Another New Year. Another year I vow to write something every single night, like I used to, even if it’s just boring drivel about our day. Another year I monumentally fail to stick to it, right from the off. I’m not very good at making or keeping New Year’s Resolutions. Or any kind of resolution, for that matter – in my life Pre-Kids I had shelf upon shelf of shiny, colourful self-help books that, even if I actually found time to read them, would go back on the shelf, un-actioned. But I guess deep down there still lingers the desire to make my life even better, happier, more efficient and more productive.
So you can imagine how eager I was to grab the chance to review a brand-new self-help book: The Book of YOU. It’s a small, beautiful-looking paperback filled with 365 short ‘micro-actions’ and some unobtrusive photos. The idea is that you complete one of the actions every day (so micro-action = daily challenge, if you like) to “achieve a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life”. Each challenge is a sentence or 2 under one of the 4 areas Food, Mind, Move and Love that you can complete very quickly. Although you might think from the cover that it’s been written by Jamie Oliver, there are 6 expert contributors as well as the young team of 5 behind the book.
So. Let’s cut to the chase. How did I get on?
Well, I was never going to be one for reading just one action a day and trying it out in a disciplined fashion, was I? Instead, I had a bit of a browse each morning when I woke up: after slamming off the alarm clock I’d reach for the book and find an action that felt good (or easy…).
Action 6 was all about reflecting on my personal commandments and writing them down. Oof, I can barely see just now, never mind grip a pen and make sensible scribbles. Turn that page. Next!
7. Take Care of Yourself… “Today schedule an appointment with a doctor, dentist, accountant or neglected friend. You’ll feel more relaxed immediately and it only takes a phone call.” Go on, then – I’ll make that dental appointment for a possible filling. Well, after I have a coffee first. And walk the kids to school. And sit down and have a big old fret about it. And wait on the engaged phoneline for long enough to get very anxious indeed. But I have to admit that after the appointment, I did feel good (perhaps because I didn’t need any treatment at all?). In fact, I felt so good that I scheduled the whole of the next day to fighting with little bits of paper and get my tax return done. That was so traumatic that I’m still giddy with relief that it’s been submitted before the deadline. Ha!
Onward to 8. Enjoy the Weather. Oh, this could be pushing against an open door – I’m a confessed cloud-spotter. “All weather is beautiful in its own right. Today take a few minutes and enjoy the weather outside…”. This was the day after the floods cut off nearby villages, stopped many people in my village getting home that night, and all around us houses and fields were under water. And it was still raining. Beautiful? Really? Crikey, this was going to be a challenge and a half! So I took a little stroll to the burn near our house and felt incredibly relieved that although it had burst its banks and was gushing over the footbridge, the gravel beds beside it were doing their job and stopping the floodwater reaching the houses. On the way back I nodded at neighbours doing the same, in a silent, grim recognition that whilst the weather might not actually be beautiful, the forethought of the estate developer certainly was…
Throughout the past few weeks I’ve been carrying on similarly: I ignore some actions; do others repeatedly; do 2 on one day and nothing for 3. I basically dip in and out of the book whenever I sit down for a coffee if I’ve not read it first thing in the morning.
It’s early days yet (I’m only 20 days in!) and I can’t say that my life has changed noticeably – maybe there’s an action later on how to stop pesky night-time palpitations and a dodgy memory?! – but I do enjoy completing the micro-actions. I don’t think that the haphazard approach I’m taking will have a long-term benefit because none of the positive actions I’m taking will be done repetitively enough to turn into habits and therefore become truly life-changing. But completion and success feels good, I’m not hurting anyone, it’s entertaining and it’s keeping me out of trouble.
If this kind of daily challenge is your favoured motivator, then you can get the book from lots of booksellers. I’ve linked to Amazon at the top of this post where it’s currently retailing for just under £7 (RRP £8.99). It’s published by Penguin under ISBN 978-1-405-92413-9. You can also sign up for an App that sends you a daily challenge, but personally I’d find failing to achieve it every single day a new source of anxiety. And the New Me of 2016 is no longer an Anxiety Monkey, seeking out new and improved worries…
Footnote: I should also say that Mumsnet gave me the book to review honestly. I didn’t receive payment.