Monday, December 08, 2014

Book: 59 Seconds - Think A Little, Change A Lot, by Richard Wiseman


59 Seconds is the type of self-help book I'm happy to read because it's based on scientific research. Of course, that still doesn't mean I'll practice any of what it preaches but it does at least make for interesting reading. The author, Richard Wiseman, writes very clearly and he doesn't dwell on any particular point for too long, which keeps things skipping along nicely.

I would have scored this book a little higher but I'd already come by many of the findings, and I can't be sure but I may have read this book once already! After reading 59 Seconds I went straight to his follow up book, "Rip It Up", which is ace and which I definitely haven't read before.

***1/2

Scribbled take-aways for future reference:

'Hedonistic habituation': take up new pleasurable hobbies and choose intentional change (e.g. painting, new sport, etc) over circumstantial change (e.g. new car). To avoid habituation, change what you do and when you do it.

'The Spotlight Effect' - we think all eyes are on us in a room but they aren't. Experiments run where people wear naff t-shirt. The wearers are all too conscious of the t-shirt and their image but other people often don't pay any attention. People are too caught up in themselves.

Remember that the body language-emotional state relationship runs in both directions (smile, sit up, walking, gestures, use positive phrases).Be wary of trait transference: if you moan and talk about negative things, people associate you with these traits.

'Benjamin Franklin Effect': Getting people to do you a small favour may actually put you in their good books.

Motivation: break large goals into small sub-goals. For each sub-goal:

 My first sub-goal is to ...
I believe I can achieve this goal because ...
To achieve this sub-goal, I will ...
This will be achieved by the following date ...
My reward for achieving this will be ...

What are the benefits of achieving the overall goal?
Benefit 1 ...
Benefit 2 ...
Benefit 3 ...

Procrastination trick: work on something for just a few minutes and you may find that you want to go on for longer.

Incorporate some greenery - the colour green seems to help creativity.

Visualisation techniques don't seem to work. They can actually reduce the motivation to put the effort in.

Attraction: how much we desire an object depends, in part, on how easy it is to obtain. "Easy things, nobody wants" - Ovid. In dating, for example, playing hard to get doesn't always work - the optimal approach may be to highlight value e.g. 'I'm normally really choosy but I really like you.' This will have broader application.

Relationships: form stronger in high risk situations e.g. on a bridge (heart rate beats faster). Touch is also powerful, as is natural mimicry.

Relationships: Surprise and escapism from the norm are better sustainers of a relationship than materialism.

Relationships:  Watch out for negative criticism - this can be very damaging.

Stress: Aggressive relief appears to be counterproductive. Focus on the benefits of the event/stress. Even watching a stressful film increases stress. Get a dog (blood pressure and heart rate) vs a cat (study shows lesser impact). See the dog/no dog stockbroker study. What's causing the effect remains a mystery (talking to it, stroking, taking for walks?).

The Power of the Placebo: People who believe they are taking alcohol can act drunk. Also experiments with caffeine and fake knee operations to relieve pain. On the flip side, if you are putting the effort in, then you need to believe it is going to benefit (e.g. sports).

Planning Fallacy - everything takes a lot longer than we expect, even when we have accounted for the planning fallacy! Mentally unpack everything into its part and estimate a time for each part.

Maximisers vs satisficers: achieve more but a lot more stress, anxiety and time over choices.

'Most psychologists now believe that the apparent complexity of human personality is an illusion. In reality people vary on just five fundamental dimensions.'5 fundamental OCEAN dimensions of personality:
- Openness (curious, broad-minded, good at tolerating ambiguity).
- Conscientiousness (self-discipline, reliable, organised, punctual).
- Extroversion (need for stimulation from outside world and other people, fun, impulsive. Low scorers more considered, controlled and reserve, social life revolved around a few people and prefer a good book to a night on the town).
- Agreeableness (cares about others, altruistic, trustworthy, likable).
- Neuroticisim (emotional stability, coping in stressful situations, prone to worry vs resilient, calm, emotionally secure).

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