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Book Review: My Life – A Workbook by Lyzz Yamazaki

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 Who are you? What’s important to you? What isn’t? Do you ever think about these things? Sometimes we go through life feeling “this is just the way it is,” without re-evaluating our needs and goals. Some people are unhappy without ever trying to figure out why, or what would make them happy.

My Life – A Workbook is designed to help the reader understand what’s going on in his or her life and decide if improvement is needed. Best of all, the reader gets to figure out what needs to be done, rather than being told the steps to take for true happiness, success, wealth, whatever (as if the same steps would work for everyone).

My Life – A Workbook  introduces you to you (together you can work anything out). Getting to know yourself may be difficult at first. Some people spend their entire lives avoiding that onerous task.

Author (and psychotherapist) Lyzz Yamazaki eases the burden by starting with some simple questions (gender, schools attended, favorites) and encourages readers not to labor over the questions. Write down the first thing that comes to mind; if a question is hard, come back to it later. This is not a timed test; “later” can be tomorrow, next month, or next year.

Yamazaki does encourage readers to finish the test, though. Once you have completed the initial introduction, Yamazaki offers tips on interpreting what you’ve written (as well as what you haven’t written). It may seem odd, but it’s fun to spend time thinking about yourself. We have a tendency to just “be,” without examining what it is we are.

The first chapter is an introduction to the facts about you; in chapter two you will go deeper, examining your attitudes and feelings. If you’re a wise guy (I am) there’s a temptation to be flip with your answers (when asked what my happy inner child would like to do, I immediately think “take a nap.”) Resist temptation! If you are serious about looking at your life, you must answer the questions seriously.

You can always go through My Life – A Workbook a second time, allowing your inner-Vinnie Barbarino to answer all the questions. (Wait! “What a great idea!” she said boastfully. You could assume the personality of different celebrities and fictional characters, answering the questions over and over as you think they would. Or you could have a life.) 

The ensuing chapters cover love, relationships, money, and “vision.” The “Love” chapter is surprisingly short, but then “Relationships” delves into some of the same areas, how you are and feel about other people. I have a strange, love/hate relationship with money; I love to spend it, but hate not having it. My favorite questions in the “Money” chapter deal with a theoretical $10,000.

Yamazaki asks you to imagine that you could scream “I want money” and get ten grand. This is followed by three questions: 1) “where would you scream that?” (a bank); 2) “Reasons for choosing that place” (I know there’s lots of money there. At least, I hope there is.); and 3) “Suppose you had to use up that money in five minutes, what — excluding the option of saving it — would you spend it on?” (change answer #1 to my favorite store and answer #3 would be “gift cards!”). 

For some people, money may be the most important topic in the book, for others it may mean next to nothing. Ironically, this doesn’t necessarily reflect how much money people have. With our societal attitudes, uncovering our relationships with money can reveal a lot about the individuals we are. “Money” is a look into priorities; discovering your own feelings about it may be uncomfortable. 

“Visions” is about the future. Hypothetical situations are proposed, and the reader answers some very big ifs. This is another short, but intellectually intense, chapter. Like each of the preceding chapters, it concludes with interpretive information as well as some suggested exercises. 

I like this book. A lot. It can be fun and it can be therapeutic. It will not cure major mental illnesses (if there are such things), but it gives the reader insight into themselves. It allows us to take the time to understand ourselves which may lead to reprioritization. The questions are not meant to be painful (though there are a few that I will never answer), and Yamazaki is a comforting host for the tour through our own psyches.  

Bottom Line: Would I buy My Life – A Workbook? Yes. I would buy it; I would do the exercises, and then — sometime in the future — I would do them again.

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