Can a 176-page book and four questions provide enough information and insight to change your life?
That’s a good question. It is something authors Mick Ukleja, PhD and Robert L. Lorber, PhD attempt to do in their book, Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life. Here are the secret four that comprise the book:
- Who are you and what do you want?
- Where are you and why are you there?
- What will you do and how will you do it?
- Who are your allies and how can they help?
It is suited for those who feel stuck in their lives because of crisis, fear, or obstacles on their way to success and happiness. Desire a career that you are passionate about and unhappy with the life path you are currently on? This is the book for you. The real question is “Did it pass the test?” It did in some ways and failed in others.
The authors created these four questions, which they call a “four dimensional process,” based on clients from high school students to entrepreneurs that they mentored, counseled and consulted for more than 30 years. These central questions are presumed to be the doorway to discovering your inner self.
The book itself was broken up into brief paragraphs on various topics such as “Setting a Course” and “Motivation to Change.” If you have read other self-help books, the beginning chapters on following your North Star and learning to be more authentic by getting out of your own way may sound like something you have read before. At least for me, there was nothing new here.
But the authors also discuss how to discover your truth by being honest with yourself (“I don’t like my job, but I don’t know what else to do,” for example), as well as taking ownership and becoming a leader to your own life. Although they are short chapters, they inspire a great deal of self-analysis.
In particular, Ukleja and Lorber describe two common fears that act as obstacles on your path toward success. The “impostor syndrome” is a common fear that you don’t deserve to have the life you want and “tropophobia” is a fear of change. If you believe you don’t deserve to be paid well or to be in a healthy relationship, for example, then you will constantly sabotage your way to get what you want in life.
How do you prevent fear from getting in the way of your dreams? Ukleja and Lorber believe that by being in tune with yourself and your desires, you will get closer to a happier, more authentic life. This is the reason why each chapter ends with several self-reflective questions and why the last third of the book, entitled “Your 48-Hour Personal Retreat,” is focused on self-reflection and analysis.
The meat of the book is in the middle four chapters, which correspond to the central questions the book is named after. Chapter 3, for example, “Who Are You and What Do You Want?” gets you to answer these questions through an exercise I found particularly helpful. In a three circles diagram, you list your strengths, passions, and obligations, which together forms what they call the “sweet spot.”
When you are engaged in an activity or a job that uses your talents, ignites your passions, and fulfills your obligations, you’re living in your sweet spot. The more these three circles overlap, the larger your sweet spot grows.
If you are a visual person, creating a list of what your obligations are, what you’re good at and passionate about, then seeing it together this way can encourage a better understanding of your goals. When I did it, it helped me to discover themes and see patterns in all three that I didn’t know existed.
There are also practical tips sprinkled throughout the book such as creating a to-don’t list (to eliminate unnecessary tasks), setting specific goals and finding mentors to assist you on your road to change.
At its best, the book provides lots of tips and insightful questions to get you on the right path. Although I was initially skeptical about whether a few questions could change your life, the last chapter of the book really impressed me. Their comprehensive list of questions, diagrams and exercises such as creating SMART (Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals and replacing negative self-talk with more positive ones, incorporates research-based and practical strategies for creating change. And it nicely ties back to the questions asked and lessons learned in previous chapters.
The book definitely does not address deeper mental health issues, but it is a light and easy read that can provide the space and opportunity for someone who is ready for change. To get the most from this book, like anything else in life, you need to do the work. If you spend the time to search within yourself, and answer the questions honestly, then it could be a life-changing eye-opening experience. That is what the authors seem to be advocating anyway — to empower yourself by listening to yourself and leading your own life. And in doing so, they achieved their purpose. Who are You? What Do You Want? was insightful, informative and overall a well-done little book.
Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life
By Mick Ukleja, PhD and Robert L. Lorber, PhD
Perigee Trade: September 2009
Hardcover, 176 pages