Body & mind
How Confidence Works
Of course, I'm also lacking in confidence!
Do we really know what we mean when we say it?
Ian Richardson is a psychiatrist and neuro-scientist. In other words he knows how the brain works. And - quite frankly - his book gives the clearest description of what confidence actually is!
You see, he describes confidence as a future prediction mechanism in your brain. Your beliefs on if you Can Do something and if - when you do that thing - something Can Happen will determine your level of confidence.
Once we know what your 'lack of confidence' actually means you can do something about it.
A knowledgeable and very interesting book about what happens when people are lacking confidence - or have too much of it.
With special attention for why women are more often lacking in confidence - due to stereotype and bias - and what to do about it.
Happiness by design
It's always amusing to me. How we try to 'capture' happiness in a formula. Which is exactly what Paul Dolan is trying to do in this book. With an economist's view he has tried to capture the formula with which to 'improve' the outcome. As if it was a factory with pipes and processes. Which you can improve with a good well-timed BANG in the right place.
Anyway, this is what it comes down to.
Happiness is made up of the amount of time spent on things that give you PLEASURE or PURPOSE. For you to do that you need to pay ATTENTION to those things. Because the things that get done are the things you pay attention to. For the rest of the book he sets out how to Decide, Design and Do things that will contribute to this purpose.
The verdict on this book? If I'm honest, I wouldn't have finished this book if it wasn't for our Book Club in which we're reading it. Although for people who are new to books about Happiness it's a useful, simple to implement. way of becoming happier.
Stumbling on happiness
You'll regret NOT doing it. More so than you'll regret making a mistake.
Because - even if you make a mistake - your brain will start to make something positive out of it. What you've learned from it. What positive things you're taking away from this. What you will do differently next time.
Whilst if you don't do it you'll never know. Your brain will keep guessing. It will keep on thinking 'what if'. One of the big learnings from Stumbling on Happiness, the book by Daniel Gilbert.
Despite the - quite frankly - ridiculous book cover (what has a pair of unfathomably high-heeled lemon coloured shoes tripping over a banana skin to do with - well - anything?) there are lots of little gems in this book.
Why we are so bad at predicting what will make us happy in the future (spoiler alert: because our imagination is singularly incapable of planting our future self in the future, but stubbornly tries to imagine our current self there instead!).
The biggest takeaway? Don't have regrets over what you haven't done. Go and do it. And learn from it. That's what we're excellent at.
You see, this is the trouble.
Good books often are disappointingly familiar when you get to them. Because everyone has already read them, reviewed them, told their own stories about them, implemented them, told you what they loved about them.
If you already read Charles Duhigg's book The power of habits, AND have seen the numerous reviews etc that praised this book this may be exactly what happens to you.
Yes, it's easy to read. With very practical steps you can take. (Like habit-stacking - combining something you NEED to do, with something you WANT to do. And the practice of making it physically harder to fall back into bad behaviour and easier to keep displaying good behaviour).
You may just wish you read it years ago!
Four Thousand Weeks - Time Management for Mortals
Four thousand weeks. Give or take. That's all you've got. And if you're reading this you've already used a fair few of those.
Believe it or not, despite the title, it is actually a very uplifting book.
Because it deeply questions how we want to 'use', control and manipulate time. How we see time as something separate to ourselves. Something we can beat by working harder and smarter. By trying to get to the end of our To Do list quicker.
The truth is, we can't. We can't manipulate time.
If we try to finish our To Do list we (ironically) only help to fill it up with even MORE to do. If we get irritated about how long a task takes, then that's down to us, because tasks take the time they take.
And - most crucially - who has actually come up with this idea that time is something we have to 'use'? How come time is now equivalent to money? And who has decided and made this idea enter our collective consciousness that - if you don't 'use' your time constructively - you are 'wasting' your (or worse, your employer's) time?
There are some massive learnings in this book. But the biggest one is this: Your time here is finite. Make sure you do things that are meaningful. And say 'No!' to everything else.
Oh, and also, in the grand scheme of things, chances are that what you will do, will disappear into insignificance. Don't strive for a level of remarkable-ness that is unattainable. Instead, decide which next step is the most important, and do that.
And THOSE are messages that are both sobering and liberating at the same time. Great book.
How to work without losing your mind
Cate Sevilla had me at ‘Personally, I have spent an unimaginable amount of my work life with a pounding heart, sweaty palm, churning guts and an anxious rage coursing through my veins.’
You see, work (and change) would be so much easier without the people!
This book gives you strategies to deal with a range of topics (helpfully displayed in the sketchnote 😊).
Because, as it turns out, at least 50% of the time, it’s not (just) the people but actually yourself that you’re running up against, time and time again.
Atlas of the Heart - Brene Brown
You see, like Brene Brown, I always thought that resentment was part of the Anger family of emotions.
It’s not. It’s associated with envy. If you feel resentment - instead of getting angry or frustrated - have a look on the inside. What is it that you WANT, that someone else has got?
It’s what this book does best. It categorises emotions in a way that makes sense. But before you dismiss it as a sort of encyclopedia of emotions, it’s not (although I’m most DEFINITELY going to use it as a reference book!)
No. It helps you become emotionally literate. It helps you pinpoint what emotion you are feeling.
So that you can figure out what is sitting behind that feeling. WHY you are feeling resentful. Or angry. Or …
So that you can figure out what it is that is going on for you. What it is that you WANT.
In other words, it maps out the landscape of emotions so that you can make your own individual journey. Such an interesting read!
The Art of Effortless Living
Has working from home caused you backaches? Do you feel that your body is one big inflamed muscle?
This book may be for you. It talks exactly about how us adults start to hold our bodies so tensely. Creating havoc in parts of our body.
Whilst what we could do is live more effortlessly. By living more in our body. Really feeling where you are holding tension in your body. And making small adjustments.
It talks about the impact of emotions on the body. A thing that we tend to forget. And how releasing some of that tension in our body - moving differently - can help us get in contact with our emotions more easily.
The Diet Myth
In this absolutely fascinating book Tim Spector talks us through all the facts and myths associated with each of the elements on the food labels. And dispels a lot of them.
Everyone is unique down to the make up of the microbes in our gut. This is why some diets work for some people but not for others
The more diverse our microbes are the better - so try as many new (unprocessed) foods as possible
Antibiotics are pretty much everywhere and are not good for us
Sugar is in everything too
Fat is not always a bad thing
And too much hygiene can lead to allergies. (Or, dust and spiders are your friend!)
Gut. The inside story of our body's most under-rated organ
What has your gut got to do with your career?
Well, as it happens quite a bit.
We all know the sayings. We are 'scared shitless', we can be 'pooing our pants'. We can't get our 'arse into gear if we don't get on with things. We 'swallow' our disappointment and need to 'digest' a defeat.
Even our ancestors knew that your gut had a role to play in your behaviour, in your actions, in your intuition. And now science is getting in on the act too!
It turns out that your gut has a lot of say in our decisions as the nerves in the gut influences different parts of your brain (spoiler alert: it's all about movement and change). And having a healthy gut influences both your physical and mental wellbeing.
So, yeah, perhaps not the most obvious choice for a career change book, but if you want to know how your gut and brain work together to help you make the best decisions then this is the book to read!
Martin Seligman is the 'father' of positive psychology, the branch of psychology that looks at how people flourish. This book explains how you can make a conscious effort to be happier. How would you do that? Well, building on what we now know about emotional intelligence (where - by becoming more self aware - we are able to manage our emotions better), we can take active steps to be more positive, about the past and about the future, and in the now. The book provides a raft of exercises that will help you to become more grateful, to forgive, to savour the now and use your strengths in something that is meaningful to you (something that is bigger than just you).
A very useful and insightful book.
Maybe you should talk to someone
Don't we all have a secret wish to see what goes on behind the closed doors of a therapist?
Don't we all love reading how people roll themselves up in their own stories. How they can get lost in grief, or anger. Or, as Lori Gottlieb says, they rattle the bars of their prison whilst the prison door is wide open.
There's a lot to learn in this book. About how we all get burdened with baggage throughout our life. And how it takes a brave person to take that to a therapist week after week to really get to grips with that. To reflect and learn more about yourself and wanting to do the work.
This book is about a therapist, her therapist and how people are grappling with their lives.
If you want to understand more about how people work through their emotions this is your book!
The inner game of tennis
W. Timothy Gallwey
And sometimes you just find books. On a neighbour's windowsill in this case.
One of the books that's forming the basis of coaching.
Because whilst this book is about tennis it really is about the brain. About how your ego (here called Self 1) should not try to rule the body (emotional) brain (Self 2). But instead should trust it to get it right with minimal instruction.
It's about the art of concentration. it's about what other games are playing out whilst you're playing (like wanting to be the best, or looking good). How our identities can get rolled up in this 'other' game. And what the role of competition is.
Yes, it's a book about tennis. It was written in 1975 and is only 128 pages long, but it's absolutely packed with learning that you can apply anywhere.
The course of love
Alain de Botton
I've got some outspoken opinions on the 'institution' of marriage. Something to do with being trained as a lawyer, and not being keen on lifelong contracts. I won't bore you with them.
So it was only a matter of time before someone made me aware of the views of Alain de Botton. I'd seen his TED talk. And now I've read the book.
And it's a refreshingly realistic view of long-term relationships. It squashes the idea that you'll meet your absolute soulmate and will be deliriously happy for the rest of your life.
Because everyone who is in a long-term relationship will know that's a lie.
Instead it introduces the concept of 'love' as a verb. Something you've got to DO.
It talks about how - because of our childhood - we could enter into and live in a relationship with attachment issues (avoidance or anxiety based).
It talks about how communications (as ever) is key. And the willingness of two people to communicate and educate.
Marriages for land and power may no longer be of this time, but neither is the purely Romantic view of eternal bliss after having found 'the one'!
All told through the lens of an example marriage.
Great book. Lots of learning.
inGenius - A Crash Course on Creativity
I was looking for a book on creativity. And hey presto, there it was! Right in my own book cupboard.
Tina Seelig is a professor at Stanford University. At the design school. And a real expert on creativity.
This book is a swift overview of some of the techniques and exercises you can deploy to ensure that you delve into your innate creativity.
Because we are all creative. In fact, creativity is what sets us apart as a species and which will be one of the key qualities that makes us unique and irreplaceable in the future.
What I found interesting was, yes, the reiteration of some of the better-known techniques: the Six Hats theory by Edward de Bono, the creating of stimulating workspaces that support collaboration and so on.
But also the framework that you can put in place to ensure creativity. From bringing together knowledge to helping to spark your imagination and ideas. From being aware of and influencing your environment, resources and culture to cultivating an open attitude towards opportunities.
My key takeaway? Everyone is creative. Creating the environment in which creativity can flourish is key!
A New Earth
He is right, you know. Eckhart Tolle says if you don't understand this book you're not ready.
At 39 I would have frustratedly put this book aside. Gobbledegook. Woowoo. Spiritual with a capital S.
in other words, not for me.
As it turns out, not for me YET.
The book builds on one of my favourite books, The Power of Now. Which shows you that there is nothing but now. Thoughts about the past, worries about the future are just that, thoughts.
This book builds on that and shows you the road to inner and outer purpose.
What I like about this book is the reference to your attitude to what you do.
You either Accept, Enjoy or have Enthusiasm for something.
Acceptance of what is, doing something because you enjoy it or, do something you enjoy AND have a sense of direction (enthusiasm).
So, yes, spiritual it is. And not the easiest of language. But very practical as a guideline.
One I can certainly get on board with. Unlike my 39-year old self.
The Power of Now
A while back I read 'A new earth' from Eckhart Toll, the sequel to 'The Power of Now'. Since then this book was on my wish list. And sure enough I found a second-hand copy (I tend to go for second hand or library books. Buying new books all the time would bankrupt me!).
And this book straight away made it into my Top 6 books that changed my life. Because for me, any book that makes me feel so alive, and my body zinging with energy, fully deserves that accolade.
So, whilst I am a late adopter (the book came out in 1997), the reason I like this book so much is that it aims to provide the key to attaining peace and contentment, by - you guessed it - intending to live in the 'now'.
What does that mean? It means that:
You are good enough as you are
You are not your thoughts, not your mind, not your emotions - as these can all be observed, by ... you
Your past and your future are only in your mind and are therefore not real. All there is is now, and you should endeavour to be present in the now, accept what is happening now
Does this mean that you should just accept your situation and never make any changes? Of course not! Accepting that your life is as it is, in this moment, does not stop you from taking steps, now, to make your future life situation better.
However, it does mean that forever living in the past or in the future, or identifying with what happens in your mind (and getting 'stuck' in your story) or being ruled by your emotions, is - in the words of Eckhart Tolle 'insanity'. Eckhart Tolle's books use language that takes a bit of getting used to, but his message is clear.
My recommendation? If you haven't read this book yet, then you should!
John C. Parkin
I read the sequel to this. F**k it. Do What you love (you can read my book review HERE). About, well, doing what you love!
I thought I'd read this too.
Well, in fairness, it was a quick read. It basically tells you to not be too attached to things. Because, in the great scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, all this.
So why get so worked up about things. As if it is all is really important.
Effectively John Parkin tells us to say 'f**k it' to a whole heap of things and go with the flow of life for a bit. Until you've found what it is that you want to do. And do it because you want to. Instead of trying to paddle upstream all the time.
What I like about this book, apart from it being a quick read? It puts life into perspective. All this stressing and striving we're doing. For what, exactly? Why NOT go with the flow, connect with your body and accept what is.
We care too much. For things people tell us we should care about. In a way that people tell us we should care. This book tells us you don't have to. in fact, that - by caring less - you automatically start caring more. But for the things that are important to YOU, no one else.
Enjoyable. Quick. AND I learned a whole heap of new breathing exercises to boot!
How Emotions Are Made
Lisa Feldman Barratt
I was a bit intimidated first of all. A big scientific book about the brain. Turns out that this might well be the most important book I've read all year. Uprooting everything I thought I knew about emotions.
You see, in change management we have all of these metaphors. About riders (the thinking brain) taming the elephant (the animal brain). About monkeys jumping on your back.
Turns out they're all wrong.
You see, emotions are not this ancient 'animal' hiding in your brain. Your emotions are constructed. Your brain is predicting. Constantly. Based on your experiences and your social environment your brain creates concepts which create your emotions. which means that your emotions are not based in one part of your brain, or shown in one universal facial expression.
It all sounds so far so good.
Until you realise the power behind all this.
How complete legal systems are based on the notion that you can see if someone is remorseful or not. Or is showing (enough) emotion. As an example.
How everyone has their own concepts. And none of them are the same. Because they are influenced by your social reality.
If I could take only one lesson from this?
If your emotions are not some animal to be tamed, but instead are constructed, we can decide to change them!
I haven't done this book justice here in a couple of paragraphs (and I have seen at least one review that was a whole lot better and more comprehensive than this).
In short though, yes, I was intimidated by this book at first, but I'm so glad I persevered (although I may have skipped the chapter on emotions in animals)!
This book has completely changed everything I knew about emotions. What else could you want in a book?
No, before you ask, no one died. I suppose I have an (unhealthy?) interest in other people's lives.
This book is all about grief. About how people work their way through grief. Told from a therapist's perspective. Talking about real people in her practice. People who grieved. For loved ones, for children, for parents, for themselves.
I've written about a therapist's book before.
The lessons I take from this one?
That grief affects everyone in different ways.
And that - as family and friends of the bereaved - we can get much better in being there for the person who has just lost someone.
By being there - long after everyone else is gone.
By not avoiding the subject of death, or the person who has died.
By giving practical help
By being honest and sensitive, and
By letting the bereaved person lead on the pace of their grieving.
Julia Samuel identifies a number of 'pillars', elements that determine the level of grief, as she has witnessed in the people she supported: how close you were to the person that died, your relationship with yourself, your health, how you can express grief, your boundaries, structure in your life, and your ability to focus.
I think there is so much to learn from these type of books about people's lives. About the real, human emotion that people encounter in grief. How they deal with it.
It left me pondering. About how we all can be better. How we'd cope with grief.
How we can prepare ourselves better for inevitable life events.