Act Smart!: Brain-Food Portion Control

Whether you’re looking to keep yourself motivated, learn a new practice, or entirely rewire your brain, the simplest way to do it is one day at a time.

While I have yet to actually enroll in a 12-step program, I’ve long been a fan of some of the basic tenets, and have incorporated versions of them into my own life.

Instead of getting my support at a regular group meeting, I have formed my own master mind group to give me accountability with continuity; in place of working the Steps, I’ve implemented my version of the Best Year Yet plan for values-centered goal-setting.

And in place of the Big Book (or, hey, the Good Book!), I’ve cycled through a series of “page-a-day” books to break the daunting challenge of massive change into manageably-sized chunks. Some of these I uncovered serendipitously, some I sought out upon recommendations from trusted friends.

One important thing to remember as you review this list is that what worked for me in one place and time may not work for you; in each case, I’d advise leafing through a copy before purchasing, or even checking out a copy from your library and test-driving it for two or three weeks. That’s usually enough time to tell if something is going to work for you.

For the self-flagellating delicate flower

Were I to come across it now, with its pink cover and rather extreme attitude towards self-care, I’m not sure I would be into it. But 15 or 16 years ago, when I stumbled on Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, I was beating myself up with both alarming regularity and vigor: it was the right tool for the right job. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach’s mission is to help you “excavate your soul,” and her methodology involves extreme gratitude and, as many of the one-star reviews on Amazon have pointed out, a rather romanticized version of domesticity. It’s frequently available at used-book stores—often they’ll have multiple copies—so it’s an easy investment to make if it’s right for you.

For the money-confounded

If you’re already familiar with the dusty old tome in the public domain , you’ll probably be as skeptical as I was about this incarnation of Napoleon Hill’s famous meditation on success (with prescriptives!). But Think and Grow Rich Every Day, it turns out, is the perfect way to get through what is otherwise a maddening slog of a read. The “authors”—who really are just editors—carve Hill’s philosophy into monthly areas of focus, then even smaller daily chunks. While the original is widely available as a free PDF download, it’s well worth it to plunk down your cash for a hard copy or Kindle version. (I bought both, plus copies for my entire master mind group.)

A warning: some of Hill’s theories are just plain weird; he’s got a weird sex fixation that makes October especially tough going. But the contract he includes in the book, which is placed front-and-center in the Every Day version, is nothing short of magical: I used it to help create 50-for-50, my “impossible” dream project, with breathtaking results.

For the control freak

I always wonder about copies of 12-step books I come across at library- and used-book sales: did the reader get everything sorted out and no longer need the program? Did she give up in disgust and/or despair? Did he (sorry) croak?

Whatever the reason someone released it, I’m grateful to have picked up my copy of One Day at a Time in Al-Anon. Each day addresses some aspect of recovery—letting go, minding your own beeswax instead of getting stuck in someone else’s, etc.—and includes a brief essay or thought and a quote.

There’s a definite religious overtone (lots of God throughout), which may not be your cup of tea. Still, I find the stories both comforting and illuminating; even though I’m not a believer, it’s one of my favorite “every day” books.

Do you have any terrific inspirational or self-improvement books? Please, let me know: colleen AT communicatrix DOT com. I’m always on the lookout for the Next Great Read, and I’m especially interested in ways to learn something new or put new habits in place one day at a time.

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