Happiness is not a myth. It’s a choice. Please, don’t roll your eyes at me. I know it’s a tough cliché to swallow but, don’t worry, it’s easier to implement than it is to believe.

Once again, I’ve sunk knee deep into the self-help pool, this time with Jillian Michaels’ Unlimited (which, by the way, was well worth the MSRP of $18). Why? Well, I’ve begun to notice a strange little pattern in my life: every so often, my brain just stops thinking logically. I get overwhelmed by my goals and ambitions; everything I want seems out of reach; and, most annoyingly, all this emotion manifests itself in my daily life, weighing me down with fear and frustration. Obviously, I don’t need to convince you that negativity can be quite paralyzing.

So, in my attempt to be proactive, I turned to – what else? – a book. Not just any book, though. A Manual, capital “M”. A Guide, capital “G”. Unlimited is not just a self-help book, it’s a blueprint. Michaels has honed her skills as a trainer, coach (woman and human being) and has collected all her thoughts onto 244 valuable pages.

First of all, does Jillian Michaels know what she’s talking about?

A resounding yes. And you want to know why? Because she comes from a place of complete honesty. She isn’t afraid to share examples of her own bad, inappropriate behavior, and how she overcame emotional hang-ups to become the successful person she is today. In addition to being incredibly knowledgeable, she freely admits that she’s always struggling with specific problems and that success is an ongoing process, and that we will make mistakes.

Why self-help books are not a crock:

Believe me, I’m the last person who would ever become an advocate for the self-help genre but, recently, my eyes have been opened to its real and practical value. Another unexpected reason? Positivity matters. And I do not mean this to sound like an episode of Full House but, try to think about your daily exposure to negativity. Everything from television to the books you read becomes the soundtrack for your life. So, if all you do is consume the news (murder, mayhem, horrible things happening everywhere, etc.) and read horror novels (people coming back from the dead with demonic intentions, etc.) and watch sad, emotionally draining movies, then you will feel more likely to identify with sadness than happiness. This is not to say that you have to read Chicken Soup for the Soul 24/7! Even I’m not that positive! I, for one, have no intention of giving up my horror novels and thrillers. Regardless, it pays off to feed your mind happy thoughts. You just have to make a concerted effort.

Favourite kick-ass quote:

“I know what you’re thinking: What’s Jillian Michaels doing writing a self-help book? She’s the fitness guru, right? The fact that people think of me as a fitness guru is hilarious. I imagine a fitness guru as someone who wears spandex, feels the burn, and loves an endorphin high, then follows it all up with a shot of wheatgrass. That is so not me! What I do is not about fitness. Exercise is just one of the tools I use to help people rebuild their lives.”

Best advice from Jillian:

The concept of “target practice”, though obvious, hit me over the head with a Eureka hammer. Michaels touts the use of practice which, I think, is a no brainer; target practice, on the other hand, has an added specificity that will not only enhance your focus but will truly move you toward the desired goal. To work on the weakest elements of your game plan is, again, incredibly obvious, but sometimes it takes the words of someone else, perfectly articulated, to bring the idea to the forefront of your mind.

What I learned from this book:

Michaels will help you identify your patterns, both good and bad. What I found especially helpful is that her method is not gimmicky. As she points out that Unlimited does not come with a side of Kool-Aid. She wants to help us to see through our own behavior and be able to identify unhealthy habits, but she doesn’t expect us to hold hands, sing camp songs around the fire and start spouting lovey-dovey self-affirmations. So, in short, I learned how to see through my own bullshit.

Why you need to read this book:

Because everyone can see a little clearer, listen a little closer, feel more empathy. Unlimited should not be relegated to the self-help shelf in the bookstore. It’s a book about being human, how and why we make mistakes, and what we have to do to stay consistently progressive in our lives.

The Challenge:

Try reading something positive for 30 minutes before you go to sleep, perhaps an insightful article or a fun book. Watch a comedy and laugh a lot. No matter what, keep it simple and keep it happy. Fall asleep feeling capable and ambitious, not worried and anxious.