Instructions for happiness and success: savvy self-help for independent types

Instructions for happiness and success: savvy self-help for independent types

As the US economy teeters on the brink of collapse and our global standing is rockier than ever, we’re also slipping behind in another arena: American authors are being overtaken in the production of New Age prosperity literature! It was Australian Rhonda Byrne who brought us The Secret and its many sequels. Now comes England’s Susie Pearl with Instructions for happiness and success, a marvel of design that refreshes an old, even ancient, formula.

For anyone unfamiliar with The Law of Attraction, here is—for free, mind you—the condensed version: If you focus on what you'd like to have more of in your life (love, money, fettucine alfredo) and make an effort to eliminate distractions, more of what you want will come to you. This is the core message of The Secret, Think and Grow Rich, As A Man Thinketh, and countless other books as well as Pearl’s. What they advocate is true, and easy to prove in your own life, so you’d think one book could get the point across and we’d stop hearing about it. But one author’s take on things will not appeal to everyone; you have to find the one that spurs you to action.

Instructions is published by Adams Media and has a bright orange cover with white text. Many pages are day-glo pink or purple. Many of them also open out into large charts, graphs, checklists, and posters, all of which you’re intended to write on and otherwise interact with. The first half explains the laws of attraction in more detail, the second helps you clarify what you want and begin moving your focus in that direction. There are audio files online that you can access for visualizations that dovetail with the text. Taken as a whole it’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book for grownups, except the ending takes place somewhere beyond the book, in your own life.

This “mind manual” is mercifully free of personal testimonials, which often cloud prosperity lit and raise false expectations. Instead we’re tasked with clarifying our wants, taking control of our moods, and directing focus through meditation and all those charts and graphs. If it sounds overwhelming, it’s not—many exercises featured in the book’s “tool kit” are not only quick and easy to do, they’re a lot of fun. Taking a blank check register and pretending to “spend” an amount that doubles daily was illuminating: You can only buy so many yachts (or so much fettucine) before your altruism is awakened and you begin looking at how the real money you already have can make a difference in the lives of others.

That brings up one area where Pearl and this reader differ: She advocates avoiding news media because of its negativity, and while a periodic “news fast” can be therapeutic, there’s a good case to be made for engaging with the news precisely because there’s so much potential good to be done all around us. Activism of any stripe connects us and enlarges that circle, and it can inspire steps on the path to other goals.

Instructions for happiness and success has revamped classic life instructions into something visually bold and engaging. If past approaches to this material have left you underwhelmed, if you have a general case of the blahs that you’d like to forcefully eradicate, or if there’s a Frankie Goes To Hollywood T-shirt somewhere in a bottom drawer that you can’t bear to part with because the graphic design is so appealing, this may well be the book you've been waiting for. Dive in and enjoy the flow.

Heather Seggel is a freelance writer and kitchen mystic. She lives in Mendocino County, CA.

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