Do you constantly get swept away by your emotions? Would you like to learn how to control your emotional reactions at home or at work? Or maybe you need help dealing with someone else’s emotions?
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is the gold standard book on emotions – what emotions are and why we have them, how we can get better at managing them, and why the well-being of humanity might depend on us doing so.
Many cultures, particularly Western ones, place a lot of emphasis on intelligence as a barometer of success. We’ve even developed tests to measure our intelligence, resulting in a score known as our intelligence quotient, or IQ. But data suggests that IQ only accounts for about 20% of success in life, with the remaining 80% being made up by other factors, emotional intelligence included.
In this summary of Emotional Intelligence, learn:
Why humans have emotions to begin with
How your experiences as a baby, before you have a working memory, can cause emotional hijackings as an adult
How your chilldhood interactions with your parents shape how empathetic you are and how you react to things emotionally
How to manage anger, anxiety, and sadness in yourself — and in others
What is the meaning of life? This question has both plagued and motivated humans for centuries, and it’s probably crossed your mind once or twice. But how do we answer this question, and how can we ensure our lives have meaning?
Man’s Search for Meaning recounts Viktor Frankl’s experiences in the concentration camps of WWII and the school of therapy he invented to help us confront this very question.
In this Man’s Search for Meaning summary, learn:
The three psychological phases that concentration camp prisoners went through
The psychological defenses that supported prisoners who survived
What all that suggests for how to find meaning in your life
We are surrounded by people who seem more successful than us and who earn more money than we do. We may think, “What do they have that I haven’t got? Are they just smarter?”
In The Magic of Thinking Big, author David J. Schwartz says it’s a matter of mindset. Successful people “think bigger” — they believe in themselves, have a grander scale of imagination, and see bigger possibilities. This mindset then affects their behavior — they have magnetic attitudes, prefer action to waiting, and learn from every setback.
The Magic of Thinking Big is a wide-ranging book because it essentially tries to describe everything about what makes people successful. There are tons of details and lists, and it covers psychology, ambition, social behavior, goal-setting, and leadership. Therefore, this The Magic of Thinking Big summary is quite long, but it’s a useful checklist to figure out where you’re weak.
In this The Magic of Thinking Big summary, learn:
Common excuses you might be using to stifle your own ambition, and how to get over them
How to build a “first-class environment” to improve your thinking
Think and Grow Rich was first published in 1937 following the Great Depression. It was immediately welcomed as an antidote to hard times and remained a bestseller for decades. Today, many still find its philosophy of positive thinking and its actionables both relevant and life-changing.
The main point: our thoughts become our reality. Think success by default if you want to succeed. But there are a lot of implementation details. Think and Grow Rich also offers a slew of principles for transforming thoughts into riches, including visualization, affirmation, creating a Master Mind group, becoming more decisive, persistence through difficulties, and avoiding negative influences.
Think and Grow Rich is classic self-help, in the sense that its evidence is anecdotal, not experimental (unlike many modern books which try to be grounded in science). It uses rhetoric to make you feel uplifted and energized. But if it works and you’re more likely to succeed as a result – does it matter?
In this Think and Grow Rich summary, learn:
Why you need a single, all-consuming desire to reach breakthrough success
How to develop faith in yourself that you’ll succeed, no matter the difficulties you run into
How to develop your Master Mind group of people who will contribute ideas and advice to your success
The major causes of failure for people trying to succeed, and how to get around them
The Four Agreements is a classic self-improvement book. Published in 1997, it stayed on the NYTimes bestseller list for over a decade and has sold over 7 million copies.
The basic point of the book: you’ve unknowingly adopted beliefs about yourself and the world that are limiting your happiness.
For instance, you may feel continuous guilt for outcomes you didn’t have much control over. You may constantly put yourself down, with internal monologues about how you’re not good enough. You may be quick to jump to assumptions about other people, then fester in resentment while misunderstanding the situation.
The Four Agreements coaxes you to upend your self-limiting beliefs, and to adopt four new agreements:
Be impeccable with your word. (Speak with integrity.)
Don’t take anything personally. (Other people’s anger is about them, not about you)
Don’t make assumptions. (Clarify the situation before acting on it.)
Always do your best. (Do the best of your ability, moment to moment, and be satisfied with that.)
To learn more about how to apply these four agreements, read more in this The Four Agreements summary.
Do you have a behavior that you rationally know is better for you, but you find it too hard to maintain? Do you want to lose weight; stop using social media; exercise more; work harder and longer?
Do you feel like there are two selves to you – the rational planning self, and the greedy self-destructive indulgent self? And sometimes you feel powerless to control the indulgent self? Do you wish your rational planning self could have full control over your behavior?
Never Binge Again presents a wonderful mental framework to help solve these problems. It’s directed toward binge-eating and weight loss, but the concepts are easily analogized to any other impulse or addiction you want to control, like procrastination, social media, or laziness.
We’re so self-confident in our rationality that we think all our decisions are well-considered. When we choose a job, decide how to spend our time, or buy something, we think we’ve considered all the relevant factors and are making the optimal choice.
In reality, our minds are besieged by deep-rooted evolutionary biases. Where they once enhanced survival, they now lead to poor decision making.
Thinking, Fast and Slow is a masterful book on psychology and behavioral economics by Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman. You might already be aware of biases, from books like Poor Charlie’s Almanack or Cialdini’s Influence. Thinking, Fast and Slow exceeds these books by presenting an overall framework of cognition that explains why the biases exist and how they work.
This is a book to take your time and chew on. You should apply each learning to mistakes you’ve made and decisions you’re mulling over. The rewards are important: you’ll make better decisions and maximize your happiness.
In this Thinking, Fast and Slow summary, learn:
How something as simple as reordering a list can change your decision
Why most pundits and stock analysts are worthless
Why losses are more painful than gains, and when you inappropriately take on risk
Why we fantasize about hail-mary shots at big wins (lottery tickets and investments), while also obsessing about tiny chances of bad outcomes (disasters)
Why 90% of drivers state they’re above average drivers
Do you ever find yourself in situations causing you stress/anxiety/fear, rationally knowing you shouldn’t be stressed/anxious/afraid? Have you stopped wishing you’d think self-defeating thoughts, mustering yourself to do the things you’ve wanted to do? You might find elements of cognitive behavioral therapy to be useful.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a standard first line of treatment for improving mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. CBT has been found to be as effective as medication in treating many mental disorders.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond, written by clinician Judith S. Beck (daughter of CBT’s inventor Aaron Beck), is the leading text for CBT practitioners. This CBT basics summary covers the principles of mental disorders and treatment.
Even if you aren’t formally diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you likely face situations that evoke more negative emotions than you’d like – nervousness talking to your boss, road rage, anxiety in social situations, stress that you won’t get everything done, or fear of failure in trying something new. This CBT summary will show tactics that are broadly applicable to your daily life, helping you overcome anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration, and stress.
In this CBT: Basics and Beyond summary, learn:
Questions to ask yourself to get distance from stressful thoughts
Types of cognitive distortions that are self-defeating
How to address traumatic events earlier in your life, so that they have less hold on your thinking today
Key ways to build rapport as a cognitive behavior therapist
During the 2016 elections, Dilbert creator Scott Adams predicted that Donald Trump would win primarily because of his persuasive power. According to Adams, what looked to outsiders like blunders or mere accidents – his “Rosie O’Donnell” debate response, nicknames like “Crooked Hillary,” the repetition of building “the wall” – were instead examples of a Master Persuader channeling a nation’s energy to his will.
Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter describes the persuasion strategies Trump used throughout the campaign; how Hillary’s campaign fell short in comparison; and how you can apply these strategies to be persuasive yourself.
If you’ve read books like Cialdini’s Influence, Charlie Munger’s Almanack, and Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, you’re already aware of the biases that block you from rationality. I consider these “defensive” books – you learn how to improve your internal thinking to become more objective.
Win Bigly is an “offensive” book – it focuses externally, showing how to leverage people’s biases and irrationality to persuade on your point of view. (Obviously this should be done for moral purposes.)
Regardless of your politics, you probably want to get better at persuading people to see your point of view. As you read this summary, put your political leanings aside, and focus on how you can be more persuasive.
In this Win Bigly summary, learn:
The ranking of the most effective persuasion methods (fact-based reasoning is lower than you might think)
Why visual imagery is so much more powerful than words
How to come up with killer slogans, and why Clinton’s nicknames for Trump never worked
How to neutralize a criticism by taking the high ground everyone can agree on
Do you get irritated, angry, anxious, or emotional more easily than you would like? Do you find yourself drawn into vicious cycles of negative emotions and wish you could extricate yourself on demand? Are you essentially dissatisfied with what you have and feel like you’re in a constant rat race to nowhere? Do you wish you could let go of negative attachments and be at peace for more of your life?
Mindfulness in Plain English is an approachable introduction to mindfulness and meditation. Written by Buddhist monk Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English is practical, mostly secular, and truly written in plain English. Here are practical tips on how to start meditating and deal with common problems.
The practical goal of meditation is to create mindfulness in your everyday conscious life. You observe your thoughts and emotions as they arise, without succumbing to your typical kneejerk reactions. You discover the roots of your anger, greed, and selfishness, and you learn to banish these psychic irritants. Ultimately, you become more at peace, and friendlier to other people.
If this sounds like a valuable goal to you, then give this Mindfulness in Plain English summary – and meditation itself – a try.