Beginning with outlining his method, which he calls the “Get Real/Think Positive” technique, and describing how he used it to make improvements in his personal and professional life, author Max G. Ansbacher teaches in his self-help book A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO HAPPINESS how to objectively analyze facts without resorting to wishful thinking. Ansbacher takes a logical approach to problem-solving with his two-step process. Step one, “Get Real,” involves listing the objective truths about the experience about which a person is trying to change their thinking without bringing any emotions into it. This step puts a focus on privilege and statistics that those with intense emotions about the subject may forget. Ansbacher states that a retired person who begins to regret not having had children, for instance, should consider the amount of free time and money they have in a practical sense. In step two, “Think Positive,” Ansbacher carries the objective facts forward by tying positive emotions to them. That same retired person should choose to find joy in using their time and money to travel the world or participate in activism for causes they believe in, for instance.
The “Get Real/Think Positive” method is straightforward, nonjudgmental, and—as the book’s title states—decidedly practical. While it doesn’t ignore the sometimes heavy emotions that come with self-improvement, such as grief and regret, it has a tendency to gloss over them and assume that they may be easy to overcome. A section about the pros and cons of using a therapist makes some odd suggestions about their efficacy, but does take a generally positive view toward therapy and mental health medication for those who need it. Among the most inspiring parts of the book is the honest statement that “you can’t think yourself into feeling an emotion” but you can instead “direct” your thoughts toward or away from ideas that provoke certain emotions. Jargon-heavy details of Ansbacher’s job in hedge fund management are not well explained, so readers unfamiliar with the subject matter may not fully appreciate its application as an example for how the author used his technique. The book is most successful in showing how the technique can change a person’s outlook when it uses broader and more widely applicable examples.
Ansbacher’s voice is friendly and candid, and the language is approachable and easy to understand (outside of the hedge fund parlance). The narrative takes a politically neutral and socially inclusive approach to its examples, for the most part, so most people will be able to connect to the suggestions for positive self-talk. Brief overviews of addiction, procrastination, perfectionism, and other issues that prohibit positive thinking are typically nonjudgmental and act as a beginner’s guide for better self-understanding.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO HAPPINESS is a useful self-help book which serves up thought-provoking, straightforward advice for people looking for an entry point to learning about shifting their thinking to be more positive.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader