December 31 is on the horizon and you know what that means: deciding on New Year resolutions that you already know will go by the wayside before January 31 rolls around.
The authors of the following books want to help you finally make it over the hump.
Part of the problem, according to UCLA psychology professor Wendy Wood, is that each of us has not one mind, but multiple minds—and they sometimes operate at cross purposes.
“Habits work so smoothly that we hardly ever think about them,” Wood writes near the beginning of Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick. She calls our habits a “second self—a side of you that lives in the shadow cast by the thinking mind you know so well.”
Wood spends the rest of the book throwing light on this shadowy part of ourselves, explaining (with the help of impressively marshalled research) how to employ concepts such as context, repetition and reward to help your brain rise out of its rut when you want to, say, reform your eating habits or get yourself to the gym more often.
The good news of Good Habits, Bad Habits is that you can stop beating yourself up. As Wood sees it, the difference between successful and unsuccessful attempts at change doesn’t rest on “personal fortitude or determination.” (What a relief!) Instead, success hinges on giving your brain tools that will allow it to overcome habit’s inertia.
Moving past one’s apparent limitations is also the theme of Deepak Chopra’s latest book.
In Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, Chopra argues (and it’s not an argument unique to him) that the everyday world we perceive as “reality” is, in fact, an illusion created by the mind. That means we can go beyond our self-created limits to reach a greater reality—to become “metahuman.” As Chopra puts it, “Human potential is infinite because consciousness has no boundaries.”
Reaching that level requires digging through layers of self, past one’s ego and personality, to the “pure consciousness” that is “silent and still.” Chopra explains, “At the level of true self, all desire for change reaches its goal, because only here is ‘I am’ enough to bring total fulfillment.”
To put this somewhat amorphous goal into action, the book provides “31 Metahuman Lessons,” such as putting a bit of salt or sugar on your tongue and noting how the taste diminishes almost immediately. “This puts you in touch with how brief and temporary experience is,” Chopra writes. “Fleeting perceptions are the texture of life.”
For a lighter approach to getting in touch with your true nature, you can try Flaunt! Drop Your Cover & Reveal Your Smart, Sexy & Spiritual Self.
A corporate attorney turned motivational coach and speaker, Lora Cheadle uses a decidedly pre-feminist art form, burlesque, as a metaphor for a totally feminist goal: that women be truly seen—not as surfaces for the projection of male fantasies but “for what they are inside, at their most raw, authentic, vulnerable, and naked core.”
Like Wood, Cheadle leans on recent research into the mind to help the reader understand why habits drive us to do things we don’t want to do. She then packages this knowledge into exercises—for example, creating a “self-hypnosis road map” that includes statements such as “I release my negative self-talk”—that allow the reader to regain her “sparkle.”
At the end of Flaunt!, Cheadle urges the reader to “remember the titillating power of the tease…strip down and proudly reveal all that you are!”
Sometimes, it can feel that suffering determines what and who we are. Moving past pain to a new, more spacious sense of self is the subject of Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Embracing the Imperfect and Loving Your Flaws.
As psychologist Tomás Navarro explains early in the book, kintsugi refers to the Japanese technique of mending broken ceramic pieces with gold. Leaving a highly visible repair is deliberate: “A reconstructed piece is a symbol of fragility, strength, and beauty.”
As with objects, so with humans. Navarro’s book falls into two parts: One explores the effects of hardship on our existence, while the other deals with “the art of repairing your life.”
Navarro’s approach to self-repair is designed to help the reader accept setbacks without being rendered helpless before learning how to “treat adversity as an opportunity to learn and to reorient your life.”
For example, one helpful approach to pain is to channel it “into experience and advice for other people.” Navarro cites the example of parents who, after losing a child to a rare disease, responded by raising research funds and helping to reduce the pain of others “by carrying out all the creative actions they can think of.”
No one is immune to misfortune. Kintsugi offers a gentle, optimistic response.