Tuesday, October 6, 2009

find your strongest life--expanded review

Thomas Nelson requests that book review bloggers keep their reviews close to 200 words. I found I had many more words than that to say about Find Your Strongest Life, so I'm posting this expanded review. I'm bolding the new stuff so you can easily identify it.

I must admit, I was quite skeptical as I began reading this book. The cover evokes thoughts of Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now, which some would see as a positive, but not me. However, before I even finished reading the introduction, Buckingham had me hooked.

In Find Your Strongest Life, Marcus Buckingham stresses that women should be pursuing their passions, not settling for doing what seems sensible. He says that in order to be strong, happy, and successful, women need to discover what their strengths are and then pursue those strengths, rather than focus on “fixing” their weaknesses.

I really enjoyed this book—with a few reservations. Buckingham’s writing style is clear and friendly, and he includes a “What to take away from this chapter” bulleted list at the end of each chapter, which clearly summarizes the main points. The final section of the book, “Strong Life Tactics,” is especially helpful. Buckingham gives clear advice for building up your strengths in several areas of life.

I do wish Buckingham would have spoken specifically to single, childless women and stay-at-home moms—millions of women (including me) fit into one of those categories, yet this book focused exclusively on women who are trying to balance careers and families.

One area of the book I was disappointed in was the Strong Life Test (stronglifetest.com) and its application. I took the test twice and came up with different Lead and Supporting Roles each time. Most of the questions on the test dealt with relationships with a spouse or child or seemed geared toward high-powered career women. As I am not a wife, mother, or businesswoman, I had to guess, and honestly, most of the options didn’t sound like me. More helpful were Buckingham’s suggestions for ways to discover your passions—reading through old scrapbooks and journals, talking to your parents about what you were like as a child, remembering the things you got excited about before adult responsibilities took priority.

Also, if you’re thinking about buying this book, you should know that, while it’s published by Thomas Nelson, there’s nothing particularly “Christian” about it. It does contain helpful advice, but the advice doesn’t come from a biblical standpoint. I don’t think that invalidates the book, but readers should be aware that this book basically approaches life from a humanistic standpoint, focusing on self and each person’s “truth” for their life (and I cringed each time I read the words "your truth"--which popped up quite often), while largely ignoring faith—an aspect of life that should be paramount to believers.

Basically, I think this book has value--if taken with a grain of salt. For someone in my situation--single, childless, and basically free to do whatever I want--his advice is great. I'm not pursuing my passions ... I've gotten to the point where I don't even remember what they are anymore. So reading this book has caused me to think about my life and the direction I want for it to go. But for the married woman who stays home with her kids, I'm afraid this book may do more harm than good. I think it's wonderful for women to stay home with their children (though I'm not by any means saying they must), and this book will do nothing to affirm that decision. In fact, it may even make women feel they need to be pursuing career goals.


  1. Honestly, after reading your whole review, I think this book sounds dangerous and deceitful. We as Christians shouldn't be seeking to fulfill our passions in life, but to fulfill God's desires, even if they don't seem appealing to us at the moment. And ifhe is advocating some standard of truth other than God's Word, he is, in effect, advocating Satan's lies that have become so prevalent in today's culture. Just my 2 cents, but I'd be tossing that book now, if I were you! :)

  2. After reading Kiel's comment and rereading my own review, I think I need to clarify something.

    When Buckingham talks about finding "your truth," he's not talking about absolute truth but personal preferences. I don't think he's trying to be relativistic or undermine the absolute authority of Scripture. By the context of the occurrences of "your truth," I think Buckingham meant "your preferences and what you enjoy doing." His point was that you know what activities you enjoy and what you despise (always used in a vocational context), and no one can refute that because no one is inside your head.

    As a simplistic example, I don't like hot dogs. I despise their taste, their smell, their texture. Buckingham would say that my "truth" is that I hate hot dogs.

    Could he have used a better term? Yes. Especially since his audience is ostensibly Christians, who hold truth in high esteem.

    Frankly, though, I'm more disappointed in Thomas Nelson, which claims to be a Christian publishing house, for letting that terminology remain in the book than I am in Buckingham, who never gives any indication of his religious beliefs, for using it.

  3. good clarification. and i guess you did "toss that book now" in a way, ha! :)


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