BOOK REVIEW: Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide by Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP and Dr. Michael B. Frisch (Sterling Publishing Company, 2009). Available now.
Why do so many people fail at New Year’s Resolutions? What separates athletes that achieve lofty goals from people who procrastinate in accomplishing even simple things?
These are central questions for me as a life coach since my work revolves around helping people discover and achieve what they want out of life. Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide, is the best and most comprehensive resource I have come across on this topic.
The lead author, Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, is a coach and a graduate of the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. Much of her research for the book was started during her masters’ thesis. Additionally, she has written many articles for PPND (Caroline Adams Miller’s articles).
Starting with a concise review of literature in the fields of positive psychology and goal setting theory, the book describes “research-tested happiness boosters” and techniques for building self-efficacy. Instead of searching in psychology, economics, and social science, the reader can enjoy various research assembled together into one comprehensive place. This book seamlessly weaves in research on grit, relationships, passion, savoring, self-regulation, positive emotions, strengths, flow, exercise, and values, as they relate to creating an ideal life.
Creative Use of People’s Existing Resources
A major strength of this book is the unique and creative way of applying research and theory. There are over 30 pages of exercises and forms, ranging from Miller’s “100 Things to do Before I Die” list to the “All But Dissertation Goals” form, which helps people address those unfinished goals that are weighing them down, similar to a doctoral student that completes all their requirements except the dissertation.
Following an idea Miller has frequently spoken about and writes about in the book, I changed the passwords I use daily to reflect my life mission statement. The beautiful thing about the plethora of ideas that the book proposes is that most of them make creative use of people’s existing resources. Another idea she proposes is to set your computer screen saver to scroll your goals, instead of free advertising for Windows.
Let’s Talk about Goals
Most coaches and practitioners use the acronym SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) as the pinnacle of proper goal setting. Miller’s compilation of goal setting research transcends this approach, showing that effective goals need to be more than SMART. Here are a few of the book’s proven criteria for effective goals:
- Challenging and Specific: research shows that settling for mediocrity lowers performance. They key to building self-efficacy is to stretch yourself and utilize your potential.
- Measurable: there is a yardstick by which to measure where a person begins, where they want to be, and progress along the way.
- Foster Independence and Competence: people feel empowered by their own ability and are capable of connecting to others.
- Value Driven: goals aligned with one’s values are more likely to be pursued and adopted.
- Approach: goals that make you feel excited and zestful are approach goals, compared to avoidance goals, which are about avoiding a negative outcome.
- Intrinsic: the motivation comes inherently from the task, rather than extrinsic goals where the motivation and reinforcement comes from other people, accumulation of wealth, or notoriety.
- Flow: goals that induce optimal experiences, a state in which a person is fully engaged in the task-at-hand.
From thought provoking quotes to rich stories of people applying these principles, this book is a captivating and enjoyable read. It helped me reach my goal of slimming down for the holiday season since I’d take the book to the gym, get on an elliptical, and then catch myself saying, “I’ll keep going for another section…okay, just one more.” A few pounds and chapters later… : – )
Also, I keep a database of research articles that fascinate me. The research referenced in Creating Your Best Life has vastly expanded my list, as the book eloquently describes numerous studies. I consider this work the most thorough overview of what researchers know as the “how” of creating a flourishing life and practical applications of theory. The book received a red star in The Publisher’s Weekly.
I highly recommend Creating Your Best Life this holiday season for you, your clients, family and friends, as a literal gift that keeps giving. After all, as the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish, he eats for the day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for the rest of his life.” This book is equivalent to a crash course in choosing the right hook, building your pool, and casting like a pro.
Miller, C. A. & Frisch, M. B. (2009), Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide. New York: Sterling.