I don’t read much and ‘The Present’ by Spencer Johnson is my first self help book, at the age of 20. I wonder if I am too late to be saved? Although, more often than not, self help books seemed more popular with the older generation. I dont think it has been very popular with the younger generations. It is almost as if we are too busy embracing who we are, finding our own identities or accepting our strengths and weaknesses. I say this because I hardly see my friends reading self help books.

To be honest, I have been rather skeptical towards self help books as well. I wasn’t sure why I was, maybe I just didn’t think a book can change your life. I always saw change as something way more laborious and gradual.  But, I guess the open mindedness in me led me to embark on reading this self help book by Spencer Johnson in which the only thing that is motivating me to read it, is the author’s credentials.

The title of the book ‘The Present’ is actually a play on the word ‘present’. The author effectively made use of the duo meaning the word possessed, trying to drive home the message that the best gift in the world is being in the present moment. But also, to learn from the past, prepare for the future and not let negative thoughts distract you. All of these messages conveyed through the story between a young man and an old man.

The young man represented us, his circumstances were what we face in our daily lives, our career, our relationships. He faced all the negative emotions we face. The old man represented the teacher that held the wisdom to resolve these negative emotions and impart the ways.

Throughout the book, I often felt that the way the situations were described and how the man changed were often very simplified. To me, at least, I found it difficult to relate to the young man even though he was meant to emulate us, the readers. The young man responded immediately to whatever the old man said and changed his ways almost instantaneously. The man faced no difficulties in changing. That was a real stumble for me to believe the contents of the book.

Being the usual reflective self, I realised that I have been missing the main point of the book the whole time. The book was telling us to focus on the present and not let negative thoughts invade. My doubtful thoughts were all distractions, distractions from learning what this book has to offer. I even googled whether self help books are reliable halfway through the book.

Upon having this epiphanic moment, I became conscious that I have been reading with a closed mind. I thought I was being open minded by trying to read this book. I really needed to look at with a higher level of willingness to learn something from it. But at the same time, to fully believe in whatever the book has taught, I needed to put its teachings into practice and to find out for myself if it really works.

After trying it, the book teachings prove to be effective. However, it took me a long time to try to adapt this new mindset. The book is proposing a change in mindset and more importantly, a change in mental habits which are difficult to adjust as they have been with us for so long. The book teaches us what is the correct mindset which to be honest, was not something entirely new to me. But, what I hope the self help book was able to provide was how to get there. Moreover, I feel that a lot of things still have to come from the individual. The individual needs to find the personal motivation and determination to truly bring about effective change and enough change to achieve what the book describes.

I felt that the book did to some extent made me think it is possible to change and achieve a better quality in life. But, also made me curious about the way self-help books are structured and the language used.


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