Chris Brady, in PAiLS, asks;" Twenty years from now what will you wish you had done today?" Interesting question and I will add that to my collection of questions (therapists collect questions, and, I was a therapist - one who still collects).
I NEVER met anyone who wanted to get worse - to grow into a bad person. In my past work as a therapist, even the parents labelled by Child Protection agencies as abusive or failure-to-protect never set out to be that way. Often they just didn't know how to change or understand how their current behaviours would impact upon their life in one, five, ten and twenty years time. They didn't know their life purpose.
A plethora of self-help and personal development texts and workbooks address change. The industry is HUGE....but still we have people unable to change their lives and to become the best they can be. I understand and appreciate that many factors impede change and that the cycle of poverty clings fiercely to those within its grip. Counsellors and therapists have long worked to create change in people, to develop better communities and to pave the way for self actualisation. But, are we asking the right questions to stimulate lasting cognitive and physical change?
PAiLS: 20 Years From Now, What Will You Wish You Had Done Today? is full of life changing significance. So full, in fact, that some other personal development books pale into insignificance against it. The author, Chris Brady, is neither psychologist, allied health, neuroscientist or a Dr Phil cousin-brother. He is a recovered systems engineer who moved from an unhappy and emotionally constipated professional lifestyle to a fulfilled and self-actualising community development advocate who now grows compensated communities that care about helping each other and he life coaches those he works with to become the best they can be.
Chris Brady is a bloke who rejected the credentialist system and turned his hands to working with people with where they are at and with what they could work with: their history, their minds and their hearts. You will be hard pressed at this early stage to find personal development peer reviews of his books because many of my professional therapeutic peers stay stuck in a credentialist system that mandates we are the only ones who can help people recover from their trauma and to become the best they can be. Twenty years ago I wish someone had told me what Brady espouses in PAiLS
This is what PAiLS is about:
PAiLS is literally the idea of tipping our psychological, emotional and behavioural content from one pail (a bucket as a metaphor for our life) into another pail. The pouring bucket is full of our Potential and the Actualisation of that potential. As it is poured into the second pail it becomes our Legacy with the resultant Spillage from poring into a second pail becoming our wasted legacy. PAiLS is therefore an acronym for Potential and Actualisation into Legacy and Spillage. Plus, the pails make a really nice graphic that is easy to remember.
PAiLS is a book of "whats" (you know, all those open-ended "what" questions that we therapists love to ask). It could have a trendy sub-title like, "What to do to live a life that counts," but instead its sub-title is, "20 Years from now what will you wish you had done today?" It immediately suggests internal responsibility and not an external locus of control and ties current action to future outcomes: longitudinal cause and effect. PAiLS offers a framework for answering the "what and who am I?" and "what am I doing with my life?" questions and allows readers to map a new life if desired (oh, how I desire). PAiLS directly addresses, "How does one find and pursue a meaningful life?"
When people don't know where they are going, or how to get there, they end up where external (and often negative) circumstances and events decide for them. PAiLS is a fork-in-the-road map, and the keys to positively navigate the map are our Potential, Actualisation and Legacy.
Wise man Brady also encompasses a smorgasbord of metaphors to capture readers motivated by different images and suggests that we look at life like "a layer cake:" a Ziggurat (a type of pyramid made up of stepped layers with each layer smaller than the one before). Similar to the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Brady's Ziggurat steps you from life zombie to life legend. The bottom layer of the PAiLS ziggurat is our preparatory experiences - everything that has happened to date. The next layer up is our pragmatic occupation - the jobs we do to get money to survive. Above that is a layer called our passionate pursuit - the thing that most fulfils us. The top layer is our purposeful calling - our legacy - the things that we know we are duty bound to do and will do because we want to. Our legacy is the sum of all our actualisations (actualisation is where things become actual - not just talking or thinking about doing stuff but actually doing it).
Brady dedicates chapters and realities of success to each level and skilfully guides the reader up the Ziggurat by engaging them in a cognitive process of self consideration and scoring. Unlike Maslow, who asserts that self actualisation is only reached when lower levels of need have been met, Brady asks readers to flip the concept, to invert the pyramid and start with the end in mind - what is the highest contribution you would like to make (purposeful calling)? From there you consider the passions you already have that support the higher purpose (passionate pursuit), the types of occupations that allow you to do the things you are passionate about (Pragmatic Occupation), and finally to find sense in all the preparatory experiences of your life that fed a higher purpose (Preparatory Experiences).
In a chapter on Immersion, Brady declares three stages to mastery: Ignorance, Immersion and Intelligence. Like Pavlov's dog, I drooled over this chapter and read, reread and emailed a friend in Tasmania about it. If this chapter was the only thing I knew about Brady playing with PAiLS, it would have convinced me to immediately buy the complete book and to devour it with a ferocious hunger. In the interests of saving my long fingernails from further keyboard fractures, this is what I emailed my friend (feel my intensity and immediate excitement as you voyeur upon my private mail here):
OMG – as soon as we launch you HAVE to buy a copy of Chris Brady’s PAiLS. I have just had it as March’s LIFE subscription book of the month and it is very confronting and illuminating about the [business] difficulties we are having ....
Brady posits there are three stages to Mastery – Ignorance, Immersion and Intelligence.
I swear he has written it for you and I.
..., we are STUCK in the Immersion stage of doing something new – hence our great frustration. One of the biggest challenges in this stage is the pressure of the process. Unfortunately, many people don’t handle this stage well and respond incorrectly by:
1) Becoming overwhelmed and quitting,
2) Caving into the pressure, don’t quit, but instead wallowing around rather than bringing concentration and effort
3) Blaming the craft or the process (ME – blaming the American culture all the time!!!!!!!!), or
4) Blaming other people.
These 4 reactions are progress killers. To shift into the next stage we need to transform the pressure we feel into intensity and focus that intensity on our improvement.
One of the biggest personal learnings (excepting that Blackbeard's real name was Edward Teach) I have taken from PAiLS is a very astute yet brief mention on "phases of life." In Chapter 1, Monument, in the section called "Potential - What will you do?" Chris Brady shares stories of people who started life with one self-absorbed purpose or career to change it and do other things that served people way beyond themselves. However, their early experiences all became rich data to add to the bottom layer of the ziggurat (Preparatory Experiences). I have long laboured over many of my earlier experiences and severely scolded myself for having wasted time and energy. Other people have condescendedly marvelled at how I have been a master of "re-creation." My professional and credientialist self cringes at those comments and my fear of being wrongly judged is high. However, that rascal Brady, in a single line on page 20, "It immediately occurred to me that other well-known figures have lived out their lives in phases as well," switched my mind from self negative judgement to self recognition of the wealth of experience and preparation I have for leaving a decent legacy. I sincerely hope that a single line in PAiLS has a similar change value and comfort for you.
Usefulness of PAiLS: This is a very interesting book because it produces life gems on so many levels (or layers). It could be an instructional guide or workbook for a novice to the personal development genre. Alternatively, it could be an academic text book with PAiLS becoming a new theory of human development. Yet again, it could be a book for a seasoned self-developer to propel themselves up a level of mastery or leadership. But, to feed my selfish need for quality material and my passionate pursuit and purposeful calling for speaking and vicarious educating, I foresee PAiLS as a combination of the three and therefore an excellent addition to everybody. I would love to use PAiLS as a self-development workshop tool in mixed groups of people. I foresee weekly workshops around the book, held across the world, changing people's lives enmasse. Yes, I consider the content that good. But, until PAiLS workshops happen, grab your own copy and start changing your life according to the PAiLS blueprint.
To buy a copy of PAiLS. 20 Years from Now, What Will You Wish You Had Done Today? (Chris Brady, 2014, Obstacles Press), head to the LIFE Leadership online store. It costs just $19.95 (hard cover) plus P&H. Order straight off the website and have it delivered to you. An eBook option is also available for $14.50.
This book review is written by Megan Bayliss, a semi retired Eco Social Worker/Child Therapist and independent consultant of LIFE Leadership, a personal development and leadership training company.