on January 29, 2007
What I like best about M.J. Ryan is that she is a compassionate writer. She is writing about something that is very difficult to do: change. It is clear that she understands that change is hard; nobody is perfect, and people will slip. Her acceptance inspires your own acceptance of the perils of change and your personal foibles. She encourages you to take the leap into change despite your doubts. She makes you believe that change may be hard but with her advice it is possible and even probable.
Her advice is clear and precise; the book is jam-packed with information but without an excess of words. She looks at all the essential issues involved in making changes. She begins with the basics, the things that you must do to make a change and make it last: You must be specific. You must plan. You must prepare. You must really want it. You must make a commitment. You must take action. You must re-evaluate when things aren't working. You must get back on track when you slip up.
Yes, all of that sounds very familiar. What isn't so familiar is her analysis of exactly how all that works, why it works the way it does, and precisely what to do to assure that it works the way it should. She also tells you the probable reasons for your efforts going awry, as well as what to do when you do run into trouble.
Like any good writer who compels your attention, she illustrates her points with apt examples and anecdotes. As with the rest of her writing, the stories are made most effective by their brevity. I am reminded of a textbook I was once assigned in college. It was called "The Force of Few Words" and was about how poetry achieves its powerful effects. M.J. Ryan is not writing poetry, but her words are full of "rhyme and reason" and her advice together with her stories will make you believe in your power to change.
on January 26, 2007
Last year was a duzzy. So many things went wrong in my life, that I wondered if I'd get through the year intact. Feeling as down as I did, I'd been looking for books that might give me some help with restructuring my life and my attitude. This one is the best of those that I've read so far.
M. J. Ryan's book "This Year I Will..." is considerably more helpful than any other self-help book primarily because she is far more precise in her approach to change. She's also very up front with the fact that change is not going to come instantaneously or easily. Whether it's as simple as putting the laundry detergent in before the wash or after it (her own experience) or trying to lose weight or quit smoking, it will take time and hard work, and there are no handy short cuts about it.
This may be disappointing to those of us who would like a quick fix to our problems and who find dealing with them frustrating, time consuming, and sometimes expensive--remember all those health clubs, weight loss programs, clinics, and magic potions that purport to make weight loss "easy" but at great cost? Don't get discouraged; read on. The author gives points for past "failures" and looks at them as, more-or-less, "first attempts" rather than as a sign of our inability to make changes in our lives. Furthermore, she also tells you why this is so.
Unlike many of the self-help books out there, Ryan's gives you an explanation of why you have a hard time changing, and why it's important to get back on that "bicycle" and try again. It's quite obvious that she is an extensively read professional. Using very up to date information from the recent discoveries in mind-brain research, she describes the neurological processes that go into making our bad habits so difficult to eradicate.
Without going into endless, unintelligible detail, she describes the processes by which our bodies make responses that have been found "successful" more permanent and automatic. She describes the various parts of the brain, their origin, and how they work together--or sometimes don't--so that it is clear why we sometimes resist making those changes we should or even must to survive. Without getting down to the circuitry or the chemistry, she points out that the higher levels of brain function, which can make executive decisions regarding the wisdom of change, may be subverted by the more basic levels of automatic behavior. Responsible for the flight-fight response and for the safety and wellbeing of the organism this more emotional brain may not be willing to help. Might in fact even work at cross purposes.
Ms Ryan explains that neuropathways become hardwired in our brains to the point where they are virtually ineradicatable . It is often said in books on mind-brain research, "nerves that fire together wire together," and as the author says, you're stuck with them.
What she proposes is not brain surgery to remove the troublesome pathway but developing a new pathway that competes with the old one. She points out that it takes a lot of time and work to create such a competitive behavior, but that with each successful effort to do so, the nerves responsible for the behavior become more habituated to the activity, making it easier with time.
Ryan also notes that we WILL have lapses as we go, because those old pathways are pretty powerful. Just having given it a try, though, has already started to initiate the changes desired--at least we now have a wagon to fall off of. She has several good recommendations on how to gradually bypass that old pathway and even several alternative approaches for some tasks.
The book is arranged in a graduated format of chapters, each one giving in a short few pages the information you need at each point in your effort to change. I read the book cover to cover first in about two hours, then I began at the beginning and started following some of her suggestions. Each chapter becomes sort of a "workbook" of things to do at each level of the change process.
The author also makes reference to other writers on the subject of personal change that have interesting things to add, and it is obvious that she does not work in a vacuum but in collaboration with others in the field; in short she's open minded. So there are other resources to which you may turn as need arises.
Probably one of the most important points she makes is that one needs to be definite about which change you're willing to make the effort to undertake. Global responses make taking action on anything impossible, so you have to select your changes with care. She also suggests that the problem be specific, with clearly defined behaviors needed to accomplish your goal and a clear means of evaluating the change. She makes a point of noting that monitoring the progress of your change is important, partially because it gives a clear measure of success and partially because it provides the satisfaction of actually seeing your efforts worth their expense. Ryan even sees back sliding as a means of assessing your progress and as an opportunity to evaluate what works and what doesn't, and thereby to make appropriate changes in your plan.
An excellent book, very precise in its recommendations.
on August 30, 2007
I'm almost finished with this book and when I do, I plan to start it over again! Absolutely the best book of it's kind that I've ever read. Thank you, MJ Ryan. PS- I lost 27#, work at the gym now and quit smoking...all in the last 4 months. Her book has been instrumental in helping me to make these 'dreams' a reality.
on January 3, 2007
I ran across this book by accident but I'm glad I did. It is very interesting. The book focuses on 3 of the 5 stages of change - preparation, action/implementation and maintenance. The author utilizes wonderful examples and real life mini case studies to illustrate her points. I find that I enjoy the book more when I read a few passages, put the book aside, then go back to it. It gives me time to digest it. The author does make lots of references to other authors works and quotes famous people (i.e. Naomi Judd) in the passages which makes reading sound a little like an advertisement for other authors work but it's not so annoying that the book isn't still worth having.
If you're like me, I make solid resolutions but then I sometimes have a hard time following through. This book will help you think of resolutions in a new way and consider some things you may not have thought of before. Your success in achieving your resolutions is worth the price of this book. I think this would be a nice Christmas or Birthday gift as well.
on July 5, 2008
I'm someone who spent years stuck in a rut. I spent a lot of time wondering why I never got anything done but never did anything beyond wondering. I've spent the last few years turning my entire life around. I quit drinking, quit smoking, started working out, started taking my job seriously (which has garnered me two promotions in three years), and generally started taking charge of my life and I've found that I love getting up and getting to it every day. Something I never could have claimed before in my 30+ years. A lot of these changes have been hard work. I've read a LOT of self help material and found hidden gems here and there. I only wish I had found THIS book years earlier. Everything I've learned. Everything I've known. It's help me put all of that into action. Have you ever run across a situation where you KNOW you could teach the world how to do something but you just CAN'T do it yourself? Well, this is the book for you. I'm on my second time reading it and I just bought three more copies, bringing my total purchased to eight. I've given them away to a lot of the people I kind of left behind when I started changing my old life. Even the ones who don't read are reading it. I've seen weight loss, better jobs, less stress, less anger, reduced drinking, happier relationships... all as a result of things myself and these people have learned through the steps in this book.
If you find yourself in a rut and just can't seem to move forward. Or even if you're doing fine and think you might just need a little push. This book is a priceless work.
Thanks to the author and good luck to everyone else who reads it!
on March 28, 2007
MJ Ryan is one of my favorite authors. Her book, Random Acts of Kindness, started all kinds of initiatives that contribute to the world being kinder.
Her latest book is very, very special. This book is a perfect December read BEFORE one makes New Year's resolutions that are often shattered within the first couple of weeks. In an easy read style that characterizes her writing, she logically sets out why we so often find personal change difficult and then shares her prescription for making changes.
Corny as it may seem to some, I carry this book with me during my many business trips across the country. It has become both a symbol and a guidebook for a series of changes I am implementing in 2007. For me, this little book is working like a charm.
Ah...yet another kindness from Ms. Ryan. One for which I am most grateful.
on April 1, 2009
This book didn't tell me anything new or groundbreaking. I bought it on the spur of the moment thinking I might need the extra advice to put some order in my life and because, like most people I guess, I break half of my new year's resolutions. But I didn't learn anything new and you probably won't either. Granted, the advice is common sense but you might be left with a bitter taste thinking "ok, is that it?". Some of this "life-changing" advice includes rules like "getting clear on what you want", "keep a journal" or "imagine your future positive self". Thanks, I already knew that. Also, certain scientific facts are not so well researched and that affects credibility (e.g - she makes vague neurological references in one chapter). But on the plus side, the advice, while pretty simple, can be useful if you're having a really hard time trying to change a bad habit. But just don't raise your expectations too high.
on February 10, 2008
I just finished reading this little book and I have to say I was so completely surprised. It was a fun read with so much wisdom and practical information. I found myself underlining and highlighting because there were so many great gems in this book. Anyone trying to change a habit, start a new one, or just to get inspired, I highly recommend this book. M.J. Ryan is an excellent writer who writes as if she is talking with and old friend, plus she refers to other great authors and tells the stories of others lives that add to the strength of this small but mighty book.
on December 15, 2008
As all the other reviewers point out, this book is well-written, compassionate, specific and smart. (I am especially impressed by the short chapter on urge surfing, and her suggestion to identify and differentiate Sensory feedback, Images, Feelings and Thoughts [SIFT]). What impressed me most, however, is her conclusion: that practicing a new habit not only builds character, enabling us to tackle new challenges, but expands the soul. By being all too aware of our imperfections, and learning how to apologize to and forgive ourselves, we can't help but become more compassionate to ourselves and to others in the process. Better than any other writer I've come across, MJ Ryan weaves together the neurological, spiritual and global.
on March 14, 2007
I love this book. Anything that makes me do something I've been avoiding for so long is powerful. I only have this book for a couple of days and already I'm energized. Thank you M.J. Ryan.