Reinvention and resolution are the bread and butter of all self-help books. As the calendar turns, either at the start of a new year or as a birthday approaches, readers clamor for advice in shedding pesky pounds, habits or relationships. But what if this time the goal is simply to be happier?
Helping people swap the dark glasses for rosier ones is the mission behind counselor and author Virginia Colin’s Life Can Be Positively Different: A Positive Approach to Fulfilling Relationships. Colin divides her book into three sections: feeling positive about yourself, about others, and about life in general. The strongest of the three is how to deal with others. Once you realize you cannot change people, she writes, it’s easier to accept and appreciate them for who they are, and you often will feel better about yourself, as well. She also writes about letting go of what cannot be controlled and enjoying life’s ride.
Her short chapters open with telling quotes from notables ranging from Walter Cronkite to William Shakespeare, and the book contains many references to psychology experts. Perhaps her strongest point is that while circumstances cannot be changed, our perceptions can be. In one passage, for example, she suggests “zooming” out of a thorny problem, as one would with a camera lens, to see the bigger picture and, thus, reduce the panic of the moment.
These types of relatable, concrete images, however, are few and far between. Although Colin is a practicing counselor, there remains a lack of true connection with readers. What may work in one-on-one therapy hasn’t translated well to the page. The advice feels distant and becomes a mere recitation of platitudes. Telling readers to be their own best friend is a clichÃ© and not especially helpful for those overwhelmed or in distress. Actual patient stories or anecdotes of how such advice works in the real world would have helped make her message easier for readers to absorb and, ultimately, to apply to their lives.