Sunday, May 6, 2018


The author, Keith McArthur, is a former corporate executive, now an author, publisher, counselor, whose life was radically changed by his near-death experience with failing kidneys.  Not only has he written an insightful and easy-to-read self-help book, but he provides additional material on a web site that he offers his readers free of charge.

His book’s Table of Contents presents a useful summary of McArthur’s short and valuable contribution to self-help literature:

Free Bonus and Extras
How a Second Chance at Life Taught Me How to Live
Imagine the Life You Want
Make a Choice
Define Your Values
Set Good Habits
Commit to Growth
Become the Happiest, Healthiest Version of You
Embrace Gratitude
Practice Mindfulness
Find Your Fit
Protect Your Sleep
Drink More Water
Eat Better
Connect More Deeply with Others
Connect with Anyone
Stop Complaining
Ditch Toxic People
Learn the Languages of Love
Get [Stuff] Done
Sanctify Your Space
Master the Pomodoro
Take Time to Plan
Permit the Pivot
One Last Thing
Keep on Owning Your Life
About the Author
Other Books by Keith McArthur

Although nearly dying from kidney failure made McArthur examine his life, he urges us not to wait for such a crisis.  Instead, we should decide that we’re going to change, and go to our goal with a multitude of small steps I’m reminded of the saying, “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” McArthur tells how he improved his once-awful penmanship with a few days of concentrated attention. He overcame his self-limiting belief that he could not change the messy way he wrote.

Having decided to change, we still have to determine the direction in which we want to go, the growth we want to achieve.  This requires defining our values: knowing what’s most important to us.  He reminds us that Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, said to ask ourselves what we would like eulogized at our funeral, what it was that was most significant about our lives.  Alternatively, we might explore our values by describing our ideal day or naming people we most admire or identifying what we’re most proud of or what excites us the most or what we want less of or want more of in our lives.  Such contemplation helps identify the direction we should head.

McArthur’s key takeaways with regard to goals are as follows: “We all die.  Live the way you want to be remembered.  When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.  Your values are compasses that can lead the way when you’re facing tough decisions.”

As we pursue our goals day by day, we can do so in a joyful way if we are diligent about observing what is good and expressing our gratitude for it. This requires a certain amount of mindfulness, being mentally in the present, rather than in the past, and not worrying about the future. 

Meditation helps prepare our minds and has been shown to produce physical changes in our brains, with beneficial effects. 

We have to take care of ourselves, including exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep. McArthur gives sound, specific recommendations concerning exercise, nutrition, and sleep.

Achieving our goals and enjoying our lives are furthered by successful relationships with others. The first requisite for this is being genuinely interested in them. The second is displaying that interest…in facial expressions, body language, and communication. Dale Carnegie’s familiar advice is offered, a mix of tactics and human decency. Avoid bragging, criticizing, complaining.

When you need to try to get others to change something, don’t complain about it to those powerless to amend it; rather, become an advocate to those with the power to fix what you see as wrong.

I’m reminded of the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer, along the lines of asking God to help one to change what needs to be changed, endure what cannot be altered, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

Just as allying with good people is a plus, one must “ditch toxic people” when one can. Working with them is like walking with a stone in your shoe. Identify and avoid, if possible.

New to me was the concept of “the languages of love,” ascribed to Gary Chapman. Essentially, these are ways various people like to receive and give affection and love:
          Words of Affirmation
          Acts of Service
          Quality Time
          Physical Touch
What matters to you? To your significant others? What pleases you or its absence hurts you the most? What have you most requested? What do you tend to give? Are you and yours speaking the same language of love?

First, we should clean up our work space, discarding as much as we can, putting the rest where it should be. I was reminded of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” De-cluttering is key, though I lack the courage to do it.

Then McArthur advises us to become more effective by prioritizing, planning, and pivoting when necessary.

Prioritizing is familiar, though difficult.  Some things are more, some things are less important; their level of difficulty may also be worth considering, creating almost a benefit-cost ratio for ranking them, more often done intuitively than explicitly.

For planning, a To-Do list is useful, but even better is to put the necessary activities on your calendar, where it becomes clear when they should be begun, and approximately how much time they’re going to require. 

For more productive days, he recommends the Pomodoro Technique, presented by Francesco Cirillo three decades ago, where 25-minute blocks of time, with five-minute breaks for rest, are scheduled, and during those work blocks, one focuses on one activity exclusively.

His next “P” is for “pivot,” the changing of direction when necessary. I’m reminded of “to live is to maneuver.” Pursuing a goal without course corrections can be disastrous. Charging straight ahead has its merits, but any virtue can be overdone.

These last words will be mine, not McArthur’s: get this fine book if you want a refresher course on owning your own life’s success or failure…and making it a success.


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