BOOK REVIEW: Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding by Billy Mills with Nicholas Sparks (Author of Message in a Bottle), (Hay House, 2ed., 2003)

The Lakota word “wokini” means “new life, a life of peace and happiness,” and appropriately the purpose of the book Wokini is to help readers discover truths about themselves, to find out what it means to be happy, and to lead them on a journey to inner peace. Each chapter of this book contains a new lesson, lessons about searching for truth in yourself, knowing your dreams, setting goals, controlling your thoughts and emotions, having a good attitude, living a balanced and healthy life, dealing with change, and accepting responsibility.

This book is appropriate for anyone who is seeks self-awareness–anyone who wants to become a wiser, better, more loving person. While reading it, you will learn a little bit about the Native American way of life, but you will also learn how to improve your life, regardless of your culture and background.

In addition to being a heart-warming story about one man’s journey to find happiness, Wokini provides us with practical steps to uncover those same truths for ourselves. For example, Mills takes us through the ten cycles of the moon to learn the Ten Outlooks that we must master in order to have a better life and improve everything we do. In this chapter, he suggests that it takes time and effort to transform your life, but if you commit to mastering each of the Ten Outlooks, each one taking one cycle of the moon before you proceed to the next, you will have mastered yourself.

The Ten Outlooks are:
1. I am unique. I am special. I am valuable. Because of this, I should not waste my life.
2. Instead of dwelling on what I don’t have, I will focus on and appreciate what life has given me. I can love, think, dream, hope, pray, feel, and much, much more.
3. I will be optimistic and view myself with hope for the future.
4. I will set new and interesting goals.
5. I will live each day as if it were my last. I will not waste a moment.
6. I will adjust to life as needed. My happiness depends on me–not what happens to me, but how I perceive and adjust to it.
7. I will love myself for who Wakantanka created me to be–for who I am. I will love myself and see the world with love.
8. I will never insist on perfection from myself or others. Perfection is impossible. Effort will be my expectation.
9. I will learn to laugh at life–even at problems because in time problems fade.
10. I will see things from the other person’s point of view. This will help me become more loving, patient, and kind.

If we master each of the Ten Outlooks, we truly will have transformed our lives in a positive way. In addition to the Ten Outlooks, Billy Mills teaches many more invaluable lessons you can apply to your life as you read this story. In our Mastering Life Skills class, we read and discuss portions of the story in class where it connects with the topics from the On Course text. There are many parallels such as setting goals, having and making choices, and believing in yourself. Our Native American students relate to the story telling as a way to create meaning. Story telling is a natural way of passing on wisdom in their tradition. The message in this story is that we can choose to be happy. One student said, “This book has some parallels to my own life. I can see now that regardless of the good and the bad, things that happen to us in life, happiness is a choice I make. That is freedom.” As the On Course text does, Wokini emphasizes the value of taking responsibility for all of our choices.

This book is definitely an inspiration to anyone who will listen to its wisdom. It has touched many lives already and will continue to touch those who read its pages.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

–Reviewed by Michelle Greseth, Faculty, Education/Learning Skills, Sisseton Wahpeton Community College, SD

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