I read and listen to a large number of books on a monthly and yearly basis.
Some are eminently forgettable, some are average, and a small few can change your life.
I’ve read two such books in the last year or so.
Both, coincidentally, were written by psychiatrists and both of them give the same advice about the power of individual choice and how you react to circumstances.
The first one was written by Viktor Frankl called “Man’s Search for Meaning“. Frankl was a holocaust survivor from Vienna who saw his pregnant wife and family being sent to the gas chambers in the German concentration camps during world war two.
Frankl’s central thesis is that your circumstances, no matter how grim and uncontrollable, should not determine your life or happiness or well being or outlook; the critical thing is how your choose to react to your circumstances.
And the vital lesson is even though you cannot determine your circumstances you have a choice as to how you respond.
Frankly noticed an enormous difference between those prisoners in the camps who were overwhelmed by their circumstances and those who chose to be positive.
The other book is “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof Steve Peters, a UK based professor of psychiatry.
This book explains in easy to understand language that your psychological make up can be seen as having 3 parts: human, chimp, and computer.
And you do not want to let your chimp do your thinking for you as it will involve emotional, reactive, bias/hunch based thinking.
You want to let your human do the thinking and decision making based on facts and evidence, not hunches or feelings. The chimp and human are completely different with the chimp being concerned with survival and self perpetuation while the human is concerned with a search for meaning in life, fairness, and self fulfillment.
The chimp paradox is that your chimp can be your best friend or worst enemy if you do not learn how to manage him.
And the book gives you a series of exercises and clear ideas to help you manage your chimp and ensure the human part of your psychological make up is doing your thinking for you.
Both of these books are tremendously valuable in a way that can genuinely help you in your day to day living by providing you with the mental tools to manage your chimp , reduce stress, and make sound decisions.