on October 9, 2001
There are shelves and shelves of books on "making your dreams come true," but remarkably few that deal with identifying WHAT your dream is. My own background is similar to Beck's: I bought into my parents' dream that I would have an academic career, went all the way through a Ph.D., found a teaching job -- and discovered that I felt like a fish out of water. I was lucky enough to turn my skills into another career, but it's never engaged my heart, and if I could afford to abandon it I'd do so tomorrow without a single pang of regret. What to do with the rest of my life? I've been grappling with that question for several years now, and, after working through Beck's exercises, I feel for the first time that I'm approaching an answer.
The second part of the book deals with the change process and making your newly found dream into reality. Other writers have dealt with this (notably Barbara Sher), but I found Beck's approach more compelling for two reasons: (1) She doesn't gloss over the difficulties of creating a new life for yourself -- while she points out (as do many other authors) that the mere act of goal-setting can be very powerful, she also emphasizes that achieving those goals will be a long, difficult job. (2) She sees life changes as cyclic. Some books seem to imply that, once you've created a new life for yourself, you'll be settled for the rest of your days. That's just not true, and I felt that she did a good job of preparing readers for the inevitable NEXT series of changes in their lives. (Recommended supplementary reading: William Bridges' books on transitions.) All in all, I feel this is the best book of its type that I've read, and I recommend it highly to anyone who's grappling with these same issues in their own life.
As a career/life coach who works with clients in midlife transition, I recommend this book to just about every client.
This is the ONE book to buy -- and I mean buy, not borrow! --
if you are undergoing a life transition.
Actually, despite the title, Martha Beck is a career counselor and the book focuses on career change. However, as Beck points out, relationships and personal questions can influence career change. Wisely she encourages readers to seek help from qualified therapists if personal issues cloud their careers -- but she is not afraid to tackle the tough emotional questions.
And her analysis of emotions would do credit to any personality or social psychologist. Fear, for instance, may not be fear at all.
Perhaps the best parts of the book are the chapter on intuition (a gem) and the five chapters that address the four stages of career change. Beck's view of intuition is sensible -- not New Age woo-woo but a way to gain deeper insight into our own motives. And describing the stages of transition, Beck gives us realistic indicators (those in phase 2 typically change their appearance!) as well as warnings about what to expect.
It's easy to miss the message between the lines, but Beck does hint that the path of change will not be an easy one. Unlike many authors, she dispenses with false cheer and hints of pain and sacrifice along the way. Change isn't magical. It can happen -- but you have to be realistic about yourself and your objectives.
That's a message I try to share with all my clients -- and I've sold so many copies of this book by word of mouth, I've been tempted to claim a share of the royalties. Don't miss it.
on July 24, 2001
Okay, maybe I've gone a bit overboard. But only a very little. I had previously read "Expecting Adam," which I thought was good although it brought my own grad-student days in Boston way too close too home :( This book, however, is more than "self-help." It's a blueprint for learning how to make your own choices, accept responsibility for making things better, and a PhD course in the "life lessons" that are so obvious, we've forgotten them. As in "If it brings you joy, do it. No, seriously, if it brings you joy, do it." Martha (I can't call her Mrs. Beck, because after my husband and I formed a "study group" to work through the exercises in this book together, she's become the fairy godmother I never had!) might have gotten a PhD in sociology, but thank God her North Star steered her towards writing. This book is better than years of powerful Freudian therapy (which heaven knows I've had, as well as Adlerian.) It's difficult to speak in specifics, since the book covers issues from psychosomatic illness, decision-making, visualization, and so forth, but the plan she lays out is simple: Figure out what you love. Do it--and she'll tell what land mines you may encounter along the way, the various false starts, opposition from within/without, and offers concrete strategies (and I mean REALLY concrete--this is definitely an interactive book, so get ready to start writing, thinking, and loving your life.) Martha, please keep writing! Here's a big electronic hug ....
on September 5, 2003
This is the best book I have found on helping one discover what kind of work/career will truly bring them fulfillment. I've been looking for something like this for over 20 years, starting with "What Color is Your Parachute?", and followed by many more.
The book is great in that it not only provides a solid foundation and methods for helping this discovery, it also goes into the psychology that may hinder one's ability to do this, and offers real suggestions on what to do.
So many times I read what another reviewer calls "feel good books". I hate them too. They are a waste of time. This is the only book I've found that really offers something useful.
I read Po Bronson's "What Should I Do With My Life?", and loved it, because I saw how so many others also struggle with this issue, but was very disappointed that it didn't provide any thoughts or guidance to answer that question.
Until I read this book, I was coming to the conclusion that all of these self-help books are so much BS; now I have the atlas for my journey.
Thank you Martha Beck!
on May 21, 2001
FINDING YOUR OWN NORTH STAR is a breath of fresh air, a glimmer of hope and besides being immensely helpful and instructive is a good read! It's not often that all those ingredients are found in a self-help book. I would recommend snatching this gem up for anyone who's feeling a little lost or off-track with their life. Martha Beck's straightforward, honest, and poignant writing makes you feel as if your really really smart and really really sensitive best friend was helping you figure out how to regain--or even experience for the first time--the sense of joy in life that everybody deserves. Beck gives you the map and the tools for evaluating your own dreams, goals, morals, and even sense of self and helps you dig down deep within yourself to explore what *really* makes you happy!
on May 22, 2001
I became interested in this book after reading a few of Martha Beck's columns in Real Simple magazine. She takes a serious subject, what to do with your life, and breaks it down into manageable exercises and a humorous narrative. I would recommend this book to anyone, at any point in their lives. I found the first exercise on page 14 to be completely mind blowing.
This is not Dr. Phil's "work in the system, suck it up, and get over it" mentality that Oprah has exposed the world to. This is someone who has "been there" and wants to share with you how to move past "there", with humor, creativity and style!
on July 30, 2001
This book is rock solid. It shows you how to progress from wherever you are to your North Star, in a series of well put together, extremely realistic, "do-it" chapters. The book shows you how to figure out what your dream, your North Star is, and then in small, practical and pragmatic real-world steps, it shows you how to get there. The book also helps you to expose your own mental and emotional programming you may not even have known you had, programming that may have slowed you down or held you back altogether, and it shows you how to lessen their impact/be rid of them altogether. A side benefit is that the exercises, if you follow them through, are truly a spiritual, awakening experience. I can't recommend this book enough. :)
on November 2, 2004
I enjoyed reading this book. It is easy to read and has a lot of exercises to help readers understand how we tick. The most important part for me was becoming aware of how we give up my essential self in favor of our social self. Since I have had this awareness, I check in with myself to make sure I make the right choices. I don't think you can go wrong with this book if you want to learn more about what motivates your behavior. I strongly suggest another book, Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self which turned my life in the right direction and helped me to create a wonderful life. Optimal Thinking showed me how to make the most of any situation and how to resolve every emotion and become emotionally self-reliant.
on May 31, 2002
I am a longtime fan of self-help and self-improvement books, and this one is THE BEST. (My runner-up authors would have to be Iyanla Vanzant and Caroline Myss.) Martha Beck's book is full of wise insight about humanity and her own life; she speaks to you like a very close, supportive friend who also happens to be a genius in psychology.
There is something about the exercises in Beck's book that makes me WANT to do them; many self-help books make me feel abandoned as if the teacher has left the classroom and has handed out a not-too-meaningful quiz for the students to complete during his/her absence. In Beck's book, the exercises are just so relevant-- and she helps you weave your answers into something meaningful that will help you gain more insight into yourself.
This is a book to keep close at hand, and refer to often. I'm planning to reread it continually. Thanks to Martha Beck!
on November 1, 2004
This book talks the reader through a fun and practical path to a meaningful life. Beck writes in a playful, funny, lighthearted manner while also appreciating the difficulty and the need of living an authentic and meaningful ife. Beck uses a framework based on finding YOUR "social self" and your "essential self". Your social self is the one created by culture and society, the rule follower. Your essential self is passionate and could care less about rules. The book provides exersizes to help the reader become better in touch with his/her essential self, and thus engage in more joyful and fullfilling activities. This is a book that is based on acceptance, Beck encourages you to embrace what you may have previously judged as too "wierd" to pay attention to (what would I do if I knew no one would ever find out?). She also talks about facing fears (what would I do if I weren't scared?). There's even a little relationship advice (ie. assertive, not offensive, communication). And lots of information about "navagating" your emotions, great for those of us who are scared or unaware of our emotions.
I bought Finding your own North Star over a year ago and go back to it regularly for a "refresher" course. One activity I go back to often is a "body scan" type activity in which she describes a sort of meditative activity step-by-step, for those of us who find it difficult to clear our minds for any amount of time. Overall a life altering book with LOTS of material, a great investment!!