59 Seconds – Think a little, Change a lot – What really works!

I read a lot.  Because I’m always busy (in itself a weakness I’m working on) it’s mainly articles, but when I go on holiday I get the chance to read the real thing – books! And when I read analysis and advice I look for two things:

  • Does it pass the Hardybee test? Does it appear sensible to me?
  • Does it pass the Evidence test? Have the ideas in it been tested properly and shown to be valid?

So I like it when I find a book that is written in friendly readable English AND has solid academic research to validate what it says. Thanks to my friend Jim Smith and his book blog on my recent holiday I decided to read :59 seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman. As the New Scientist wrote “This is a self-help book, but with a difference: almost everything in it is underpinned by peer-reviewed and often fascinating research”.

And probably the best thing to do to help the readers of my blog is to do as Jim did, and quote the book’s own summary of its advice.

Develop the gratitude attitude

Having people list three things that they are grateful for in life, or three events that have gone especially well over the past week, can significantly increase their level of happiness for about a month. This, in turn, can cause them to be more optimistic about the future and improve their physical health.

Place a picture of a baby in your wallet

Putting a photograph of a smiling baby in a wallet increases the chances of the wallet being returned if lost by 30 per cent. The baby’s big eyes and button nose initiates a deep-seated evolutionary mechanism that causes people to become more caring, and thus increases the likelihood of them returning it.

Buy a pot plant for the office

Adding plants to an office results in a 15 per cent boost in the number of creative ideas reported by male employees, and helps their female counterparts produce more original solutions to problems. The plants help reduce stress and induce good moods which, in turn, promote creativity.

Touch people lightly on the upper arm

Lightly touching someone on their upper arm makes them far more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. In one dating study, the touch produced a 20 per cent increase in the number of people accepting the offer of a dance in a nightclub and a 10 per cent increase in people giving their telephone number to a stranger on the street.

Hang a mirror in your kitchen

Placing a mirror in front of people when they are presented with different food options results in a remarkable 32 per cent reduction in their consumption of unhealthy food. Seeing their own reflection makes them more aware of their body and more likely to eat food that is good for them.

Write about your relationship

Partners spending a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boosts the chances of them sticking together by over 20 per cent. Such ‘expressive writing’ results in partners using more positive language when they speak to one another, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.

Deal with potential liars by closing your eyes and asking for an email

The most reliable clues to lying are in the words that people use, with liars tending to lack detail, use more ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’, and avoid self-references (‘me’, ‘mine, ‘I’). In addition, people are about 20 per cent less likely to lie in an email than telephone call, because their words are on record and so more likely to come back and haunt them.

Praise children’s effort over ability

Praising a child’s effort rather than their ability (‘well done, you must have tried very hard’) encourages them to try regardless of the consequences, therefore side-stepping any fear of failure. This, in turn, makes them especially likely to attempt challenging problems, find these problems more enjoyable, and try to solve them in their own time.

Image for MD2MD's post on what is a Managing Director?

Visualize yourself doing, not achieving

People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming a reality. One especially effective technique involves adopting a third-person perspective: those who visualize themselves as others see them are about 20 per cent more successful than those adopting a first-person view.

Consider your legacy

Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals, and assess the degree to which they are progressing towards making those goals a reality.

If you want to know more about the book without reading it then look at Jim’s blog here, or you can buy the book to read it all!

Written by Bob Bradley, founder of MD2MD.