Get a Life that Doesn't Suck

Michelle DeAngelis has put in the time in the real world. She has had to manage employees at a large company, and has consulted with many companies on how to motivate their workers. The place she is trying to get people to is one where they are happy, enjoying life, feeling rewarded in work and having fun with their friends and family. However, so many people feel trapped in their world that they dismiss any sort of "the world can be better" dialogue. Instead, Michelle is coming at it from another angle. If you feel your life sucks, here is how to get out of that quagmire. This is a message which will appeal to MANY people.

The book begins with a quiz to evaluate just how bad things are right now. You look at your life from a variety of angles - health, love, and so on. You figure out for you personally where the fixing has to start. Then she breaks down the instructions into ten areas:

* having a choice
* mentally having a positive outlook
* taking action
* being healthy
* developing a system
* being OK with surprises
* loving yourself and others
* saying what you mean, meaning what you say
* giving and being grateful
* having fun

She is very clear on saying that the trap many people fall into - of saying "I'll be happy when x happens" is the poison you've got to purge from your system. You can't wait for the future to be happy. You need to learn to be happy now, and to build on that.

We all get hit with lightning bolts that we have to handle. Her advice for those is to:

Acknowledge the issue
Choose a new reaction
Kick it into gear

She gives many great examples of people caught in what might seem impossible situations - but by taking a step back and really thinking about it they were able to find workable situations.

This is not just about mental joy. "People with higher happiness scores on psychological tests have up to 50% more antibodies," she reports. You actually become physically more healthy, the more you are able to find joy in your daily life. Part of this is due to neuroplasty - that what you think about a great deal actually affects your brain's pathways. If you learn to handle stress well, it becomes a normal thing to you. If you learn to find pleasure in your morning cup of coffee, then it affects your entire day.

A hard concept for many people to grasp is "no one can 'make' you feel an emotion". She goves over this in detail, giving examples. Emotions happen in your head. It can be hard at first, but you can re-train your brain on how to react, to have a much healthier reaction that serves you far better than the one you currently have as your knee-jerk solution. It doesn't matter if it takes a while to get the hang of your new techniques. She quotes a Japanese proverb - "Fall down seven times, get up eight." If you keep at it, you will succeed.

Another great mental image she provides if of the logjam. If everything is all jammed up and gummed and stuck, don't stress about the entire situation. Find just one log, just one item, and focus on that. It could be that unsticking that one problem will help everything work out.

The book is just amazingly full of this type of helpful, specific information. She points out that releasing grudges is NOT about condoning the person's "bad" behavior - but rather about freeing your own mental state to be more calm and content. "Say what you mean and do what you say" also removes a lot of stress from life. She points out "you get what you tolerate" - that by setting boundaries, even if it's hard at first, you make your life much better. Even simple things like eating healthily every few hours to maintain an even metabolism can make a huge difference.

One of the amazing stories here that really stood out to me is that a paper in DC hired a world class violinist to play a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarious violion in a metro station. Only **seven** adults stopped to listen to him, realizing something amazing was going on!! However, EVERY kid stopped to stare. We need to regain that child-like awareness of the world around us, and the ability to see the beauty in our lives.

If I had one minor complaint about the book, it was an example she gave of having to once trim a multi-million dollar budget by 15%, and she was only given 3 days to do it in. She was also about to get on a plane to Russia. Her solution was to just cut everything (including salaries) by 15% and call it done. She had probably a 20-hour flight ahead of her!! Why not tuck the files into her bags, stretch out on the plane, work on it in a leisurely fashion and then call in her results from Russia? That would seem the saner response. I don't like "quick" solutions that are bad. I like intelligent solutions that are optimized.

Still, that was just one example in a book that does a great job of combining Buddhist insight, Christian charity and a plethora of other systems into one easy to read, easy to understand book. Michelle did an awesome job here. Highly recommended.

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