Coming out just in time for New Year’s Resolution season, Now or Never: Your Epic Life in 5 Steps promises a prescription for whatever it is you want to accomplish in your life — lose weight, better job, better love life. It’s all there, it’s all good, with an excess of CAPITALIZATIONS, italics, and enthusiasm! Actually, Panos and Smiles almost lost me with the book’s opening salvo, “Hello, you sexy beast!” — that’s just a little too familiar, too pandering and all-up-in-my-face. But, OK, maybe other people like flattery with their self-help.
The five steps prescribe by the authors to achieve an epic life are:
- You always have a choice.
- Be radically responsible.
- Act now.
- Own who you are.
- Have a blast.
That first step is about identifying the unconscious biases and impulses under which we operate in life. This includes asking people for “feedback interviews,” which sound equal parts enlightening and excruciating. The authors recommend such questions as “How would you describe me in three words?”; “What would you say are three areas I could improve on?”; “What are three things you LOVE about how I am with you in our relationship?”; “What would you say are my negative patterns that I may not be aware of?”
From there, you are urged to assume “radical responsibility” for your feelings. The authors write, “…pain is inevitable but suffering is a CHOICE. When we choose radical responsibility, we choose the empowering perspective that we are responsible for our experience of the event — no matter how undesirable or beautiful it may be.”
The premise is, of course, indisputable. We do have a choice about whether to be victims or wallow in “victim consciousness,” but the authors wander into some potentially inflammatory territory when they write, “Another great example is people who consume standard packaged food from the grocery store for most of their adult life. If you take into consideration the chemicals, sugars, and preservatives found in these foods, people who choose to eat such foods on a consistent basis could have helped bring about their cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Based on their choices, they created the ENVIRONMENT for disease to occur.” People struggling with health problems don’t really like being scolded and shamed by strangers.
Step three, “Act now,” starts with conscious breathing and centering before proceeding into facing your fear, reframing failure, rewriting the stories you attach to events. “Own who you are” is about recognizing what you truly value and what your own definition of success is, and opening up to the full truth of your humanity (what the authors, with multiple exclamation points, call getting naked). “Have a blast” is all about rediscovering the value of fun in life.
None of the advice in the book is groundbreaking, all of it makes sense. I rarely follow the full, exhausting program prescribed in books like this, but rather read them to glean nuggets that resonate with me, that can be mantras spurring me to healthy action.
I found a couple in here: “Your complaint is your mission” (griping about something is a clue that you need to do something about it); “The comfort zone is where dreams go to die” (you can’t live an “epic” life without doing things that scare you); and “Goals are BS,” which struck me as the freshest thought in the book — the authors suggest we drop the idea of setting concrete goals and instead aspire to a feeling, so as not to lock ourselves into what we think is the right road to wherever it is we hope to go. “Set the goal of how we want to feel first so that we can then surrender to however that may end up revealing itself to us,” they write, followed by fill-in-the-blanks for goals and routes there.
The problem with this book, though, is its very broad strokes. While I don’t quibble with the ideas and goals, the presentation is so abstract as to make focusing on them difficult. The premises are basic and could be helpful to people who might not have thought along these lines before, and the perky tone might be motivating to anyone feeling stuck (and who doesn’t find it off-putting), but the authors have tried to pack so much into their five steps that seeing the connections can be difficult. What might work in a seminar format, where you can let your mind bob along on the presenter’s words and wander into tributaries, can be overwhelming and even confusing in book form.
While the authors use examples from their own lives here and there throughout the book, Now or Never would have benefited tremendously from many more concrete examples and anecdotes, perhaps gleaned from the thousands of people the authors say they have helped in seminars and workshops.
“The higher self is where our genius lives,” the authors writer. “It’s a direct line to the source, opening up your life to limitless creativity, harmony and pure, unadulterated abundance.”
Sounds great. Really. Accessing your higher self, an epic life, is a worthy goal. But it just might take more than five steps to get there, no matter how many exclamation points you use.
Now or Never: Your Epic Life in 5 Steps
North Star Way, December 2016
Hardcover, 240 pages