Review: Your Best You, by Bonnie Grove

Your Best You, by Bonnie Grove (Beacon Hill Press, 2009)

Your Best You, subtitled “Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You,” is about just that: finding positive ways to grow into the unique, effective individuals we were designed to be.

If you’re struggling with an addiction or a stubborn habit, the book won’t be a quick fix but it’s a powerful tool to help you change – if you’re willing to work at changing. Note that the author’s description of stubborn habits includes negative thinking and gossip, not just physical behaviours like smoking or overeating.

Maybe you’re not looking to break any destructive patterns like these. This is still a book worth reading. I didn’t approach it with any sense of felt need to make a change, but I found the exercises on discovering my strengths very enlightening.

The book cover is a clever play on author Bonnie Grove’s method of “trying on” different possibilities for change. Unfortunately, it also implies a limited target readership. Your Best You is a valuable tool for everyone. If you’re a man – or a woman to whom the cover screams “not for you!” – please take a look at the back cover and read the summary, or read some reviews to see what it’s really about.

I’d never articulated my strengths in this way before, nor considered applying them to various facets of my life. Having done so, I’m beginning to see changes. For example, I’m using creativity and organization (with prayer!) to better manage my time and to pre-plan meals. And I’m using perseverance to actually do what’s on my list instead of putting it off. Prayer and persistence will be needed to keep me on track!

Your Best You offers a fresh approach to making changes: first keep a log to discover patterns and triggers, then articulate your goals and explore how to employ your strengths to reach them. I like the Bonnie Grove’s emphasis on not asking “what’s wrong?” so much as asking “what’s right, and how can I use that to make changes?”

The book is filled with charts and questions to help discover your strengths (the author calls them “reflections of God’s image in you”). It may be tempting to skip the application/fill-in sections, to think “I already know this” but it’s very helpful to stop and work them through. I learned a lot.

The questions are designed for reflecting or daydreaming in a positive manner. Daydreaming is one of the author’s strengths, and this may be harder for those who lack it, but these are valuable exercises. There are plenty of examples for those who have trouble filling out inventories. I would have liked to have a list of possible strengths, for those who aren’t strong at critical thinking or observing patterns, but the examples helped.

The author acknowledges that many readers may cringe at allowing ourselves to look at our successes and explore our strengths, as if it’s boastful or self-exalting. However, the point of the exercises is to give God the glory, not to congratulate ourselves. Grove invites us to see what God has done so we can cooperate with Him as He keeps working, and she draws an interesting parallel to the miracle of the loaves and fishes: if we give our gifts back to Jesus, how might He multiply them?

Identifying our strengths, and identifying behaviours we want to change, leads to making “do-able” short goals on the way to reaching long-term goals. Grove likens it to a “you are here” map: first you have to find where you are in relation to what’s around you, then find where you want to go. Then you can plan how to get there.

Prayer is a key element in discovering and implementing this plan. Readers are encouraged to “try on” their strengths in making desired changes, with the expectation that some things will “fit” while others will need adjusting. Grove asks readers to keep a journal of positive results.

One thing she stresses for the journey is the importance of being kind to yourself. Change is a process, and we need to set up meaningful rewards to meet the needs we formerly tried to satisfy through whatever behaviour we want to leave behind.

Kindness to ourselves includes keeping a “strength to change” journal, where each day we record one positive thing we did, chart our progress, and talk to God about the journey. The book includes a wonderful exercise that has readers stop and think about the ways we’ve seen God’s touch on our lives and consider how we know He’s with us.

Relying on God and on one or two trusted and supportive friends is key to our success in the journey to change. Follow-up exercises at the end of the book equip us to plan for continued success so that we don’t revert to what we’ve so intentionally left behind.

Readers can use Your Best You as a workbook for “discovering and developing the strengths God gave us.” Combined with prayer, it can be a powerful tool for positive change in our lives.

You can read an excerpt of Your Best You here.

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