Monday, March 22, 2010

Inspirational Reads

In 1999, I found myself a recently separated woman with four very young children and a precocious 11 year old in low income housing in the center of a declining mid-size northeastern city trying to live each day with positivity but often struggling inside myself to be OK. One of my greatest pleasures was my every other week trip to the downtown library sans kids while they visited their father. The library has a browse-about section where the books are group by genres or topics, and I, being who I am, felt it necessary (and enjoyable) to browse every single section every single time I was there. One of those sections was devoted to self-help books, and occasionally a book there would catch my eye and find its way home with me.

Most of those books couldn't hold my attention. A few I read but found not so much of the material applicable to me. A couple stood out. I thought I would share those today.

The first is A Gift of A Year by Mira Kirshenbaum. The premise of this book is that we can each improve our lives by choosing to devote a small amount of time on a regular basis to an activity or goal for a year. For example, you may choose to take weekly piano lessons and practice each day for an hour if you have always wanted to play the piano. Your gift need not be so simple or so obvious though. One example in the book is of someone who has owns a restaurant and spends a lot of time running it. Her gift to herself was to dedicate a certain amount of time each week to properly training others to take over many of her responsibilities ultimately giving herself more free time.

Although I did not exactly follow the plan presented in this book, I did incorporate many of the ideas presented into my life, and when I feel stuck, I often think about this book wondering if there is a gift that I need to give myself. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially to those of you who feel stuck in some way and may need a plan or even permission to give yourself a gift that can increase your pleasure this year.

The second is Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Barbara Sher has written a host of excellent self help books, and this is her first, and in my opinion her best. This is not because it is the most polished or even has the best advice, but because it is written so soon after her own struggle to find her niche and to create a happy life (which included finding her own career calling - being a career coach). The book just vibrates with realism, and is optimistic and positive without becoming too fake or flakey. Working through many of the exercises in this book helped me cement goals, drop goals, and achieve goals. I can't recommend it enough!

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