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Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters Hardcover – January 7, 1999
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Some people spend their lives reacting to what life hands them, while others craft life to fit their goals. Author Phillip C. McGraw, who is a psychologist but describes himself as a strategist, is determined to make sure that his readers are the creators of their lives, not created by their lives. By accepting that you are personally accountable for every element of your life, McGraw says, you can erase the negative "epidemic behaviors" (found in all of American society: denial, false assumptions, inertia, deceptive masking) in your life and reach your goals.
Written in a tough-love, sometimes cantankerous tone, this self-help book is not for those looking to explore their inner child or visualize away negative energy. No, this is pull-yourself-up-by-the- bootstraps advice from someone who's done just that. McGraw opens with a scene describing how he helped Oprah Winfrey survive--and win--the 1998 "Mad Cow" lawsuit in Texas, when she was having difficulty coping with the reality of what was happening to her. He helped her face the facts about the lawsuit, after which she was better able to participate in crafting a strategy to win it.
McGraw first forces you to take a good hard look at who you are by dissecting your personality. It may be painful to realize that you fall into the "Porcupine" or "Perfecto" or any of the other personality types McGraw delineates, but here it's true that there's no gain without pain, because (Life Law No. 4) "You Can't Change What You Don't Acknowledge." He then describes in depth all 10 "Life Laws"--the rules by which the world plays--that he learned the hard way. Laws such as "You Either Get It, or You Don't," "Life Is Managed; It Is Not Cured," and "You Have to Name It to Claim It" make up the bulk of the book and McGraw's realist philosophy.
If you learn and abide by the Life Laws and go on to create a Life Strategy, McGraw claims you will not only know yourself better and eliminate negative behaviors, you will also know how to reach any goal you set for yourself. --Stefanie Durbin
From Publishers Weekly
After advising Oprah Winfrey in her successful defense against accusations of slander by the beef industry, McGraw, a behavior specialist and trial expert, now makes appearances on Oprah's program as a member of her "Change Your Life TV Team," joining such other luminaries of self-help as Suze Orman, John Gray and Iyanla Vanzant. While McGraw's presentation may play well on the small screen, it suffers on the page from lack of focus, awkward writing and a relentlessly hectoring tone. At the outset, McGraw browbeats his readers: "You are either winning or losing in your life, plain and simple. You live in a competitive world." His strategy for winning is built around 10 "Life Laws," which include the following: "You Either Get It or You Don't"; "You Can't Change What You Don't Acknowledge"; and "There Is No Reality; Only Perception." He also gives 16 homework assignments: the first, to list the five things in your life you have failed to acknowledge to yourself; the second, to write "The Story I'll Tell Myself If I Don't Create Meaningful and Lasting Change After Reading and Studying This Book." McGraw does a good job of identifying many self-defeating behaviors, but it will be up to readers to determine for themselves the efficacy of his methods of changing them. 500,000 first printing; major ad/promo.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I've made gifts of this volume to parents and friends of those who are struggling, and it gave them insights that seemed to help.
In this volume, McGraw identifies what he calls the "Ten Laws of Life." In his opinion, each is a reality which we deny or ignore at our peril. He suggests a specific strategy by which to cope with each of the ten "laws." For example:
Life Law #4: You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.
Strategy: Get real with yourself and everybody in it.
Comment: Words are very important. Note that McGraw uses the word "acknowledge" rather than "recognize," "understand," "accept," etc. How many times have you cited a painful reality inorder to help someone else solve a problem of some kind, only to be told "I know...I know..."? Unless and until that person "gets real," the problem will remain and probably become worse.
Here is another example:
Life Law #5: Life rewards action.
Strategy: Make careful decisions and then pull the trigger.
I am reminded of the fact that Dante reserved the last and worst ring in Hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserved their neutrality. We almost never have all the information we need nor enough time to prepare to make a decision, especially in a crisis. (The Chinese word for "crisis" has two meanings: peril and opportunity.) McGraw's proposed strategy is proactive. His use of the word "careful" implies prudence. But at some point, we must "pull the trigger": DO THE VERY BEST WE CAN in the given circumstances.
This book's subtitle places appropriate emphasis on practicality and value. In this book and in his others, McGraw offers no-nonsense advice to help others become most effective when undertaking initiatives of greatest importance to them. He seems to agree with Bossidy and Charan's primary assertions in Execution: The Discipline of Getting results. Each of the strategies which McGraw proposes requires self-discipline to achieve the desired "results." Consider:
Life Law #3: People do what works.
Strategy: Identify the payoffs that drive your behavior and that of others.
Comment: It is often said that people fear change. I disagree. I think what they fear is the unknown. The most effective change agents are those who help others to understand the proposed change and (more importantly) to understand why it will be of substantial benefit to them. Stated another way, the most effective change agents nourish rather than threaten others' self-interests.
Earlier in this review, I presumed to suggest some metaphors (i.e. hammer, nail, tool box) which seem to me relevant to McGraw's purposes. Now I ask you pretend that you have entered McGraw's Hardware Store. He greets you at the door. You indicate that you have all manner of questions to answer...all manner of problems to solve...and need some help. "Let me show you what I have," he replies. For the next hour or so, he takes you on a personal tour of his store, explaining along the way what is available, what the functions and features of various items are, which skills are required, and finally, how and why the items could be helpful to your needs.
Which items do you add to your personal tool box? That is for you to decide. How carefully and conscientiously will you then use your "hammers," "nails," and other "tools"? Again, that is up to you. With the force of his personality and his "straight talk," McGraw has done just about all he can. The rest is up to you. It really cannot be otherwise, can it?
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to read McGraw's previously mentioned works. To business executives, I also highly recommend David Maister's Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High-Achievement Culture and David Whyte's The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. However phrased, the "laws" which McGraw discusses are at least as important in the business world as they are in all other areas of human experience.
BUT DR. PHIL IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!
I have especially appreciated the chapter, "You Teach People How To Treat You." In this chapter, Phil uses the example of a woman he is called to interview, who is on the examination table in the emergency room. Her face is cut wide open - the description was pretty gruesome. Phil initially thinks she is a victim of a car accident and begins to ask her where she was when this happened to her. When she says "my living room", he discovers that her husband did this to her and it wasn't the first time. Although he is blown away by the woman who lies before him as she professes to love the man who did this to her, Phil is able to feel compassion for her and bring a message home to millions of other women who are going through the same sorts of horrors. His message is very, very powerful and a must read for all victim of abuse.
Phil doesn't bang us over the head with blame - but he does tell it exactly like it is. He encourages us to step out of the victim role in all areas of our lives. He urges us to take a real, honest look at the problem and he shows us how we got there in the first place. He then teaches us how to climb out of the holes we sometimes dig ourselves into. He shares how even someone like Oprah can be so completely shocked and overwhelmed by something that has happened to her, that she needed a reality check to help her step out of shock and into positive action on her own behalf.
If you are sick of being stuck in a rut, would like a positive change in your life and don't know what to do, ask Phil. He's here to tell you how it is!
I have the book and the tapes. I would recommend either.
WOW. The whole time he spoke like he was going to tell you the secrets to life.....but really never does. The book was over and was left hanging, waiting for his wisdom to be released. Well, it wasn't. Just a bunch of common sense.
Dr. Phill if you ever read this review, please try to get in contact with me cause I really wanted to find out "how to" do what works and how to do what matters.