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Five Wishes
by Gay Hendricks

Release Date: 7th Feb 2008
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978 0 718 15386 1
RRP: 12.99

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If you were on your deathbed - what 5 wishes would you make?

Self-help books often fall into 3 categories: the earth-shatteringly good, the obvious (but not by necessity bad) and the truly rubbish. So which one does Five Wishes fall into? Well, for me, that would have to be the middle ground the obvious category. Quite simply, there is very little new ground uncovered here and the promise of delivering an unshakeable new foundation on which to base a new, better life is just not there.

Had I just read chapter and verse of this book, you could probably accuse me of not really giving it a go. So I did precisely what some magazine writers do and lived the book. I did exactly what it said on the tin and tried out the theory. It was with some excitement that I came up with my own 5 wishes; admittedly on a much lesser level as worms do not have megalomaniacal tendencies... but 5 wishes all the same. And this is where the book succeeds. It forces you to take stock of your life as it stands now. It doesnt let you procrastinate. You feel admonished until you name 5 things you essentially regret about your life and then leads you through what turns out to be a rather mundane and obvious process to transform those regrets into goals.

And this is where the book fails. The regrets we have may be founded in reality, but the transformation into an attainable goal is not necessarily as easy. You cannot go back in time and undo things that have been and gone, you cannot reclaim your youth and you cannot regain mobility and health if it is irretrievably lost... no matter how strong the regret and subsequent goal. But, and this is a strange peculiarity I have noticed in human nature, there is something unquestionably invigorating about having the goal. The direction it gives. The energy boost as your mind begins to travel along closed off roads in search of potential new routes to follow. Simply being in possession of new found meaning is deeply hypnotic and addictive. And this is the problem there is no follow up, no ongoing support, no motivational tools which will help you turn this burst of energy into actual action. And what good are goals if we do nothing to actually achieve them? Surely then, they just become more regrets?

Five Wishes isnt anything new then. Like a hermit crab, self-help books seem to simply re-house themselves into different outer casings, posing as something novel and it is hard not to feel a little cheated. But then, it is a very rare self-help book that offers a completely life-transforming insight or process or tool, so we cant be too harsh on Five Wishes. It does, after all, manage to give us the time and space (and excuse) to withdraw into ourselves and go through potentially painful self analysis and introspection. And perhaps by getting us to focus on ourselves for a few precious moments, we can see a little clearer the things that we truly want for ourselves rather than what we have been programmed by the media, society, friends, the boss, or family tell us we should want.

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