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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Build The Life You Want by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey

Happiness, according to legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey and prominent social scientist Arthur C. Brooks in their new collaboration Build the Life You Want, is not about reaching some elusive state of perfection but rather an active process of growth and self-discovery.

Winfrey's decades mining emotional topics on her TV show lent her “a front-row seat to unhappiness," while Brooks teaches popular courses on happiness at Harvard and writes for The Atlantic. Drawing on their diverse life experiences as well as extensive research, this "dream team" duo provides a practical roadmap to help readers cultivate greater happiness and fulfilment.

The journey begins with learning emotional self-management – that critical skill of creating space between life's stressors and our reactions to them. With insightful exercises and advice, the authors teach readers to become more self-aware, consciously choose empowering mindsets, and prioritise an outward focus over self-absorption. For example, they recommend starting a gratitude journal to counter our natural negativity bias. Mindfulness practices are presented as tools to build present-moment awareness while avoiding impulsive reactions. Compassion is emphasised as an antidote to judgment and a pillar of happiness.

Winfrey and Brooks then delineate four key pillars for structuring a life of purpose: family, friends, work, and faith. They stress the importance of deepening connections and resolving conflicts skillfully within our families, with advice like regular tech-free quality time together. Tips are offered for fostering friendships that provide mutual growth, laughter, and meaning - the authors warn against confusing social media connections for true community. At work, we are urged to seek meaningful challenges that align with our values rather than chase acclaim or wealth alone. Faith traditions and practices help provide transcendent perspective and comfort amid the ups and downs of daily life.

While realistic about life's hardships, Build the Life You Want ultimately offers an uplifting vision and guidance. According to Winfrey, Brooks' insights reinforced her belief that “happiness is achievable through daily acts of love and extended moments of grace.” With emotional intelligence and consistent effort focused on the right priorities, anyone can build a life abundant in meaning, love, and fulfilment. This engaging and research-backed book provides an accessible roadmap for that journey of becoming not just happier but more magnanimous and purposeful.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Rider Books


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