Monday, August 9, 2021

Book Report (Against Empathy)

     “The Problems we face as a society and as individuals are rarely due to lack of empathy. Actually, they are often due to too much of it” (Bloom,2018). 


Against Empathy written by Paul Bloom was oddly one of the books I read in my psychology class at Monmouth University before transferring over to Stockton this past year as a senior. As I was reading through the book list for the class selection, I knew this book sounded familiar and sure enough as I read the first couple of pages, memories of Paul Bloom’s spectacular and shocking opinions on empathy came flooding back. 


Paul Bloom has a very interesting way about diving deep into empathy. Personally when I think of empathy I relate it to feeling another’s pain or being able to put yourself in their shoes with their situations. Paul would dispute this theory and express throughout each chapter that empathy is really just a way to manipulate, control and in his words “be used as a powerful force for war and atrocity towards others.” Paul also mentioned very different individuals and their stories to show hoe empathy effects both good and evil people. For example, he talked about Gary Gilmore a serial killer who has no remorse, Adolf Hitler and even Jesus Christ. 


One of my favorite quotes in this book states, “this distinction between empathy and compassion is critical for the argument I’ve been making throughout this book. And it is supported by neuroscience research. In a review article, Tania Singer and Olga Klimecki describe how they make sense of this distinction: “In contrast to empathy, compassion does not mean sharing the suffering of the other: rather, it is characterized by feelings of warmth, concern and care for the other, as well as a strong motivation to improve the other’s well-being. Compassion is feeling for and not feeling with the other” (Bloom, 2018). Paul has made it very clear from the beginning of this book that rather than empathy to take a rational compassion approach. 


Some key lessons expressed throughout the read included one of the specific lessons I had most trouble understanding until he elaborated. This is the fact that our empathy is extremely selective and super biased, often times we don’t even notice. Paul really wants us to think with our head and not our heart in most cases, helping others in a more logical based fashion which I found to be a really interesting take. He also shares that empathy can lead to some not great decisions. Empathy is simply a neurological response and Paul uses people such as Giacomo Rizzolatti, an Italian neurophysiologist to express this point of view in a scientific matter. 


Overall, I found this book to be highly educational yet leaving room for numerous opinions, thoughts and even questioning your own views or beliefs. I always believed myself to be a true emapath and even after this book I will continue to approach the world leading with my heart but logically based which is a key point I took away after finishing.  

Youtube video:


Bloom, P. (2018). Against empathy: The case for rational compassion. Vintage. 


Peak Book Report

   Have you ever thought about a chess master and couldn’t wrap your head around how intelligent they were? Have you ever looked at your favorite athlete or celebrity and idolized how well they perform? Additionally, have you ever looked at a professional musician and thought to yourself, “Wow they must have a gift for that skill”? Well the novel Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool puts those questions to rest. Peak is told and written by a psychological scientist as well as a science writer. Ericsson devoted his career to studying exemplary performers, athletes, etc. in order to figure out how these individuals managed to become so fantastic at their craft. Through numerous cited studies by other scientists, as well as the input from Ericsson and Pool, we are truly able to see how adaptable the human brain is even in one’s adult years. We know that the physical body is adaptable, but the brain also has a similar degree of adaptability. 

    A recurring theme throughout this book is that it is very possible to shape your brain. Your brain is not a fixed object that stops being able to change once you reach adulthood or later childhood. Our brain has a great level of plasticity. If you use the methods of practice that are highlighted, you have the ability to do things and accomplish certain goals that you never would’ve thought were possible. People tend to think that they can only reach a certain level of ability in different subjects. However, Peak changes your mindset and allows you to understand that you choose your own ability level. You have the power to improve upon the skills that you want to as long as you use the right method to do so. Three types of practice talked about are naïve practice, purposeful practice, and deliberate practice. Naïve practice is when you do a skill over and over again with no concrete goal in mind in order to learn something and hopefully get better at it. After you reach a certain point, you no longer improve. This is the least effective method of practice. Purposeful practice is when you have a clear concrete goal that you want to achieve. Different elements of it include being really focused, giving your skill your full attention, feedback when you do something right or wrong, and most importantly stepping out of your comfort zone. Deliberate practice is when you are trying to work on a certain activity that you already know how to do, you have specific goals, you are still out of your comfort zone, have feedback from a coach or person that is well trained in that specific skill, and you are constantly evolving and changing the way that you go about your skills to be more efficient and improve.

    My favorite part of Peak was in the very beginning section titled “The Power of Purposeful Practice” when the authors mentioned and explained a study that Ericsson conducted on a young man from Carnegie Mellon University named Steve Faloon. Steve had sessions many times a week where he had to memorize strings of numbers. Ericsson would read the numbers out loud to Steve, then Steve had to recite them back. It was so interesting to read about how Steve went through periods of not improving, but still pushed through and found new ways to remember the numbers. In the beginning, Steve was very average and would only be able to recite about seven digits. In your short term memory, seven digits is about how much your brain can store. However, after over 200 sessions of training, Steve was able to recite 82 digits. In order to have this much of an improvement, Steve used purposeful practice. He knew exactly what his goal was, which was to keep increasing the amount of numbers he was able to recite, and he genuinely stayed very focused on the task at hand and was determined to get better. In terms of his comfort zone, Ericsson constantly pushed him to memorize more numbers than he was comfortable with as long as he kept getting the strings correct. The feedback portion of purposeful practice reminds me of reinforcement and punishment which was covered in class PowerPoints. A reinforcer is something that increases the likelihood of a certain behavior. When Steve would have the self satisfaction of memorizing more numbers, or the satisfaction and praise from others by being featured in magazines and on TV, those were consequences that motivated him and increased his behavior to want to try and memorize more numbers and work harder. This could also be classified as positive reinforcement because the types of feedback in the novel were additions of something that increased the likelihood of the behavior.

    As a whole, all of the talk about the elements of different types of practicing relates to the class, especially looking at the book Endurance. Because the men in Skackleton’s crew were constantly faced with drawbacks and walls such as not having enough water, having to abandon their ship, camping out in freezing cold temperatures, etc. that made them feel like they couldn’t go any further or that they could never improve what they were doing, they had to reassess and find a new way to deal with it. We see in the experiment with Steve, when he was unable to correctly recite a string of numbers, he had to pinpoint exactly where and why a problem occurred, and change the way that he was grouping the numbers together in order to have a better outcome. Drawbacks are going to happen, but the most important thing to do is not quit.

    Peak has the ability to help people understand a large amount of real world problems and struggles that individuals face on a daily basis. In the section titled “Adaptability”, a topic that was spoken about was eyesight. When an individual gets older, most of the time they experience presbyopia which is also known as farsightedness. In addition, there is difficulty with seeing contrast. The book stated that researchers took participants into their lab about three times a week for three months for training sessions. In these training sessions, they were told to locate a small picture in a visual that did not have a lot of contrast. After the training, it was shown that these participants were able to read 60% smaller letters and had a better time with contrast. Some people didn’t have to use their reading glasses as much anymore. Sight is an extremely important sense. Since most people as they age, or younger individuals have some problems with their eyesight, understanding how this practice and training works could help numerous people be able to improve what they thought was gone. Not only could they have the satisfaction of having better eyesight, they could also save a lot of money by not having to purchase glasses or contacts.

    Overall, I believe that if you want to improve any skill or aspect in your life, Peak is definitely a novel for you to read. It is full of wonderful, credible information that completely amazed me with every page. It was definitely worth the read and it is truly inspiring how with the right kind of practice, anyone can achieve whatever goal they set out to accomplish.

This video clip from 60 Minutes focuses on an extremely intelligent young man named Jack Andraka who is known as a scientist and prodigy. It is interesting to see that from a very young age, his parents allowed him and his brother to experiment scientifically however they wanted. After reading Peak I am intrigued to know how he practiced the material to get where he is today.

The Willpower Instinct Book Report

     Reading The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal was very inspiring and touched on many good points about self motivation, discipline, and willpower. Kelly started by teaching a class called "The Science of Willpower," through Stanford University where she taught people how to reach goals they have been struggling to achieve. From this class, she wrote this book to be able to help people from all over be able to gain self control and live the life they dreamed of. This book really makes you look deep into your self and your conscious to figure out things like what your goal actually is, setting it to an achievable standard, and figuring out what it is that holds you back. One of the first strong ideas Kelly touches on is to look at why you fail. This can be hard for most people as they come up with excuses as to why they don't follow a diet, splurge their money at the casino, or why they don't make time for their family. The first step is to realize what you are doing wrong, owning it, and not blaming anything else. From here, she goes into depth about her secret to willpower: I will, I won't, and I want. These three phrases help to gain a better grasp on what your goal actually is and how to stick with it. "I will," helps you to perform the task that you will do to reach your goal. "I won't," helps you resist impulses and cravings that will draw you away from your goal. "I want," keeps your mind focused on the end goal and what you want to achieve. She even shows and explains where these instincts are located in our brain and why they act the way they do and how to use them to our advantage to stay on the right track. All of Kelly's willpower strategies pretty much root back to these three basic fundamentals. 

    The author also touches on other activities you can add to your daily routine to help boost willpower. Some of these activities include mediation, getting enough sleep, limiting rewards, and surrounding yourself with others who have strong willpower. The basis of this book is not about how to change your life for a month, a couple months, or a year, to achieve your goal and be done. This book teaches a lifestyle change in order to be a better version of yourself and how to make permanent changes that make yourself happy. Kelly's way of teaching utilizes both mental and physical aspects of your life. She teaches you how to use your brain to your advantage and your environment to support your goals. 

    One of my favorite topics Kelly McGonigal talks about is how our brains react to the thought of rewards. In the chapter titled, "The Brain's Big Lie: Why We Mistake Wanting for Happiness," she talks about how the idea of being rewarded is often more sought after than the reward itself. She mentions studies that were done and testimonials from some of her students proving how our brains release more dopamine when thinking about how we are going to be rewarded compared to actually receiving the reward. For example, most people when dieting will give themselves a cheat day to indulge in all of the foods they have been depriving themselves of all week. The thought of this cheat day is what keeps them motivated to follow their diet for six days straight. Often when they come to this seventh day, they have ideas in their head already about what they're going to eat, where they're going to go, and what they're going to do during the time that they're usually at the gym. All of these thoughts release great amounts of dopamine in our brains and make us feel happy. Realistically, at the end of the day after all the calories are consumed and the gym is just an after thought, they feel guilty and not satisfied. All they can think about is how hard they are going to have to work at the gym the next day to burn off all the calories they consumed during the day. This mistake is then made week after week with the same outcome. This is because the thought of the cheat day (the reward) is greater than the actual reality of it. Like in the book Endurance, the men went on the voyage in hopes of an adventure. The thought of this voyage beforehand seemed a lot more appealing than the journey itself. The men suffered through cold days and nights, the loss of ships, and the feeling of probably never coming home. If they had known this would be the reality, most men probably would not have agreed to the voyage. But, in their minds, the thought of this great journey released so much dopamine and excitement that they could not resist. 

    This chapter also relates directly to the slide set on Incentives that we covered. Incentives are defined as, "anticipated external stimuli that motivate behavior to occur." For example, a dieter's cheat day or a shopaholic's trip to the mall. Every incentive, or reward, has an incentive value; the attractiveness of the incentive based on an objective property, and a utility; the subjective value of an incentive based on how it will make you feel. Both of these factor help you to decide whether the reward is worth the effort or if it will just be a waste of time resulting in guilt. However, Kelly McGonigal states that the anticipation of the incentive is what most people chase instead of the incentive itself. Most people do not take the utility of the incentive into consideration because they automatically assume it will provide satisfaction and make them feel good. This is not always the case. Often, the thought of eating the piece of cake and thinking it will make you feel good because it tastes good triumphs over the aftermath of when the piece of cake is finished and you realize you just wasted 500 of your calories for the day. This is how many people fall out of their good habits and into bad ones, because they chase the feeling of anticipation and increase levels of dopamine released in the brain. 

    If people that are trying to change their habits read this book, I think it will open their eyes to a lot of things that they are doing wrong and why they see no change in their daily lives. A dieter who has been on a diet for 3 months straight and has lost no weight may realize that the one cheat day they are allowing themselves is setting them back further than they thought. The gambling addict may see that the casino environment alone is enough to satisfy their craving, rather than spending away their whole life savings. An alcoholic may come to the conclusion that they can turn their addiction into a healthier lifestyle, and all they will need is stronger willpower. What a lot of people fail to do is look at why they are the problem. When people stop blaming outside factors and focus on boosting their own mind and willpower instinct, I believe a lot of issues and bad habits can be solved. This book is a great way to become more self aware and become closer with yourself, looking deeply in on your own feelings, thoughts, and being realistic with your goals. As a whole, this can lead to a much less selfish society and people wanting to help others more. When you learn to be happy with yourself, you leave room to be more grateful towards other and can lead to an overall better lifestyle and better society.

Book Report - PEAK - Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

                                         PEAK: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

                                          💫Written by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool 💫

Summary: Peak is written by Anders Ericsson, a research psychologist and professor, and Robert Pool, an accomplished science writer. The main point that this book tries to convey is that, in essence, "practice makes perfect". The authors theorize that there is no supernatural gift that certain/specific individuals are born with that allows them to succeed at a particular sport, instrument, or any other craft they participate in. They put forth the idea that with dedication, motivation, commitment, and patience, anything anyone puts their mind to can be achieved. The authors emphasize that each and every person on this earth is gifted in the sense that we all contain everything we need to succeed at whatever it is we choose. A common theme within the book is the concept of deliberate practice. If there is one thing you come away with after reading Peak, it is the importance of deliberate practice when it comes to achieving your goals. Deliberate practice is different from others forms of practice, such as naive practice, because it involves your full attention with the purpose of achieving your goal to excel at and improve your performance. Where other forms of practice may be without intention or thought, deliberate practice is intentional and systematic. The authors examine all different individuals who are the best at what they do, including renowned surgeons, child "prodigies", and professional athletes, and they conclude that the one thing these individuals all have in common, that got them to the top, is deliberate practice, nothing more and nothing less. They consider the criticisms of those who say "But what about natural talent?", and they provide real world examples of why natural born talent should not be credited for success. While height, weight, and IQ may contribute to success in a certain goal, they mean nothing without deliberate practice. This book does an excellent job of making you rethink your opinion on talent and success! 

                              The Beginner's Guide to Deliberate Practice | James Clear

                           (👆This image above is a quick example/visual explanation of deliberate practice 👆) 

* In this YouTube clip from The Ellen Show, a girl is able to play the piano incredibly well, especially for her young age. Is her talent due to sheer practice, dedication, and commitment, or is she a natural born child prodigy with an innate gift? What do you think? Authors Ericsson and Pool, as referenced in Chapter 8 of the book, would say that her skill is due to deliberate practice and dedication to a craft that she loves. 

Chapter 6 and Incentives: I would have to say that out of all of the chapters, Chapter 6: "Principles of Deliberate Practice in Everyday Life", would have to be the most intriguing to me. This chapter explores how someone, at any age, without any basic skill or knowledge of a sport, instrument, or computer (etc.), can turn themselves into an expert in a reasonable amount of time if they practice deliberately and have a set goal. The contents of this chapter reminded me of the PowerPoint slides from class on incentives and what motivates behavior. An example that is used within this chapter is about a man named Dan McLaughlin, who, at thirty years old, wanted to become a professional golfer even though he had no athletic experience or expertise in the subject whatsoever. Dan created a plan and made himself a goal to become part of the Professional Golfers' Association Tour in a span of around 6 or 7 years. He quit his job, planned to complete ten thousand hours of deliberate practice, got himself a decent coach, and had the passion and commitment needed to accomplish his goal. Dan also held the idea in his mind that he was going to succeed at his goal and was determined to achieve it, which the authors note, in this chapter, is important as well. The authors and Dan McLaughlin express how they feel as though it is unfair to assume that anybody who has a great talent or skill must have been born with an innate gift for it. The authors also discuss how just because someone may be initially good at a craft, while it takes others longer to pick it up, does not mean that they have a natural talent for it and everyone else should just give up. 

In this chapter, the book encourages the readers to go after whatever it is they want to do, even if they don't think they have the natural talent for it or have been told they are too old. The authors suggest in this chapter that with the right teacher, participation in deliberate practice, consistent challenging of your body/brain, motivation and incentive, and proper devotion, anything is possible. I found some of this information to be consistent with the PowerPoint slides on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, as well as the slides about incentives. For one, without an incentive or goal, people like Dan would not even begin to go after what they want. Without some kind of motivation, whether it be external or internal (or a mixture of both), why would Dan decide to want to be a professional golfer and commit himself to such a dedicated plan? Dan's incentive and motivation was to be able to compete in PGA tournaments and experience everything that comes with that. He wanted to experience this so badly that he was actually willing to quit his job, hire multiple coaches and a nutritionist, and dedicate ten thousand hours to deliberate golf practice. People such as Serena Williams, though not mentioned in the book, also fight their way to the top and are willing to overcome multiple different barriers in order to succeed. Serena Williams was a child living in Compton, with everything set against her, yet she had the intrinsic motivation of the sheer reward of doing what she loves for a living as well as the extrinsic motivation of the monetary awards, trophies, and fame that she would receive. She also knew she would be paving a way for young Black girls living in low socioeconomic areas to feel that they can achieve their goals and follow their dreams. Serena Williams clearly used deliberate practice to get to where she is now and I assume is able to experience a sense of flow, as we learned about in class. As for Dan McLaughlin, by the end of 2015, he had spent three years and six thousand hours of deliberate practice on golfing, and was able to take his handicap from almost 9 all the way down to a 3/4, which is exceptional for someone who has only been playing for such a short time (Ericsson & Pool, 2016). These individuals are just a few examples of proof that deliberate practice pays off. 

Conclusion: I decided to read this book because I personally have always believed that some people are born with natural talent or an innate gift to do certain things. I wanted to see if this book changed my opinion on that. In a way, it did. I became aware of all of the practice people like Mozart or Donald Thomas have done in order to achieve their success, and I realized the amount of dedication and commitment it takes to become talented at something. I thought about myself when reading the book, as well. My dad has played tennis since he was a child and still plays today, and watching him play when I was little made me want to take up the sport too. However, it wasn't until the summer after my eighth grade year that I began to practice and play tennis. I decided I wanted to be on the high school tennis team that next year. My dad bought me a tennis racket, set me up with a group of tennis players who were already on the junior varsity team, and got me private coaching lessons. I was out on the court almost every day for at least two hours that summer, and by the time tennis season started at the high school, I was able to play equally as well as the other girls trying out. Out of 34 girls, I was ranked 20 my freshman year and then 12 my sophomore year, and kept moving up from there. This book made me realize that the only real thing that got me to that point was deliberate practice. I did not fool around on the court or go to practice for fun, but instead I practiced with intense focus and determination to improve my performance. There were plenty of other players who played for fun and did not care to move up in ranking, and they were not intrinsically motivated to get better at the sport, and consequently they did not get any better, but I wanted to and worked extremely hard at it and so I did. I was intrinsically motivated by feeling great about myself and my ability to be a successful tennis player, and I was extrinsically motivated to achieve varsity status and be praised by family and friends. 

With that being said, I still feel that certain people have innate abilities and natural talents that allow them to be singers or musicians, but I now understand that most of what makes someone talented is their sheer dedication to practice. I would recommend this book to anyone because it is motivating and inspiring. It makes you feel like you can do anything you decide to put your mind to. It also taught me not to place my destiny in the hands of others who may doubt my ability to achieve a goal, which is a very important lesson that I think everyone should learn. I think this book could be especially useful in the time period we are currently living in now, because as issues like climate change become more and more prominent and women's rights as well as racial equality are still being fought for, we need new and upcoming individuals who are driven to make a difference in the world and use their passion for a worthy cause. This book may motivate them to commit themselves to practice and dedication and not let anyone deter them from changing the world. It can help anyone realize that anything is possible with hard work and deliberate practice. It is a worthwhile read, in my opinion! 

Ericsson, A., & Pool, R. (2016). Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (Reprint ed.). Mariner Books.

Book Report- "Grit" by Angela Duckworth

     For anyone who struggles with discouragement or poor self-image interfering with the ability to achieve one's goals, "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth is the book to read. As the subtitle describes, grit is about enduring passion and motivation for the same top-level, long-term goal. As Duckworth explains, a top-level goal gives an individual a sense of purpose and defines meaning to every mid-level and low-level goal beneath it. Envisioning your goals in a hierarchy establishes a philosophy with guidelines to keep you on track. Giving meaning and purpose to lower-level goals is important in developing grit because the significance of your philosophy inspires loyalty and passion towards your goal that keep you moving forward (Duckworth, 62). Maintaining focus toward long-term goals and avoiding distraction from new ideas is crucial in growing grit because gritty people must persevere through completing long-term goals without loosing interest (Duckworth, 55). As the reader learns the habits and skills needed to grow grit, they are able to score their own grit on the "How Gritty Are You" quiz. 

    After completing the "How Gritty Are You" quiz, I wasn't impressed with my scores. I have always struggled with becoming distracted and not following through on projects. However, the proceeding chapter, "Grit Grows" addressed these negative feelings by explaining they derive from a fixed mindset, in which you believe knowledge and talent are simply fixed traits you either have or don't, and how fixed mindsets hold you back from expanding your abilities. A growth mindset, however, is the belief that abilities and knowledge develop through perseverance and hard work. As Duckworth explains throughout this book, grit and a growth mindset go hand in hand. It is impossible to become a gritty person if you allow your setbacks to hold you back from reaching your goals. Duckworth describes commonly receiving emails from people who wish they could be gritty but struggle to meet their goals. "A good place to start is to understand where you are today. If you're not as gritty as you want to be, ask yourself why"(Duckworth, 89). This was my favorite part of the book because it reasoned with me. Duckworth used the "How Gritty Are You" quiz to reach the reader's honest beliefs towards their own success so that she could address those unspoken insecurities that were brushed up in a direct manner in the following chapter. Understanding that grit grows inside you positively influenced my life. Duckworth goes on to explain that interest, practice, purpose, and hope are the four psychological assets of developing grit that all paragons of grit have in common. As I learned how these skills are shared by paragons of grit, I was reminded of Ernest Shackleton and the book "Endurance" by Alfred Lansing. 

    Ernest Shackleton was an Antarctic explorer who led three expeditions exploring Antartica. Shackleton is most well known for his Trans-Antarctic expedition because, despite being unsuccessful, he guided his crew to safety through remarkable perseverance. "Endurance," by Alfred Lansing, tells the story of Shackleton and his crew's incredible journey. The title is a reference to the name Shackleton gave his ship, in keeping with his motto "by endurance we conquer" (Lansing,17). Shackleton's endurance through trying times makes him not only a great leader, but a paragon of grit. Duckworth emphasizes the importance of persevering towards your goals despite setbacks: "Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare"(Duckworth, 58). After they were forced to abandon ship, Shackleton and his crew faced extremely difficult challenges such as wind storms, freezing temperatures, starvation, and dehydration. Shackleton persevered through these hardships while inspiring his crew to remain positive in their survival. While Shackleton demonstrated grit and hope towards his crew, he privately battled anxieties over his responsibility over his crew's safety: "He was careful, however, not to betray his disappointment to the men, and he cheerfully supervised the routine of readying the ship for the long winter's night ahead" (Lansing, 41). Duckworth emphasizes the importance of actions over words when demonstrating hope. Demonstrating hope through actions is important for leaders and parents because, as Duckworth states, "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them" (Duckworth, 183). Throughout the book "Grit," Duckworth explains that, while in troubling times it's only natural to have moments of doubt, the way you respond to those moments show how gritty you are. Shackleton's perseverance through challenging times towards his goal of his crew's survival as well as his ability to inspire hope and positivity through his actions makes him not only a great leader, but a paragon of grit as well. 

    "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" by Angela Duckworth was an uplifting and enjoyable read that left me with a changed outlook on my own ability to succeed. Duckworth shares her own story realizing that misconceptions on knowledge were holding her back in a friendly, relatable tone that allows the reader the comfort to be vulnerable with their own insecurities. Duckworth's use of the "How Gritty Are You" quiz to directly address negative feelings brushed up for the reader was my favorite part of the book because it really impacted my mindset. After learning that grit grows inside of you, I was interested to learn about the assets shared by paragons of grit. Ernest Shackleton demonstrates grit throughout his leadership on his Trans-Antarctic expedition; written about in the book "Endurance" by Alfred Lansing. I was reminded of Shackleton while reading Duckworth's description of gritty leaders. For anyone who struggles with poor self-esteem intervening with success, I recommend reading "Grit."

Lansing, Alfred. Endurance. Basic Books, 2014.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner, 2016. 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Book Report

    In Kelly McGonigal's book The Willpower Instinct, she discusses willpower and self-control in great detail. In her discussion, she talks about what they are, and also how we can improve these things, and thus improving ourselves as a whole. There are many people who set out on some kind of personal mission, but then they end up failing pretty quickly because they simply did not control themselves properly. However, as she talks about, self control can be strengthened through proper activity. Some of the activities that she discusses to exercise self-control are meditation, breathing exercises, thinking about your choices, and more. With willpower, McGonigal says that there are three different categories. These include "I won't," "I will," and "I want." The "I won't" category refers to refusing to do something that you know is bad for you, such as staying up too late and depriving yourself of sleep. The "I will" category refers to getting yourself to do something that is beneficial to you, but may not feel good at the time. An example of this could be getting ahead on homework. The "I want" category refers to remaining focused on what your goals are in the long term and not losing sight of those. 

    One of my favorite parts of this book is when she discusses the problem with rewarding yourself too much with something that is bad for you. It is like celebrating your strong willpower by showing a lack of willpower. This stuck out to me because it is something that I almost always seem to be guilty of. I often try to control what I eat and avoid any unhealthy foods. I also try to workout daily in the gym. After six straight days of sticking true to this and keeping myself disciplined, I tend to reward myself with a full day of binge eating junk food while not exercising that day. It feels good at the time and satisfies my junk food craving, but then afterwards makes me feel like I just took away all the hard work that I had done in the previous six days. 

    One of the topics in the class was rewards, which includes reinforcers. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative. The positive ones are meant to increase a behavior and the negative ones are meant to decrease a behavior. The effectiveness of a reinforcer is dependent on each individual and different factors including their environment, situation, and needs. In the book, she talks about the promise of reward and how the brain can actually get hooked on it. Whether that reward actually comes or not, we are still highly anticipating that future reward, and a lot of times will hope that it will be even bigger. I think this can be seen in gambling, particularly sports betting, as many people put more money on parlays, which are much longer odds for higher payouts, as opposed to just single bets for less money. 

    I think that this book can help virtually any person out. As humans, none of us are perfect and we do not have great self-control at all times. Some people certainly have much better self-control than others, but there is always room for improvement. If people are able to improve their self-control on things such as exercising and eating properly, then more people will be able to live long and healthy lives. One of the biggest health problems today is obesity, and in many cases, people dealing with this could benefit from will power exercises that are talked about in this book. 

How Meditation Builds Self Control, Willpower, Discipline – EOC InstituteSelf Control and Will Power through Meditation - Happiness Challenge Day 17  | Swami Mukundananda - YouTube


Book Report: The Power of Habit

    “The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business” by Charles Duhigg  explores how habits work and how they affect our lives. Duhigg divides this book into three sections: how habits emerge in individual lives, habits of successful companies and organizations, and habits of societies. He tells how habits can affect our personal lives as well as our careers. Using dozens of anecdotes describing tendencies in businesses, worth ethic, and personal life, the author details different habits that rise within them: good and bad. By being able to pinpoint cues that cause our habits, you are able to change your negative habits into positive ones. Duhigg provides an insight to how habits form and how by identifying rewards that come from them can lead to changes that will help you become successful more efficiently and reach your goals. This book leaves readers with a newfound understanding of habit loops, and encourages them to take control of their potential.

    My favorite part of the book was chapter 2, “The Craving Brain- How to Create New Habits.”  This section of the book describes how habit loops are applied to daily life. A habit loop is broken into three sections: cue, routine, reward. A cue triggers an automatic mode telling which habit to use, routine can be emotional or physical, and the reward is the outcome of this routine. The reward helps your brain determine which loop is worth remembering for the future. This is one of my favorite parts of the book because I can apply it to my own life.  The author provides the example of, “if you want to start running each morning, it is essential you choose a simple cue and a clear reward.” The first few days of this are tough until your body begins to crave the endorphins given off by exercising.  In high school I played field hockey in the fall. During preseason in the summer, we would have practice every morning at 7am. The first week or so of practice was always dreaded, but as practices went on it became much easier to wake up and get on the field. It became a great way to start the morning because you felt a sense of accomplishment from working out and starting your day early. This is relatable to the reinforcers that came along with exercising discussed in lecture. Positive reinforcements from this exercise habit loop included improved physical and mental health as well as goal achievement. I would experience an exercise high after these practices and it was a nice way to start the day. I no longer wake up and work out early, but this chapter has absolutely inspired me to break out my running shoes again.

    Outside of class, this book can help to understand individuals with addiction. Individuals can be addicted to a variety of things including drugs, alcohol, or even gambling. Through this book, Duhigg provides steps and examples that can help lead to breaking bad habits. By identifying the habit loop they are stuck in, they can begin to help themselves break out of it. By actively substituting their routine, they will achieve different outcomes or rewards. Later on in the day they can award themselves with something for acknowledging the loop their in, and beginning to change their actions. This reinforcement can help those with addictions over time.

    In this link, the author of the book describes “The Power of Habit” and how we can modify our actions to become more efficient and successful in our daily lives.

The Power of Habit: Charles Duhigg at TEDxTeachersCollege - YouTube

Nicotine Addiction Post #3

 Nicotine is an ongoing issue in our world today, it has taken our generation by storm causing harm to so many individuals. The Mayo Clinic states, “nicotine dependence occurs when you need nicotine and can't stop using it. Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that makes it hard to quit. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your brain, but these effects are temporary. So you reach for another cigarette. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. When you try to stop, you experience unpleasant mental and physical changes. These are symptoms of nicotine withdrawal” (Mayo Clinic, 2021). 


Some of the most common actions that account for people who have a nicotine dependency include having withdrawal n symptoms when you try to stop smoking. This is a major especially for those are trying to commit to stopping their addiction with nicotine and a big part of why they will end of relapsing due to withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia headaches, and depression.


“There are more than 5,000 chemical components found in cigarette smoke and hundreds of them are harmful to human health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” (Heart Org, 2021).  Smoking is also linked to 90% of lung cancer patients in the United States alone. Second hand smoke and vaping are two other serious issues in our generation today, especially in the presence of children. Quitting this addition is very hard, many don’t realize the effects one has to endure on their journey but you certainly are not alone in the process as there are millions of people every day who strive to get rid of their nicotine dependency with help from family, friends, doctors and therapist; it is more then possible. 





Against Empathy book report

 In Against Empathy, written by Paul Bloom, he talks about empathy in a different way then you would expect. When you think about empathetic people, just as I do, you want to get close to them and even be like them. Most people look at empathetic people as very kind hearted, selfless people, but Paul Bloom questions if that is actually good. In this book, he explains that empathy is used to manipulate people everyday through important matters such as  politics.  In chapter 5, Bloom states “ if we were to have empathy for our enemies it would block us from hurting them.” It was very interesting to read even though it made me angry when reading it. It’s true. The world will never be fully peaceful and there will always be manipulation and tactics to control and use others. This is where empathy is not in our favor. 

As someone who considers themselves to be more empathetic than most people, at first while reading this book I was taken back. I believed  that the world needed more empathy in order for the world to be a better and more justiceful place, but I understand where the author is coming from. Instead of attacking empathy, while reading this book I understood that the author was trying to explain that being sympathetic is a better approach than being empathetic. When you are empathetic towards someone, scientifically you experience their pain, which in any situation helps no one. As someone who eventually wants to become a therapist, this book actually helped open my eyes to how to deal with other people's emotions and help them without getting too involved in your own mind and in their lives. Although I may not 100% agree with this book I definitely appreciate it and would recommend people to read it and get a different outlook on empathy. This book can be controversial and is meant to be read by open minded people. 

  • Empathy can definitely be good sometimes. I went to a rescue shelter & met these two dogs who looked sad which made me sad  & now they live with me!! (-:

Book Report Post

    Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit is a book that covers the habits that us humans form along with sharing case studies and research trials. Duhigg divides the book into three chapter sections: The Habits of Individuals, The Habits of Successful Organizations, and The Habits of Societies. Duhigg describes the lessons that humans will need to learn to make a positive impact on their life. The first lesson is that once a habit is formed, it becomes an automatic routine. In order to change a routine, we have to become aware that it is a habit. The second lesson is about building strong habits to focus on a reward that can drive you to a more powerful habit loop. The third lesson consists of finding ways to make a new habit automatic and long-term. To do so, Duhigg's talks about The Goldent Rule of habit. 

    Chapter 4 focuses on important concepts of institutional habits where Duhigg uses two celebrities' stories as examples Paul O’Neil and Michael Phelps. In this chapter, Dehugg’s talks about how O’Neil saw routines to be fundamental to both successes and failures. As mentioned, one of the steps to a successful habit is reward and O’Neil’s instituted policy consists of cue, routine, and reward. This relates to a similar topic we have discussed this semester on self-control. In order to create a routine of habits, one needs to learn self-control. To have self-control means to be in control of your emotions, desires, and one's behavior, especially in situations where a routine needs to be placed.

    This specific TED talk by Christy Baroni talks about The Power of Habit specifically focusing on her field of nutrition. Baroni talks about the many clients she sees who often wonder how or why they aren't losing the weight they desire. Baroni’s first question to her client is what habits or rituals exist before they go to bed. Many of her clients have habits that are unhealthy for one's diet and overall health. These unhealthy habits can look like coming home from a long day of work and opening a bottle of wine or preparing a cocktail while scrolling through social media content. The light emitted by our mobile devices can damage our serotonin and melatonin. She argues that many people's routines are damaging to their bodies and is the reason why many people wake up feeling unrested and stressed. Baroni’s message was that instead of creating unhealthy habits, change your habits into a healthy new routine.

The Willpower Instinct Book Report

  The Willpower of Instinct by Kelly McGonigal is based on a class at Stanford that the author teaches. This book breaks down willpower into three categories, “I won't”, “I will”, and “I want” powers. The “I won’t” power is what we already know, “I will” power pushes us to do what is uncomfortable to us, and the “I want” power is what gets us to keep striving for our goals. When we are faced with willpower challenges you activate your “pause and plan” response. This is the opposite of a fight or flight response where we will pause and reflect on our inner conflicts. To reach the full potential of better decision making we can start with basic changes such as a good diet, exercise, sleep, and mediation. Creating good habits to practice self-control, break bad ones, and motivate us to reach our long-term goals over instant gratification. Our past good experiences do not justify our present behaviors. Giving yourself a reward that drives you away from your goal is counterproductive to your success. For example, if you have a goal of saving money so you make a plan to only spend money on necessities, but the weekend comes around and you spend all the money you saved on things you do not need as a reward. Don't use your past success to fuel your failure.

The key message of this book is to learn how to get to our long-term goals, maintain and built our willpower, and gain control over our habits to live healthier more fulfilling lives. People will strong willpower tend to have long-lasting relationships, make more money, and are overall more successful.