Books on the power of positive thinking

Where can positive thinking lead you? These books rooted in science will tell.
The Road to Character
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The Road to Character

by David Brooks

About the book:  “I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know what the road looks like and how other people have trodden it.”—David Brooks With the wisdom, humor, curiosity, and sharp insights that have brought millions of readers to his New York Times column and his previous bestsellers, David Brooks has consistently illuminated our daily lives in surprising and original ways. In The Social Animal, he explored the neuroscience of human connection and how we can flourish together. Now, in The Road to Character, he focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed. Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations, they have built a strong inner character. Labor activist Frances Perkins understood the need to suppress parts of herself so that she could be an instrument in a larger cause. Dwight Eisenhower organized his life not around impulsive self-expression but considered self-restraint. Dorothy Day, a devout Catholic convert and champion of the poor, learned as a young woman the vocabulary of simplicity and surrender. Civil rights pioneers A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin learned reticence and the logic of self-discipline, the need to distrust oneself even while waging a noble crusade. Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth. “Joy,” David Brooks writes, “is a byproduct experienced by people who are aiming for something else. But it comes.”Praise for The Road to Character“A hyper-readable, lucid, often richly detailed human story.”—The New York Times Book Review “David Brooks—the New York Times columnist and PBS commentator whose measured calm gives punditry a good name—offers the building blocks of a meaningful life.”—Washingtonian “This profound and eloquent book is written with moral urgency and philosophical elegance.”—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon “The voice of the book is calm, fair and humane. The highlight of the material is the quality of the author’s moral and spiritual judgments.”—The Washington Post “A powerful, haunting book that works its way beneath your skin.”—The Guardian (U.K.) “This learned and engaging book brims with pleasures.”—Newsday“Original and eye-opening . . . At his best, Brooks is a normative version of Malcolm Gladwell, culling from a wide array of scientists and thinkers to weave an idea bigger than the sum of its parts.”—USA Today“There is something affecting in the diligence with which Brooks seeks a cure for his self-diagnosed shallowness by plumbing the depths of others.”—Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker


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Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
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Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

by Peter C. Brown,Henry L. Roediger III,Mark A. McDaniel

About the book:  To most of us, learning something "the hard way" implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned.Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.


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The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life
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The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life

by William Damon

About the book:  Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon -- one of the country's leading writers on the lives of young people, whose book Greater Expectations won the Parents' Choice Award -- brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are "failing to launch" -- living at home longer, lacking career motivation, struggling to make a timely transition into adulthood, and not yet finding a life pursuit that inspires them. His groundbreaking study shows that about one-fifth of youth today are thriving -- highly engaged in activities they love and developing a clear sense of what they want to do with their lives -- but approximately one-fourth are still rudderless, at serious risk of never fulfilling their potential. The largest portion are teetering on the brink, in need of guidance to help them move forward: some are "dabblers" who pursue strings of disconnected interests with no real commitment; others, "dreamers" who have no realistic plans or understanding of what success will require. What makes the difference? Damon shows that the key ingredient for the highly engaged is that they have developed a clear sense of purpose in their lives that motivates them and gives them direction. Based on in-depth interviews, he takes readers inside the minds of the disengaged and drifting kids and exposes their confusion and anxiety about what they should do with their lives. He then offers compelling portraits of the young people who are thriving and identifies the nine key factors that have made the difference for them, presenting simple but powerful methods that parents and all adults can and must employ in order to cultivate that energized sense of purpose in young people that will launch them on the path to a deeply satisfying and productive life.


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Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation
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Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation

by Edward L. Deci,Richard Flaste

About the book:  If you reward your children for doing their homework, they will usually respond by getting it done. But is this the most effective method of motivation? No, says psychologist Edward L. Deci, who challenges traditional thinking and shows that this method actually works against performance. The best way to motivate people—at school, at work, or at home—is to support their sense of autonomy. Explaining the reasons why a task is important and then allowing as much personal freedom as possible in carrying out the task will stimulate interest and commitment, and is a much more effective approach than the standard system of reward and punishment. We are all inherently interested in the world, argues Deci, so why not nurture that interest in each other? Instead of asking, "How can I motivate people?" we should be asking, "How can I create the conditions within which people will motivate themselves?""An insightful and provocative meditation on how people can become more genuinely engaged and succesful in pursuing their goals." —Publisher's Weekly


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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

by Charles Duhigg

About the book:  Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NPR BESTSELLER • WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER • LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER • USA TODAY BESTSELLER • PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLER  NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal • Financial Times   “Sharp, provocative, and useful.”—Jim Collins   “Few [books] become essential manuals for business and living. The Power of Habit is an exception. Charles Duhigg not only explains how habits are formed but how to kick bad ones and hang on to the good.”—Financial Times   “A flat-out great read.”—David Allen, bestselling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity   “You’ll never look at yourself, your organization, or your world quite the same way.”—Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind   “Entertaining . . . enjoyable . . . fascinating . . . a serious look at the science of habit formation and change.”—The New York Times Book Review“Cue: see cover. Routine: read book. Reward: fully comprehend the art of manipulation.”—Bloomberg Businessweek  “Absolutely fascinating.”—Wired“A fresh examination of how routine behaviors take hold and whether they are susceptible to change . . . The stories that Duhigg has knitted together are all fascinating in their own right, but take on an added dimension when wedded to his examination of habits.”— Associated Press   “There’s been a lot of research over the past several years about how our habits shape us, and this work is beautifully described in the new book The Power of Habit.”—David Brooks, The New York Times   “A first-rate book—based on an impressive mass of research, written in a lively style and providing just the right balance of intellectual seriousness with practical advice on how to break our bad habits.”—The Economist   “I have been spinning like a top since reading The Power of Habit, New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg’s fascinating best-seller about how people, businesses and organizations develop the positive routines that make them productive—and happy.”—The Washington Post


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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

by Eureka Books

About the book:  World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea—the power of our mindset.   Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.   Praise for Mindset   “Everyone should read this book.”—Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Switch and Made to Stick   “Will prove to be one of the most influential books ever about motivation.”—Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock   “A good book is one whose advice you believe. A great book is one whose advice you follow. I have found Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets invaluable in my own life, and even life-changing in my attitudes toward the challenges that, over the years, become more demanding rather than less. This is a book that can change your life, as its ideas have changed mine.”—Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Education and Psychology at Yale University, director of the PACE Center of Yale University, and author of Successful Intelligence   “If you manage any people or if you are a parent (which is a form of managing people), drop everything and read Mindset.”—Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start and the blog How to Change the World   “Highly recommended . . . an essential read for parents, teachers [and] coaches . . . as well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment.”—Library Journal (starred review)   “A serious, practical book. Dweck’s overall assertion that rigid thinking benefits no one, least of all yourself, and that a change of mind is always possible, is welcome.”—Publishers Weekly   “A wonderfully elegant idea . . . It is a great book.”—Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., author of Delivered from Distraction


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Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier
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Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier

by Robert Emmons

About the book:  The first major study of gratitude that shows how “wanting what we have” can measurably change people’s lives. Did you know that there is a crucial component of happiness that is often overlooked? Robert Emmons—editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology—examines what it means to think and feel gratefully in Thanks! and invites readers to learn how to put this powerful emotion into practice. Scientifically speaking, regular grateful thinking can increase happiness by as much as 25 percent, while keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks results in better sleep and more energy. But there's more than science to embrace here: Emmons also bolsters the case for gratitude by weaving in writings of philosophers, novelists, and theologians that illustrate all the benefits grateful living brings.


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Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
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Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

by Anders Ericsson,Robert Pool

About the book:  From the world’s reigning expert on expertise comes a powerful new approach to mastering almost any skill. Have you ever wanted to learn a language or pick up an instrument, only to become too daunted by the task at hand? Expert performance guru Anders Ericsson has made a career studying chess champions, violin virtuosos, star athletes, and memory mavens. Peak condenses three decades of original research to introduce an incredibly powerful approach to learning that is fundamentally different from the way people traditionally think about acquiring a skill.   Ericsson’s findings have been lauded and debated, but never properly explained. So the idea of expertise still intimidates us — we believe we need innate talent to excel, or think excelling seems prohibitively difficult.  Peak belies both of these notions, proving that almost all of us have the seeds of excellence within us — it’s just a question of nurturing them by reducing expertise to a discrete series of attainable practices. Peak offers invaluable, often counterintuitive, advice on setting goals, getting feedback, identifying patterns, and motivating yourself.  Whether you want to stand out at work, or help your kid achieve academic goals, Ericsson’s revolutionary methods will show you how to master nearly anything.


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The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life
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The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life

by James J. HeckmanJohn Eric HumphriesVisit Amazon's Tim Kautz Pagesearch resultsLearn about Author CentralTim Kautz

About the book:  Achievement tests play an important role in modern societies. They are used to evaluate schools, to assign students to tracks within schools, and to identify weaknesses in student knowledge. The GED is an achievement test used to grant the status of high school graduate to anyone who passes it. GED recipients currently account for 12 percent of all high school credentials issued each year in the United States. But do achievement tests predict success in life?The Myth of Achievement Tests shows that achievement tests like the GED fail to measure important life skills. James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Tim Kautz, and a group of scholars offer an in-depth exploration of how the GED came to be used throughout the United States and why our reliance on it is dangerous. Drawing on decades of research, the authors show that, while GED recipients score as well on achievement tests as high school graduates who do not enroll in college, high school graduates vastly outperform GED recipients in terms of their earnings, employment opportunities, educational attainment, and health. The authors show that the differences in success between GED recipients and high school graduates are driven by character skills. Achievement tests like the GED do not adequately capture character skills like conscientiousness, perseverance, sociability, and curiosity. These skills are important in predicting a variety of life outcomes. They can be measured, and they can be taught.   Using the GED as a case study, the authors explore what achievement tests miss and show the dangers of an educational system based on them. They call for a return to an emphasis on character in our schools, our systems of accountability, and our national dialogue.Contributors Eric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin–Madison Andrew Halpern-Manners, Indiana University Bloomington Paul A. LaFontaine, Federal Communications Commission Janice H. Laurence, Temple University Lois M. Quinn, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Pedro L. Rodríguez, Institute of Advanced Studies in Administration John Robert Warren, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


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Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind
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Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind

by Scott Barry Kaufman,Carolyn Gregoire

About the book:  Is it possible to make sense of something as elusive as creativity? Based on psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman’s groundbreaking research and Carolyn Gregoire’s popular article in the Huffington Post, Wired to Create offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Revealing the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, along with engaging examples of artists and innovators throughout history, the book shines a light on the practices and habits of mind that promote creative thinking. Kaufman and Gregoire untangle a series of paradoxes— like mindfulness and daydreaming, seriousness and play, openness and sensitivity, and solitude and collaboration – to show that it is by embracing our own contradictions that we are able to tap into our deepest creativity. Each chapter explores one of the ten attributes and habits of highly creative people: Imaginative Play * Passion * Daydreaming * Solitude * Intuition * Openness to Experience * Mindfulness * Sensitivity * Turning Adversity into Advantage * Thinking Differently With insights from the work and lives of Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Marcel Proust, David Foster Wallace, Thomas Edison, Josephine Baker, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, musician Thom Yorke, chess champion Josh Waitzkin, video-game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, and many other creative luminaries, Wired to Create helps us better understand creativity – and shows us how to enrich this essential aspect of our lives.


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