutter, and how that can have repercussions throughout your life.

Review:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a somewhat controversial book. Why? Because Kondo’s approach to tidying is different than anything else you’ve probably ever read. She posits that the reason we all have so much stuff, the reasons our closets are crammed full and our drawers are overflowing, is that we’ve never actually been taught to tidy properly. Kondo has her own system of tidying based on one crucial value: joy. How do you feel when you hold a thing? If the feeling you have isn’t unvarnished joy, then it’s got to go.

Kondo isn’t talking about cleaning supplies (though she doesn’t think we need Costco-sized packs of toilet paper lying around). She’s talking about our clothes, shoes, books, purses, scarves, jewelry—those things that we keep around because they looked good in the store, even if we don’t like them as much at home, or that thing that we’re leaving in our closet for that one time we might need it. There were definitely times I was shaking my head at Kondo’s philosophy. She maintains you have to commit wholeheartedly to what she says to find true joy. I’m not sure I can go that far (my precious books!), but as a person who has been trying to get rid of things and be in a constant state of culling the past few years, I certainly wanted to take what she had to say to heart.

Even if you don’t agree with everything Kondo says, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a book that will make you think about your relationship to the things around you. Because, like it or not, you do have a relationship with the objects you own. It makes sense that the relationship should be a positive one; you should feel joy at seeing the things you own. One of the major takeaways I had from this book was that if a piece of clothing doesn’t bring you joy, you should get rid of it. No matter how much you spent, no matter if it’s new or old. If you spent a lot of money bringing an expensive dress home, and it turns out you’re never going to wear it because it doesn’t fit right (and you can’t return it), it’s time to get rid of it. The dress did its job by making you happy when you bought it; there’s no reason to keep it around now. While I don’t want this method of thinking to encourage my own consumerism, I do like it for letting go of things I feel like I “should” keep, for whatever reason.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a quick read, and if you’re a person who enjoys thinking about the best life you can lead (something I have found more and more intriguing as I get older), it’s worth it. You might not like or agree with everything Kondo has to say, but it’s worth taking the time to listen and think about whether you can apply principles from what she says to your own life. Because, like it or not, I know I have too much stuff and the clutter is driving me slightly mad!

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