Excerpt from Life Strategies by Dr Phillip McGraw, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Life Strategies

Doing What Works, Doing What Matters

by Dr Phillip McGraw

Life Strategies
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    Jan 2000, 255 pages

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Excerpt from Chapter One

Assignment #1

Your first assignment is to challenge your beliefs right now, by listing in order of significance the top five things in your life that you have simply failed to fully and completely admit or acknowledge to yourself. This requires some new thinking. You may think, "If I know it, I'm not denying it," or "If I'm denying it, how can I know it to write it down?" I said new thinking. Ask yourself some of those hard questions about what you would rather not think about. Write them down, because you'll be referring to them later. What is it that you know in your heart is a problem not acknowledged or at least so painful that you avoid it?

Be advised that you are going to be writing down a lot of things as we progress through the rest of the book. I recommend that you get some type of journal where you can do all of the ‘homework' that arises as we move forward. I recommend a spiral notebook, where the pages are attached and can therefore be kept together. This journal is highly confidential and should be for your eyes only. Treating it as such will allow you the freedom to be totally honest.

I would wager that whatever made your list is at least in part a product of your own behavior. I also suspect that the main difference between your problems and the more terribly tragic situations we hear or read about is the result, not the behaviors that led up to it. For aren't the patterns in your life, and those present in the more tragic stories, very likely the same? You've driven a little too fast down a neighborhood street; you've left the kids unattended while you ran next door "for a minute"; you've driven yourself home from happy hour, when discretion should have told you to hand over the keys; you've engaged in unprotected sex; you've fudged on your income tax. The "shocking stories" are often about people who have done the very same things. But only because of a tragically different outcome, they wound up in jail, or burying a child or dealing with HIV.

Maybe your driving drunk or speeding through a neighborhood didn't leave anyone dead, unlike the person you see on television who did the same thing but ran over a child. You're not audited, whereas the next person is. Your kids are still safe when you get home. It's not that you behaved or chose any better; you just got by with it. But if you are habitually practicing poor life-management skills, you are playing with fire. You may not be getting away with as much as you think you are.

You don't live, choose, or manage your life in a vacuum. It happens in a context called the world. Given the current state of the world, naivete or a rose garden perception will likely land you in trouble you don't want. You don't live in Mayberry, because it doesn't exist. These days, when you hear people use the word coke in a conversation, the odds are that they are not talking about the soft drink. If you decide to take your honey for a midnight swim, you're likely to end up in jail for trespassing, or worse, glowing in the dark because you were bobbing around in a toxic dump or Superfund site you only thought was pristine. Take a twilight stroll down the lane or through the park, and you might not be sleeping at home tonight (don't you hate those hospital gowns?). Oh, and before you leave the house, you might also want to write your name on your arm - better yet, write it on your leg, since that's less likely to get smudged if you decide to fight back.

The world has changed; it is tough out there, of that there can be no doubt. I am sorry to sound like a cynic, but you now I'm right. This world we have conspired to create is drastically different from the one our parents and grandparents knew. If there ever was a Mayberry, there certainly is none now. As we hurtle headlong at breakneck speed toward the millennium, we are caught up in the fastest-paced, most rapidly changing society in the history of humankind. Our world is like an unguided missile, with more speed than control.

Copyright © 1999 Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D. Excerpted by permission of the publisher. Published by Hyperion.

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