“Often, the moment when personal change begins is like thunder. We are startled by what we keep down inside of us.” ~ Alex Blackwell
Change can be scary! It can be very scary. It can be hard and demanding. It can hurt. It can hurt a lot. It is difficult to sustain, to make permanent. New Year’s Resolutions underscore that fact year after year after demoralizing year.
Alex Blackwell has added importantly to the pantheon of self-improvement, personal-growth literature with his new eBook, Saying Yes to Change.
He skillfully walks us through the process of taking back our happiness, no matter the challenges we face, the insecurities we start with, the fears or self-esteem issues we have to break through, the mental and emotional traps that keep us from walking the path to an extraordinary life.
And Alex knows what he’s talking about. In the introduction to Saying Yes to Change, he opens the doors wide and allows us to see inside with an alcoholic mother, a stuttering problem, Coke-bottle glasses, as he was pushed to “the edge of the playground, alone.”
These experiences taught him to distance himself from his insecurities, compelled to excel, to be perfect, to work and work and work until he proved he was not that little scared and lonely boy on the playground.
“The scars of the past,” he explains, “commanded me to keep a singular focus on what I thought was important, so old wounds wouldn’t open and ooze doubt and shame onto my fragile self-confidence.”
Then, with a marriage in tatters, separated, his life on the edge of collapse, depressed, friendless, his children all but estranged, he attended a seminar that changed his life.
Alex is now happy, self-assured, with a thriving family life. But how did it happen? Saying Yes to Change delivers that answer with eloquence and love, passion and compassion, heart and soul.
The book is organized around 10 life lessons he learned on his journey. The lessons are worth learning. This book review is likewise organized around those life lessons as an introduction to Saying Yes to Change.
Lesson One takes us to the starting line of change, perhaps even to the conditioning that precedes the starting line.
Lesson One: Prepare the soul for change.
“Dust gathers on things not often used,” Alex writes in chapter one. It “can build up until it creates a thin layer separating the object from its environment.” Then he asks the poignant question: “But how can we wipe away the dust from the dormant parts of ourselves?”
So how do we make those changes? How do we get through the darkness of depression and low self-confidence to the other side of happiness?
So much of our difficulty in changing is due to our habitual ways of thinking. Alex shares better ways of thinking to experience a better way of living, including getting away from the trap of all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalizing and the counter-productive poison of pessimism.
Lesson two takes us to the next step, helping us past the internal obstacles to growth and acceptance and love and happiness.
Lesson Two: Find freedom from pain.
I was pleased to find that Alex doesn’t completely subscribe to the idea that “What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” Life’s trials and tribulations are neutral. They don’t make us stronger or weaker, necessarily.
It’s our attitude about them, our willingness to be schooled by our challenges that gives them the power to shape us for good or for ill. Some people turn bitter and angry under the weight of their trials. Others become more patient and compassionate and humble. It is, as Alex says, “a choice.”
Saying Yes to Change then walks us through a very doable and profoundly compassionate process for coming to terms with the pain in our pasts.
Alex has experienced the deep and persistent pain he wants to walk us through. And going through it, experiencing the pain, feeling it, is a necessary step in that process.
At one point in his life, Alex felt abandoned by God, angry that he wasn’t removing the pain. But he came to realize that to remove the pain immediately upon the asking, was to avoid recognizing the negative patterns of thought within him.
This is emblematic of the lessons Alex has learned as he’s worked on himself. His voice is as clear as his thinking. He makes personal development a heart-felt path to invite others to join in the process of self-discovery, self-acceptance which leads to self-awakening.
Each subsequent lesson takes us ever deeper into a life of meaning and purpose, an extraordinary life of acceptance and self-love, of being who we truly are, filled with happiness. Read on for a glimpse into the remaining Life Lessons of an extraordinary book.
Lesson Three: Listen to your inner philosopher
“Once you begin learning how to think differently about yourself,” Alex explains, “the final step is to set your heart to a new beat, a new rhythm. Calibrate your heart to your spirit and allow both to take you to where you were meant to go.”
This is sound counsel. Alex presents his ideas in words that are both deep and deeply caring. He lifts and inspires, teaches and shares his experiences to illustrate the process as he underwent that process himself. We can choose. We can decide what we will accept in our lives. We are the masters of our destiny. We can construct a life of our choosing.
Lesson Four: Recognize your beauty
Saying Yes to Change reminds us that we are beautiful that “beauty doesn’t equal perfection” that the pain of our pasts no longer have to define our present or futures, that we can find our inner beauty and that our inner beauty can be reflected in our physical beauty as well.
Lesson Five: Learn to live without asterisks
Legal documents often have asterisks (click here for another awesome way to look at asterisks) to identify the parts that have conditions and disclaimers. Our lives also often have asterisks, conditions and disclaimers. But that’s a limiting way to live life.
“Life contracts contain no asterisks,” he writes. “The only conditions that exist in our lives are the ones we create ourselves.” And so to live life to its fullest, we need to stop creating those conditions and exceptions.
Lesson Six: Inspired by Love
We are reminded that love takes center stage. But to be able to love others, we must also be able to love ourselves. I personally loved this part of the book.
Alex explains that love, real love, true love is not the selfish kind of love that seeks to own and control, dominated by jealousy and insecurity. It’s not the tingling emotion that descends upon us unaware either.
Love is a choice. It’s seeing what’s best in the object of our love. But we’re also reminded to be patient, that love takes time and effort.
Lesson Seven: Live Beyond Your Skin
“Good creates good” is how Alex starts us thinking about Lesson Seven. Too many people are so buried under their own skin that the overwhelming majority of their thoughts are about themselves.
The secret is to live a life or service, making a difference in the world, starting wherever we’re at and reaching as far as circumstances allow.
Lesson Eight: Find the brighter side of failure
“There are no accidents without value.” “Through failure we are given the chance to do a gut check to see how badly we want whatever it is we are trying to accomplish.” “Failure issues a challenge.”
It is at the heart of that challenge that we learn and grow and get up and reevaluate and move forward or we don’t. The failure itself does little. The lessons we are open to learning from our failures makes a lifetime of difference.
Lesson Nine: Take Down the White Flag
So often we want to quit, to throw in the towel, to go home, tail between our legs, to lie down, lick our wounds and hope the sun will wash away the pain in the morning. Alex warns us of living a life filled with regrets. Giving up on life is not an option.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you have given up. What matters is how you will respond to the next time doubt surfaces.”
Lesson Ten: Let Faith be your Bridge
Alex has a deep faith in God and the plan He has for each of us. He also has faith in humanity. He has faith in his ability to keep learning, to keep growing, to step beyond a life of fear and pain and into a life that is extraordinary. He invites us all to come along. We’re left with the sneaking suspicion that change is, indeed, not only possible, but probable, that it certainly is in our own hands, that life can be an amazing adventure.
It is difficult to write a review of a book packed so solid with profound insight into the process of change. It is tempting to go on, in detail, reviewing deeper and deeper, uncovering and sharing with you ever more pearls of wisdom.
But at some point, a reviewer has to stop writing and let the reader pick up the book and start reading.
So that’s what I’ll do here.
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To Purchase Alex Blackwell’s book, click here: Saying Yes to Change
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