Hardly An Interior Decorating Book ...


Steve Pavlina,
Personal Development
For Smart People
(Hay House, 2008)

Huh? A personal development book on an interior decorating site? Yes, I feel I owe you an explanation.

Last month, shortly before the publication of his book, Steve Pavlina put out a challenge on his blog, saying that "the ideas in the book can be applied to absolutely any field".

I like Steve's Blog, and  I like a challenge. So I decided to take him up on it. Here's the result.

It won't be a book review like my other ones. Instead, after giving you a quick overview of the book's main tenets, I'll apply these tenets to the way we see, organize, and live in our homes ...

... in other words, I'll pretend it actually is an interior decorating book. At the end, I'll give you a short list of what I think are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the book, and why you should (or may not want to) read it.

The Book

Steve has whittled the how-to-live question down to what you could call a 'human life formula': If you want to spend your time on this planet in a worthwhile fashion, strive to live in alignment with Truth, Love, and Power.

To the extent that you are in alignment with these core principles, a set of secondary principles will also show up in your life: Oneness (Truth + Love), Authority (Truth + Power), and Courage (Love + Power). The alignment with/of Truth, Love and Power is what Steve calls Intelligence.

In his book, Steve then goes and applies these principles to different areas of our lives:

  • Habits
  • Career
  • Money
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Spirituality

Here, I'll take his chapter on Relationships and apply the content (= the three core principles, some of the text and, I hope, its spirit) to home decorating.

Applying The Principles
To Interior Decorating

The majority of interior decorating books showcase particular styles and style elements, and then - if they're really useful - they go on to show you how to (re-)create a particular 'look' in your home. They talk about solutions for decorating 'problems', and interior decorating 'projects'.

Let's try out a completely different approach.

1. TRUTH and Your Home

Let's start with a look at your relationship to your home. How do you feel about your current home?

  • Are you happy or dissatisfied?
  • Do you have the home you want, or is something still missing?
  • How do others  say they feel in your home?
  • How do you experience your home when you come back after a few days away?
  • How does your home feel  to you:

pavlina list

  • Does your home express who you really are?

If you find yourself feeling blissfully happy with your current home, give it a 10 out of 10 and celebrate.

If not, drill a little deeper. What is it about your home that has you feel this way? Can you pinpoint specific areas of your home that need attention/action? How do you feel about doing what's required -

  • confident and at ease
  • hopeful
  • doubtful that you can do it
  • daunted
  • tired
  • doomed?

Whatever you're feeling about your home right now, just accept it and don't make it mean anything. This isn't about some absolute truth, it's about your perception  of what is so. And it's a great starting point to getting what you want - even if, at the moment, you may not be able to see how it can happen. It's perfectly okay to want something and have no idea how to get it.

2. LOVE and Your Home

Even if you're not entirely happy with the current home you've got, there will be something about it, or in  it, that you really, really love. Even if it's small - this "something" can be your starting point to developing a home that gets 10 out of 10.

What is it you love most about this something?  Examine that. Thoroughly, close-up. What are its qualities that attract you?

What I'm going to say now may sound strange to you: What you see here are your own qualities. If you didn't have these traits in you, you wouldn't be able to recognize them anywhere else. And if you can own  that the beauty, clarity, charm, warmth, elegance, serenity, fun, sweetness, radiance you see in your home is who you are,  then you can develop a laser-sharp focus on creating more of it.

The way to do this is by going consciously towards what attracts you. Even if it's completely different from what your friends and family would choose for their  homes, or different from what you would have chosen in the past. Consciously connect with what feels intuitively right to you.

This doesn't mean you should buy all the stuff that attracts you (whoa!) Just keep paying attention to it, and explore how it is an expression of you. This will guide you in making great choices whenever opportunities and financial resources come your way.

3. POWER and Your Home

"Power ... is your ability to consciously and deliberately create the world around you. (...) When your power is strong, you successfully cultivate a life of your own choosing, and your environment reflects it." (Steve, p. 41)

Let's explore how this could apply to your home.

  • Do you feel that your current home fulfils your needs?
  • Does it fulfil your wishes  as well?
  • And what about your secret  wishes?

Or are you putting up with your home as it is because

  • you think that's all you're going to get?
  • you feel you don't deserve any better?
  • you don't think you've got the decorating skills to create something that's perfect for you?
  • you've given up on having a home you love?

These are disempowering thoughts - and that's all they are, thoughts. They are not the truth.

Whatever your home looks like right now is a result of choices you have made in the past. You can make new, different choices and set new goals for your living space, starting this moment. You can freely decide what kind of home you're going to create, prioritize, and develop the resources and the discipline you need to pursue your vision.

If you feel your decorating budget is not big enough for your wishes, don't let that disempower you, either. There's nothing dishonorable about limits, financial or otherwise. Use limitations to make extra smart, conscious, purposeful choices that are completely aligned with what is true for you and what you love.

Don't give your power away to TV commercials, shopping channels and home decorating catalogs. It's easy to be swayed into buying stuff you don't really need or want, things that aren't aligned with who you are. Remember that you're the one who chooses - and the more deliberate you are in your choices, the more powerful your life gets. You could even decide to switch off the TV, ditch the catalogs, and tune out the chatter entirely.

It takes courage to pursue what you want. It also takes a refusal to blame anyone (including yourself), and a refusal to justify yourself for past choices. You have all the power you need  to take the first, small steps to creating a home with a heart, a home that's truly yours.

To Sum Up ...

When you look at the three core principles above - Truth, Love, and Power - do you feel you're stronger in one or two areas than in the other(s)? Does your home show a lot of heart, but not much discipline? Is it super neat, but feels a bit cool? Does it try to impress? Does it show neglect?

The way to go with this is to celebrate what you have already achieved, what you're good at, and then tackle the area that is out of whack.

Steve's book is full of ideas and tips on how to do exactly that. No, it really isn't an interior decorating book - it's a well-argued, insightful essay, supplemented with a motherlode of exercises that will likely give you a lot of "aha" moments. And if you choose to improve your general alignment with Truth, Love and Power, your home will always benefit as well. It's part of who you are.

A Book For You?

It depends. Steve's style is quite left-brained; there's not a whole lot of emotional "juice" in the book. The information comes thick and fast. It's a bit of a tour de force  through the realm of personal development. If you prefer books that keep you emotionally engaged on every page, with lots of in-depth examples and vivid imagery, then this may not be for you.

That said, the book contains so much seriously good material - super solid reasoning that leaves no stone unturned, exercises (I love the 30-day trials!), and then some candid examples from Steve's personal life - that I think it's worth ploughing your way through it.

Underneath all the stringent thinking, the book is full of love. Love shines through every page. Not the warm, fuzzy kind - it's more like a blowtorch, and it's relentless. You'll come across the words "you must" a lot. (If you don't like being told what to do, try to be okay with it whilst you read the book ;-)

I think this is a very good book, but there's no need for you to rely on my judgement. Just go to Amazon (click the picture/link to the left), and read Steve's Introduction, First Chapter and Afterword online. Check out others' reviews of this non-interior-decorating-book as well.


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