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59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lotby Richard Wiseman
Synopses & Reviews
Sophie's question, and the
potential for rapid change
DO YOU WANT TO IMPROVE an important aspect of your life? Perhaps lose weight, find your perfect partner, obtain your dream job, or simply be happier? Try this simple exercise. . . .
Close your eyes and imagine the new you. Think how great you would look in those close-fitting designer jeans, dating Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, sitting in a luxurious leather chair at the top of the corporate ladder, or sipping a pina colada as the warm waves of the Caribbean gently lap at your feet.
The good news is that this type of exercise has been recommended by some in the self-help industry for years. The bad news is that a large body of research now suggests that such exercises are, at best, ineffective and, at worst, harmful. Although imagining your perfect self may make you feel better, engaging in such mental escapism can also have the unfortunate side effect of leaving you unprepared for the difficulties that crop up on the rocky road to success, thus increasing the chances of your faltering at the first hurdle rather than persisting in the face of failure. Fantasizing about heaven on earth may put a smile on your face, but it is unlikely to help transform your dreams into reality.
Other research suggests that the same goes for many popular techniques that claim to improve your life. Attempting to think yourself happy by suppressing negative thoughts can make you obsess on the very thing that makes you unhappy. Group brainstorming can produce fewer and less original ideas than individuals working alone. Punching a pillow and screaming out loud can increase, rather than decrease, your anger and stress levels.
Then there is the infamous Yale Goal Study. According to some writers, in 1953 a team of researchers interviewed Yale's graduating seniors, asking them whether they had written down the specific goals that they wanted to achieve in life. Twenty years later the researchers tracked down the same cohort and found that the 3 percent of people who had specific goals all those years before had accumulated more personal wealth than the other 97 percent of their classmates combined.
It is a great story, frequently cited in self-help books and seminars to illustrate the power of goal setting. There is just one small problem--as far as anyone can tell, the experiment never actually took place. In 2007 writer Lawrence Tabak, from the magazine Fast Company, attempted to track down the study, contacting several writers who had cited it, the secretary of the Yale Class of 1953, and other researchers who had tried to discover whether the study had actually happened. No one could produce any evidence that it had ever been conducted, causing Tabak to conclude that it was almost certainly nothing more than an urban myth. For years, selfhelp gurus had been happy to describe a study without checking their facts.
Both the public and the business world have bought into modern-day mind myths for years and, in so doing, may have significantly decreased the likelihood of achieving their aims and ambitions. Worse still, such failure often encourages people to believe that they cannot control their lives. This is especially unfortunate, as even the smallest loss of perceived control can have a dramatic effect on people's confidence, happiness, and life
From mood to memory, resilience to relationships, the self-help industry often promotes exercises that destroy motivation, damage relationships, and reduce creativity--the opposite of everything it promises. Here, psychologist Wiseman brings together a broad range of scientific advice supporting the new science of rapid change and describes how these quirky, sometimes counterintuitive techniques can help you change your life in under a minute, and guides you toward becoming more decisive, more imaginative, more engaged, and altogether more happy.--From publisher description.
A member of the conservation organization American Forests, Arthur Plotnik is a distinguished author and former American Library Association executive. Along with award-winning artist and illustrator Mary Phelan (his wife), he is a passionate observer of trees in their urban context. The two live on a Chicago street blessed with ashes, maples, and horse-chestnuts.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Richard Wiseman is based at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. He is the author of the best-selling The Luck Factor and Quirkology and other titles. He also regularly acts as a creative consultant for print, broadcast, and new media.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Self-help exposed, Sophie’s question, and the potential for
Why positive thinking often fails and how the real route to
happiness involves a pencil, keeping the perfect diary, small
acts of kindness, and developing the gratitude attitude
Why rewards fail, how to give the flawless interview,
improve your social life by making mistakes, never lose your
wallet again, and convince anyone of anything by using
your pet frog
The dark side of visualization, how to achieve absolutely
anything by creating the ideal plan, overcoming procrastination,
and employing “doublethink”
Exploding the myth of brainstorming, how to get in touch
with your inner Leonardo merely by glancing at modern art,
lying down, and putting a plant on your desk
Why you shouldn’t play hard to get, how the subtle art of
seduction involves the simplest of touches, roller-coaster
rides, and avoiding artificial Christmas trees
The perils of “active listening,” why Velcro can help couples
stick together, words speak louder than actions, and a
single photograph can make all the difference
Why not to kick and scream, how to reduce resentment
in seconds, harness the power of a four-legged friend, and
think your way to low blood pressure
Why two heads are no better than one, how never to regret
a decision again, protect yourself against hidden persuaders,
and tell when someone is lying to you
The Mozart myth, how to choose the best name for a baby,
instantly divine a child’s destiny using just three marshmallows,
and effectively praise young minds
Why not to trust graphology, how to gain an apparently
magical insight into other people’s personality from their
fingers and thumbs, their pets, and the time they go to bed
Sophie’s answer: Ten techniques in 59 seconds
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