Your own way

2 April 2010 by Jennifer

Lots of people are ready to give you advice. But only some of it will be any use – because they’re not you.

Lovely article from Havi this week, one of my favourites ever from her:

Some useful guiding principles for the Book of You.

People vary.

That’s why it’s the Book of You and not the Book of Humanity In General That Is Also Known As The Book of All Things For All People At All Time.

All the biggified people on the internet shouting about how you have to write in the morning and you can’t have more than three projects and how you always have to do X to get Y?

They’re not talking about you. They’re talking about themselves. They are sharing some of the information from that big Book of Them.

In fact, lots of things vary.

Just because something is true for you right now doesn’t mean it’s always going to be true for you.

The Book of You isn’t about absolutes. It’s about taking various factors into consideration, and figuring out what you can extrapolate from what you know. And then testing.

I was especially tickled at the “That’s why it’s the Book of You and not the Book of Humanity In General That Is Also Known As The Book of All Things For All People At All Time.” Hahahaha!

Received wisdom that isn’t very wise

This has been a major theme of my explorations for the last ten years or so: disentangling what actually works for me from what I once nicknamed “Received wisdom that isn’t very wise”.

It seems to me that a lot of people don’t realise what Havi so succinctly points out. They talk, and write articles and books, as though everyone is much more similar to them than is actually the case. Sometimes they get so evangelical about their wonderful methods, you could accidentally start to wonder if you’re wrong for not being able to succeed along that route.

So then as a listener/reader, you have to do your own filtering. Does this fit? Does that fit? Does this method help, or am I in fact hindering myself by trying to do things that way when I’m not wired like that person is?


A few books which I’ve found useful on the quest:

  • Time to Think, by Nancy Kline – I’ve already sung the praises of this recently.

  • Finding your own North Star, by Martha Beck. This book actually came out in 2001, but I didn’t discover it at the time; it was maybe around mid 2008 when I happened upon it by some route which I can’t now remember (perhaps just browsing in the library). It has a model for four stages of change, which I liked, but I think my favourite aspect of it was the guidance on how to listen for your body telling you what you already know – inc literal “gut feelings”. E.g. how do you feel physically when you’re about to do something that, although it might have some theoretical arguments in favour, will lead you down a “wrong path”? versus how do you feel when you’re about to do something which, while perhaps scary, will be exactly right for you?

  • Creating a life worth living, by Carol Lloyd. This was lent and then given to me by my friend Dee, some years ago now. In some ways, the above two books have superseded this one for me, with their even more infinitely customisable approaches to human diversity. But at the time, I found it extraordinarily refreshing to read a book which explicitly set out some of the dimensions in which people are different, and invited the reader to investigate what they themselves are like and what suits them, rather than expecting the reader to follow the One True Blueprint. I still like to reread sometimes all the interviews with artists, dancers, writers & other creative people.

  • In a slightly different vein, but still respectful of people’s differences: The power of full engagement, by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwarz. Their big theme is the need to balance intensity with rest, and this is great on setting up your own rituals, perfectly suited to you, to nurture and refresh you.

All recommended by me :-)

Appreciation, criticism & new ideas all welcome...

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