A life manual targets teenagers—and perhaps the adults who love them.
This slim book from Alexander (Sex and Romance, 2015, etc.) lays out the life lessons teens so often and badly need, all emanating from the age-old lament “I wish I’d known then what I know now.” The author’s innovative approach veers away from the list of platitudes and instructions that tend to typify such guides. He instead lays out a refreshingly empowering program that rests on one central contention, repeated throughout the book: that imagination is essential to experience, that how readers picture themselves is the direct path to how they comport themselves. “What kind of person are you?” he asks his readers. “What ways do you picture yourself that hold you back from what you want to be?” The answers to these questions involve what Alexander identifies as the two main ways the human brain creates and organizes its information about the self: the Reticular Activating System, which interprets sensations and helps focus attention, and the Adaptive Unconscious, which regulates perception and helps people to resolve conflicting images of themselves. It’s essential, he writes, that individuals take control of their self-images. He forcefully reminds his readers that “you are not a victim of anyone or anything” and that “you can begin recreating yourself and your reality” by overcoming the blinds spots people implant in their own minds over time. The author makes these kinds of declarations with a very appealing tone of understated authority, an air of nonconfrontational assurance that will go a long way, especially with teenage boys. Alexander is convincingly supportive throughout the book, always reminding his readers that they have the power to change their own visions of themselves, regardless of blind spots or harmful patterns: “It’s difficult to break mind habits, to break the melancholy and despair, but it can be done.” This is an insightful guide that every teen—and quite a few adults—should read and ponder.
A winning mixture of practical encouragement and big-picture advice.