NEED a change in your life? Want to turn over a new leaf? Forget life coaches. Say “no” to therapy. There’s a much easier way to turn your life around. Welcome to the age of self-help. There’s a huge market for books that promise to turn you into better versions of yourselves, and we’re all suckers for wanting to start on a fresh page. I know I am.

After all, I’m a proud owner of at least 10 of those — none of which I’ve actually completed reading. There’s Dale Carnegie’s iconic How to Win Friends and Influence People (still in its clingwrap and I’ve not many friends left), Sherry Argov’s Why Men Love Bitches — From Doormat to Dreamgirl (gift from a friend who believed I was dating Satan. Meanwhile, Satan’s long gone but I went on to date a couple of his minions because I failed to channel my inner-bitch), Chantal Hobbs’ Never Say Diet (I haven’t said that word for a long time so I’m still fat) and well, you get my drift.

Apparently my quest for self-improvement never went as far as finishing a self-help book or finding enough inspiration to follow their mantras.

Well, that’s about to change. Or not.

“The road to hell is paved with self-help books,” I mutter darkly when my editor thrusts two books into my hands.

Apparently, she’s a big believer of self-improvement and of course, there’s probably some hidden hint lurking beneath her grin when I check out the titles.

Note to self: NEVER whine to slim editors about weight issues. They’d either drag you kicking and screaming to play sports or make you review self-help books!

Habitude: 21 days to Change Your Life by Aaron Foo and Alfred Netto, and Roll With It: Life Lessons In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Nova Renata... It’s a refreshing change to see Malaysians jumping on the self-help bandwagon and cheering me on to a better life.

WHEN HABITS AND ATTITUDES COLLIDE

I’ve got to hand it to Foo and Netto for making the book easy to read. For one, it’s not one of those thick voluminous tomes you have to struggle to complete; two, the chapters come in palatable doses with diagrams and stories to break the monotony.

Finally, they actually give you practical ideas and easy strategies on how to form good attitudes that will jumpstart your life.

What’s more, there’s a 21-day action plan at the end of the book to get you started on your new journey.

The easy-reading, practical handbook contains life experiences from the authors themselves and how they’ve overcome challenges by changing their habits and attitudes.

A little dose of real-life tales like these gets me thinking that it’s possible to make the necessary changes and get rid of habits that hold us back. Breaking the book into a two-parter, the first half deals with understanding habits and attitudes and the essential steps to building good habitudes.

The second part deals with practical steps on conditioning your mind and building up the will to make and keep those changes on track.

The authors also include some basic neuro linguistic programming (NLP) techniques essential to help organise thinking, feeling, language and behaviour to produce results.

While they make it sound easy, Foo and Netto are careful to remind readers that change doesn’t happen overnight, and that creating new habits while breaking old ones in the aim of achieving goals is more of a long distance run than a walk in the park.

Point taken. But I’m keen to try anything to break my strong bond with cupcakes. Is it effective? I really don’t know — yet. Ask me in 21 days!

WHAT JIU-JITSU TEACHES ABOUT LIFE

Karate I know. Taekwondo I know. Judo I know. But jiu-jitsu? To the uninformed, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art, combat sport system that focuses on grappling and especially, ground fighting.

How jiu-jitsu would teach me anything about life escapes me but I do appreciate the author’s candour in her introduction when she writes: “I first got to know about Brazilian jiu-jitsu when a really cute guy told me he practised it.”

Ah. I understand, Renata. That would get ME interested in just about anything too. Even football and politics. But I digress. I too want to learn how to be a champion. Not in jiu-jitsu but in life. And if the grappling, rolling-on-a-mat martial art can help me do so, okay-lah, I’m willing to try.

The book begins with a glossary on jiu-jitsu speak. That’s a good thing as it sets the pace to what’s to follow in the rest of the book.

Roll With It has 21 lessons that use the rudiments of this martial art to bring forth some universal life lessons.

Familiar lessons like work hard, exercise, don’t give up, being patient, showing enthusiasm and all that. Lessons your mother tried nagging to you about but it takes a book to learn them all over again!

This isn’t to say that there are no new elements in Renata’s book. Of course there is. Jiu-jitsu teaches us how to sell ourselves like shoyoroll gi.

A gi is the uniform used in this martial art which is typically composed of a heavy cotton jacket and reinforced trousers. A shoyoroll gi is the Rolls Royce (or Chanel) where gis are concerned. So selling yourself like a shoyoroll gi is to know your worth and sell yourself like a brand.

Another interesting element which I’m going to try anyway is to improve my balance and core strength.

My core strength is barely there, so as Renata would have it, standing on one foot while washing dishes or watching TV would help improve my balance.

While I’m picking the bits I found interesting, don’t be fooled by thinking that there are laughable theories contained within the 94-pager. It’s interesting how the author uses jiu-jitsu as a metaphor for life. But in truth, you can replace the martial art with any sport, business or ambitious pursuit — the lessons remain universal.

Just when I’m deciding that jiu-jitsu might be an interesting proposition, Renata confesses on the last page that her relationship with jiu-jitsu has hit the “long and boring” rut.

Aiya, wax lyrical about the martial art, write a book on it and then say you got bored with it is hardly a good marketing move.

Still, there’s that persistent question that runs through my mind: What happened to that cute guy who practises jiu-jitsu?

What’s Hot: Self-Help books lull you into this blissful thinking that you’re about to change your life into something better. Well, if you’re disciplined enough to change. Habitudes did pique me and I’m thinking seriously about following the 21-day plan. And while I’m at it, I’m also going to market myself like a shoyoroll gi and stand on one foot while watching Game Of Thrones. Who said self-help books can’t help?

What’s Not: I’m probably going to eat that cupcake anyway!

elena@nst.com.my

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