03/12/2016

Live like you mean it (by TJ Addington)

From time to time I browse the free books available for the Kindle. I download anything that looks interesting, and although I’ve occasionally picked up some terrible books, there are others which turn out to be well worth reading. This particular one had an interesting title, although I had never heard of TJ Addington, and I downloaded the book at no cost around five years ago.

It took me until a few months ago to start reading ‘Live like you mean it’, and I’ve dipped into it on and off since then, in odd moments. In the past week I read rather more, skimming a couple of chapters towards the end, and then finding myself very interested in the final chapter.

The book is subtitled, rather lengthily, ‘The 10 crucial questions that will help you clarify your purpose / Live intentionally / Make the most of the rest of your life’. It sounded like something that could be very useful to me. The foreword and introduction make it clear that this is a Christian book, and that’s fine, although chapters 8 and 9 - the ones I skimmed - are about making a commitment to God and living purposefully for him, concepts which are familiar to me already. More significantly, I didn’t feel that they were particularly helpful as ‘questions… to clarify purpose’.

Indeed, I felt that the hook of ‘ten questions’ is actually a bit misleading. There is no list of those questions other than the chapter headings in the contents. The first couple of chapters cover reasons why each of us is here, and finding what the author calls our ‘sweet spot’ - the things we are gifted in, and enjoy, and find fulfilling. The next few chapters essentially ask the same things in different ways: how do we best recharge? What really matters in life? What legacy do we hope to leave behind?

While there are some good points in each section, and the author shares some thought-provoking incidents, including some in his own life, I didn’t feel that there was anything that would actually help to answer the question the book claimed to solve.

After skimming the directly evangelistic chapters, I wasn’t expecting too much of the final chapter - ‘What shall I do next?’ - but was then extremely interested in the way the author describes the structure of his life, and the idea of planning at two levels. He plans in a top-down approach, looking first at the ‘big picture’ of his main aims or passions (such as family life, vocation, creativity, marriage, health etc), then choosing general goals for each, and then for each goal finding specific things to do for each month, week or day. However he then checks up on his aims in a more detailed, bottom-up way, with a time for reflection and self assessment each week.

While this might sound obvious, it’s something that’s staying with me as a far more constructive idea than ‘resolutions’ that can fail all too quickly and then be abandoned. With this structure, the overall aims are unlikely to change in the course of a year, but the goals and specifics can change with circumstances, and any failure becomes a learning experience.

Each chapter is clearly laid out, with discussion questions at the end, although I didn’t find any of them particularly useful. Still, overall, I think this is a helpful book with some useful ideas. There are a lot of Bible quotations and it’s unlikely to be of interest to anyone who is not a Christian believer, or at least willing to see God as part of their life and purpose. However the Kindle edition wasn’t particularly well-formatted, and no longer seems to be available in the UK, and I’m not sure I’d want to pay for it.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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