Book Freak #41: How to Succeed in a Distracted World


Short pieces of advice from books

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Oliver Burkeman writes a weekly column on psychology for The Guardian called, “This Column Will Change Your Life.” Here are four pieces of advice from his book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.

Don’t wait until you feel motivated to do something
“Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it? The problem, from this perspective, isn’t that you don’t feel motivated; it’s that you imagine you need to feel motivated. If you can regard your thoughts and emotions about whatever you’re procrastinating on as passing weather, you’ll realise that your reluctance about working isn’t something that needs to be eradicated or transformed into positivity. You can coexist with it. You can note the procrastinatory feelings and act anyway.”

Embrace insecurity
“True security lies in the unrestrained embrace of insecurity – in the recognition that we never really stand on solid ground, and never can.”

Be happier by not trying to be happy
“The effort to feel happy is often precisely the thing that makes us miserable. And that it is our constant efforts to eliminate the negative – insecurity, uncertainty, failure, or sadness – that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain, or unhappy.”

Stop rating yourself
“When you rate your self highly, you actually create the possibility of rating your self poorly; you are reinforcing the notion that your self is something that can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the first place. And this will always be a preposterous overgeneralization. You have strengths and weaknesses; you behave in good ways and bad ways. Smothering all these nuances with a blanket notion of self-esteem is a recipe for misery. Inculcate high self-esteem in your children, claims Paul Hauck, a psychologist opposed to the concept of self-esteem, and you will be ‘teaching them arrogance, conceit and superiority’ – or alternatively, when their high self-esteem falters, ‘guilt, depression, [and] feelings of inferiority and insecurity’ instead. Better to drop the generalisations. Rate your individual acts as good or bad, if you like. Seek to perform as many good ones, and as few bad ones, as possible. But leave your self out of it.”

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