Self Improvement

The Big Leap, a Book Review and Beyond

I am re-launching my self improvement newsletter with a review of one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject, The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, by Dr. Gay Hendricks. If you only read one more book for the rest of your life, read this book.

But please don’t read just one book for the rest of your life. Reading is one of the fundamentals of self-improvement and you owe it to yourself to read on a daily basis.

I have been reading self-improvement books for ten years, and this one excites me more than any of the others.

So What Is So Special About The Big Leap?

Dr. Hendricks does a brilliant job of doing these fundamental things necessary for lasting change:

  • Explains why you should want to change
  • Identifies the source of the problem holding you back
  • Lays out the steps necessary for anyone to fix their problem and move forward

Here is a summary of the points made (but I urge you to read the book, and I’ll explain why, later).

Why You Should Want to Change

The fact that you’re reading a self-improvement article suggests that you have some interest in change. Hendricks presents an argument for a change that I’ve heard many times before — because it’s a commonly held belief — that the American Dream is not necessarily working a job, hoping for a raise, and saving money to retire. We all probably had dreams of something we wanted to do when we grew up, and life got in the way of doing that. Or we did something fun as kids that we wish we could still do again, but now we’re stuck with a job and a mortgage and there’s never enough time or money to just have fun.

Is that the American Dream?

And that thing we may want to do, it doesn’t have to be a big endeavour, like win a Grammy or cure cancer. Both of those things are worthy goals, but baking cakes that bring joy into the lives of loved ones is also worthy. Developing a talent and sharing it with the world is always worthy (except maybe farting the National Anthem).

In The Big Leap, Dr. Hendricks walks you through exercises that help you identify what that creative gift might be. It’s your little bit of genius, so it won’t be like anybody else’s. You should figure out what it is.

What is the Problem Keeping Your Little Bit of Genius Down?

The Big Leap does a great job of helping you identify the problem holding you back and brilliantly teaches that shedding light on that problem will dissolve its grip on you. He calls this the Upper Limit problem, and there are four basic versions:

  • False belief that we are fundamentally flawed and we don’t deserve to enjoy good things
  • False belief that we will be disloyal to our beliefs and people in our life if we succeed
  • False belief that we are a burden in the world, and should remain quietly in our place
  • False belief that we must not shine too brightly or we will make others in our life feel bad about themselves

If these sound familiar, take heart, because reading the book will help explain how these false beliefs took hold of your life, and how to identify where it grips you. I can identify with three of these even after ten years of self-impromovement practices. (I wish I’d had this book back then!)

How to Fix the Problem and Move Forward

These false beliefs are deeply ingrained in our psyche, and don’t turn to ash like when you expose a vampire to sunlight. No, these problems are more like burrs you pick up when walking in the woods, and you’ll have to carefully track them down and get rid of them. (Also, you may pick up ticks or fleas out in the woods, and you really have to get after them.)

The Big Leap talks about daily practices you can do that help track down the places in your life where these false beliefs are attached. It involves mediation, mindfulness, and consciously working on what matters to you.

My Own Book

The book I wrote a couple of years ago, Boss Lessons, deals with many of these same practices, but The Big Leap does a much better job of expressing why you should want to change, the root of the problem, and the solution. And—for the record—my book does a pretty good job of it. But Dr. Hendricks is a clinical psychologist with many years of practice in therapy, and I have to doff my cap to his book.

Take Care of Yourself

Christmas is coming, so do something nice for yourself, and read The Big Leap. Then take the lessons to heart and care for yourself from now on.