59 seconds… Think a little, change a lot | How to Change Your Life in One Minute

59 seconds think a little, change a lot

Summary of “59 seconds think a little, change a lot”: If you want to know how to be happy, have creative ideas, want to give your children the best opportunities and never regret your decisions, 59 seconds think a little, change a lot is meant for you: it offers a scientific perspective on 10 key areas of personal development.

By Richard Wiseman, 2009, 287 pages, original title: 59 seconds think a little, change a lot.

Note: This is a guest column written by Jean-Louis Vincent from the blog “My Life in My Hands.

Chronicle and summary of the book 59 seconds think a little, change a lot by Richard Wiseman 

If you prefer video to text, I’ve prepared a visual review of the book 59 seconds think a little; change a lot in video format so you can choose which one you prefer:


How to quickly can you make the right decision? If you only had 59 seconds to make the right decisions, how would you do it? Would you be able to do so with no regrets afterwards?

The search for happiness, the ideal partner, the job of your dreams are all at the core of personal development.

Many coaches will urge you to picture yourself on the other side of the world; in the sun, with your dream companion by your side and a cocktail in your hand.

When he discussed this topic with a friend, Sophie, who had recently bought a book on personal development, Richard Wiseman told her that many of the “tricks” in these books have been refuted by science, and that in some cases they are based on studies that don’t exist, such as the 1953 Yale Goal Study, which found that people who had written down their goals are 97% wealthier than those who hadn’t: in 2007, when a journalist, Lawrence Tabak, wanted to get access to this study, it couldn’t be found anywhere, nobody had ever actually read it!

As he explained the things he thought did work, Sophie interrupted him to say she was short of time, she needed a set of guidelines that could be applied in less than a minute.

It was this wild idea that led to the book 59 seconds think a little, change a lot which I now share with you in this article.

Discover the methods in the book 59 seconds think a little, change a lot

Chapter 1: Happiness 

This chapter illustrates that it doesn’t always work out just because we have a positive attitude and that the most effective way to be happy is to keep a personal diary, be kind, and practice the “gratitude attitude”.

Did you know that happiness can influence how successful we are, be it personal or professional?

Happiness is not the result of your success, it is the reason for it. I encourage you to seek more on this topic and read the article about the perception of good and bad luck in Jonathan Rigottier’s blog: “Meditate to be happy”.

Sonja Lyubomirski surveyed 250,000 people and came to this conclusion: compared to unhappy people, happy people like to be in a group, they think about others more often, they are prepared to contribute, they cope better with conflicts, live longer, and have a better job. 

In view of everything that happiness brings; it is of no surprise that so many coaches want to teach you how to be happy! 

So, what is happiness?

You, like many others who are asked the question, would reply: “have more money”?

A study by Philip Brickman in the 1970s proved that money doesn’t make you happy: Lottery winners were no happier than his study group. On the contrary, the majority of the study group enjoyed the simple things in life more than the Lottery winners did. 

Maybe Lotto money doesn’t make you happy because you won it purely by chance?

This has been tested, and one of the studies shows that even the 100 richest people in the world, ranked in Forbes magazine, were not much happier than the average American.

Provided you have enough to live on, a higher income will not influence your overall sense of happiness. 

We quickly adjust to our way of life: we have a sense of excitement when we win something important, but we get used to it very quickly and our level of happiness returns to normal.

In order to check for social, genetic and individual aspects of happiness, twins have been tested.

It showed that 50% of our well-being is genetic, 10% social, but the rest is completely down to us.

Is happiness achieved when we get rid of all negative thoughts? 

As Dostoyevsky wrote in his “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions”: “Try to set yourself this task: do not think of a polar bear and you will see that this cursed animal, you will think of it at every moment”, it does not work. The more we try to prevent negative thoughts, the more likely it is that we will have them.

1. Learn how to keep a diary

Surveys reveal that 90% of people believe that if they tell a friend about their problems it will help to solve them.

Emmanuelle Zech and Bernard Rime decided to test this theory. They asked a group to think of a moment that changed their life and they needed to discuss it with a friend.

Another group was invited to talk about different things.

A review was done at the end of the week and again after two months.

Those who had had the opportunity to talk about their general problems felt that it had been beneficial for them… but how they answered the questionnaires indicated that it had no impact at all on their level of happiness compared to the test group. 

However, several studies show that writing makes us reflect, stand back and consider the problem.

Is this system applicable on a day-to-day basis too?

1.1 The “gratitude attitude” 

As we mentioned earlier, when you live with something, you get used to it.

To overcome this habit, it is important to remember the reasons that make us happy: our work, our friends, money, a nice view out of the window, a smile… 

Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough found that people who used this method had more confidence about the future and were healthier than those in the study group.

1.2 Your perfect SELF 

A test carried out on three different groups showed that those who wrote down what their perfect life would be; realistically-speaking, for a few minutes a day over four days; felt much happier than those who just wrote down their problems or their daily routine.

A check three months later verified the first result.

1.3 Kind words

Researchers have considered what we gain the most benefit from: to give, to take, or both?

Evidence showed that those who wrote kind and thoughtful messages felt happier than those who received them.

2. The power of window-shopping

Everyone knows that there’s nothing better to cheer yourself up; than to buy the latest pair of fashionable shoes or trendy jacket…

Does reality conform to belief?

The psychologists Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich asked themselves that very question.

They concluded that if the purchase of consumer goods initially brought happiness; it quickly faded away, either because the item didn’t fit anymore; or because it was out of fashion… or we just became used to it.

Things such as restaurants, travel and trips to the theatre… brought much more happiness.

They speculated that it was due to our selective memory, which quickly forgets how tired we are after a long journey, the price of the theatre ticket… to just remember the thrill of the moment.

In another study, psychologists found that there is a mental link between solidarity and happiness and that it is better to give as much as you possibly can all at once rather than a little at a time.

3. Happiness within your grasp 

We are all very predictable: if we are happy, we smile, if we agree, we nod…

The reverse is also true, by the rules of “proprioceptive psychology”.

When researchers tested people and asked them to look at humorous pictures with a pencil in their mouths, those who had to hold it between their teeth (and simulate a smile) found them funnier than those who held it between their lips (and pouted). 

If you can smile a lot every day (a big smile that lasts between fifteen and thirty seconds), it will make you happier. 

Chapter 2: Persuasion 

In this chapter we will look at the irrelevance of rewards, how to do well in a job interview, how to make mistakes in order to enhance your social life, how to not lose your wallet and how to get a deal thanks to a winning smile. 

Is the best way to achieve this the carrot and stick method?

An experiment was carried out with children. Before he placed a blank sheet of paper in front of them, Mark Lepper promised a reward to some of the children.

A few weeks later, the same children were presented with a blank sheet of paper. The children who had previously received a reward drew for less time.

Other experiments along the same lines with both adults and children have produced the same result. Scientists have also speculated that we associate the reward with something we don’t want to do, so that when a reward is offered for something that we should like, we automatically associate it with something unpleasant. It works in the short term, but in the medium to long term, the bigger the reward, the more likely it is to be rejected.

4. How to have a successful job interview

Recruiters are encouraged to select candidates based on clear and precise criteria. Chad Higgins and Timothy Judge concluded that, in fact, the only thing that really mattered was how well the applicant came across: a pleasant applicant was much more likely to be hired than one who was not.

Do you know when the best moment is to admit a mistake in your CV? Or the right time to give a compliment?

To maximise your credibility, point out your shortcomings at the outset of the interview; so you come across as more honest and have a better chance of success.

Alternatively, if you wish to highlight the strong points in your career; do that at the end of your interview rather than the start; so you don’t come across as pretentious from the outset: in this instance, be modest!

In a previous test, Thomas Gilovitch showed that how someone presented themselves wasn’t as important as we are led to believe; he had brought in a late applicant. This applicant was dressed in a stunning Madonna T-shirt that was; based on a previous research, too unsightly to be worn.

The applicant assumed that at least 50% of those involved in the interview had noticed his T-shirt; but the tests showed that only 20% of them had actually taken any notice of it.

If you make a mistake in your job interview, don’t panic, it’s unlikely that the recruiter even noticed it!

5. Small favours, big mistakes and gossip

Polls in the U.S. have shown that elections are largely determined by the sympathy vote.

Dale Carnegie, for which you will find a summary of the book “How to make friends“ in my blog; believes that in order to be sympathetic and be appreciated; you must show a real interest in the people around you.

Scientists have devised other means to be able to be sympathetic towards others.

Benjamin Franklin managed to gain the sympathy of a rather difficult magistrate with a request to borrow a rare book from him that he had in his library.

Someone who has already done us a small favor will be more likely to help us (if the favor is too large, it could backfire). So if you ask for a reasonable favor it’s a better approach in order to establish a good rapport with someone.

An alternative way to be more appreciated or loved is to become more human: someone who is too perfect will have less appeal than someone who is perfect but clumsy. For example, in a sales presentation at a supermarket, a young woman who had given a perfect presentation had less appeal than one whose machine had splashed water all over the place. The second woman had more in common with the audience. 

If, on the other hand, you’re ugly, badly dressed and clumsy, you’ll have your work cut out to make yourself look more presentable!

The third and final method outlined in this book to win sympathy is the art of gossip: answers to questionnaires have shown that the person who talks is unconsciously attributed with the characteristics that they attribute to others. So, someone who gossips about the untidiness of a colleague will be perceived as untidy, and someone who praises the kindness of another colleague will be perceived as sympathetic.

6. Why too many cooks “spoil the broth” and how to fix it 

After the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City, which was witnessed by many people, on March 13, 1964, two psychologists asked why no one had intervened?

After a lot of tests and trials, they deduced that when faced with something unexpected, our behaviour is based on how others around us respond. The fear to come up with the right decision was therefore influenced by the behaviour within the group in question.

Thus, if we are assaulted, we are more likely to be rescued when there aren’t many people around rather than when there’s a large crowd. Our natural tendency is to blame others, based on the thought that if they don’t stop it then it’s not as bad as it appears, and if it does turn out badly then it’s the fault of the other people.

However, when we are alone the decision process is purely our own and we are faced with our own dilemmas.

For example, if someone attacks you, the last thing that you should do is to shout “help”, rather call out to someone with a friendly face, describe them and then what they need to do.

7. How a little bit of help can be appreciated

A test was carried out with waiters: when they left the bill they had to leave a sweet (or not).

It turned out that those who had left a sweet generally received a better tip than those who hadn’t.

If they left two sweets, the tip was even higher. The best result came when the waiter left one sweet and then changed their mind and left a second one, as it seemed that the customer received special treatment!

You could summarise this as: “give and you shall receive.” Lots of other tests have confirmed this maxim. If you leave a small gift as a thank-you or if you do a small favor, both gestures result in a positive response.

It is easier to help those who help us, as they help us because they like us and, therefore, deserve a favour in return.

To be good to yourself, be good to others!

8. How to keep hold of your wallet 

After he lost his wallet, Richard Wiseman thought about the best way to get it back.

He drew from the work of Harvey Horstein and bought 240 wallets that he “lost” in various locations.

He left various personal photos in these wallets; a dog, a child, a baby, a woman…

These wallets also had raffle tickets, discount coupons, membership cards…

After a week, 52% of the portfolios had been returned. Only 6% of them didn’t have any personal documents and 32% still had the baby’s photo, presumably because the photo of a baby brings out a protective and nurturing side from within us? 

So, just in case you lose your wallet, put a picture of a baby and your address in there, if you want it returned!

Chapter 3: Motivation 

In this section we will look at the negative aspects of visualisation and how to reach your goals with a clear plan, overcome indecision and the use of “double thinking”.

You may have noticed that many personal development gurus suggest that you visualise yourself in a successful situation so that you can accomplish your goals?

Have you asked yourself what the real life tests have shown?

It doesn’t work.

For example, in the case of weight loss, after a year, women who employed positive visualization had lost 12 kilograms less than those who used negative thoughts.

In cases of romance, the men who visualised that they would be with their perfect match still hadn’t achieved their goal six months down the line, unlike the test group… and there are many other tests that back this up, to the point that researchers questioned whether people who lived in search of their dream life were more prone to throw in the towel when a problem arose.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers” – Amelia Earhart

9. Your battle plan 

To succeed, you need to know where you want to get to and understand the necessary steps required. This needs you to separate the main objective into different stages; it makes it easier to visualise each one.

For instance, in one study, it was only the applicants who had made it their goal to compile their CVs in the first week and to apply for at least one job per week, that were employed within six months.

Another alternative to help you progress is to share your goals with friends and work colleagues…

It’s much more likely when you keep your plan to yourself, that you will back down, as opposed to when you tell people what you intend to do.

People who can see the potential benefits if they can achieve your goals, are more prone to success than those who worry about failure.

You also need to praise yourself every step of the way. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you should smoke a cigar to celebrate the fact that you haven’t smoked for 6 months!

Bear in mind that the spoken word can get forgotten, but the written word is there for good: put it down in writing –  if you write or draw something it greatly increases the chance of success.

A word about indecision before we go on to the next chapter: objectives that remain incomplete stay in your memory for longer, so it’s a good habit to “clear your brain” and complete your objectives.

If you don’t want to do it, just tell yourself: I’ll just do it just for five minutes.

When that’s done, ask yourself what you want to do next?

Research shows that, in most cases, you will continue and that this method can help you to solve the most difficult problems.

10. Double thoughts 

We have learnt that if we sit down and visualise our objectives it doesn’t really produce the desired results. 

However, in other studies conducted by Œttingen, it has been demonstrated that these methods can be used to our advantage.

Œttingen started with the idea that if we remain realistic about the obstacles along the way, then visualisation should work. In this way, the objectives aren’t pipe dreams, but rather more achievable things and likely to be reached.

People who visualised the benefits and the big obstacle blocking them on the road ahead and acted upon this, were more likely to achieve their objectives.

In fact, you just need to balance the benefits and the obstacles, which results in the concept of double thought.

11. On a diet 

At one point or another, most people will go on a diet. 

Many will fail because of a lack of motivation. 

Studies have shown that the amount of food we eat is unconsciously determined by what’s on our plate: is it finished or not?

For example, people who didn’t know that they ate from a bottomless bowl, ate 75% more soup than others and were still hungry at the end of their meal, and, as another example, if you have a large plate and cutlery you will eat more than if your plate and cutlery were smaller.

In relation to drinks, there is a tendency to pour more alcohol into a wide glass than into a narrow one.

Another key point is concentration: we eat a lot more when we talk, watch TV, listen to the radio, do crossword puzzles… and eat at the same time.

Conscience is very important: those who take appetite suppressants diet less and, therefore, eat more than those who eat crisps and feel bad about it.

You can also keep a food diary: if you’re conscious of what you eat, it will be easier to overcome your addiction.

Finally on motivation, ask yourself what you want to leave behind you to the world: if you had died yesterday, what sort of eulogy would you want, what would you like said about you?

Write it down, as it will help you to set your long-term objectives and when you review things it will show you whether you are on course or if you need to change things to make sure your eulogy is accurate.

Chapter 4: Creativity 

The truths and myths of brainstorming. 

Bring out the artist in yourself, take a look at modern art whilst you lie down or put a lush green plant on your desk.

It was in the early 1940s that publicist Alex Osborn came up with the concept of brainstorming.

This technique has been used everywhere, but tests have shown that in most cases, people are more creative when they think alone rather than in a group.

Equally, when it came to physical effort, those who were in a group did not achieve the same level of exertion compared to when they were alone.

Scientists have deduced that if you work in a group, failure or success was not the fault of the individual but of the group itself, which means we don’t try as hard: basically, if it fails, it’s not my fault and I don’t see why I am expected to do the work of the person next to me.

Let’s take a look at what science suggests we should do in order to develop our creativity.

12. Listen to the quiet person 

Imagine that you bring two people together, one is self-confident and not very creative, the other one is shy and extremely creative. The self-confident one will obviously take over and the shy one will say very little or maybe nothing at all.

The self-confident person represents your conscious mind, the other your unconscious.

To quieten down the conscious person, Dali would hold a spoon in his hand as he fell asleep: as soon as he fell asleep, the spoon would fall to the floor and awaken him, at that point he would start to paint.

Another way to deflect your consciousness is through exercise. (On this subject I advise you to do psycho technical tests to stimulate your grey cells: excellent to circumvent your conscious ME in order to create original ideas).

13. The call of nature 

Nature is full of lessons: it was when Georges de Mestral noticed how burdocks stuck to clothes that he came up with the invention for velcro.

It is also a well-known fact that patients in hospital recover better and quicker if they have a view of nature from their bedroom window. 

A survey carried out by Robert Ulrich showed that if you have flowers and green plants in the office it increases the creativity of male employees by 15%. The women found more subtle solutions to their challenges.

Some theorists believe that the mere presence of nature stirs up the primitive perception of abundance within us, which, generally, makes us more generous.

Similarly, if we write with green ink, it increases our creativity by 30% in comparison to red ink.

Posters of nature, however, are no good at all. If you are unable to introduce some form of nature into your home, go to the park!

14. Small, but strong 

Ad Dijksterhuis and Ad van Knippenberg asked one group to describe a punk (subconsciously, a punk is against the system, revolutionary…) and another group an engineer (who is more straightforward and composed…) and then they were asked to resolve some creative tasks.

The group that described the punk got much better results than the one for the engineer.

If, on the other hand, we raise the bar too high and describe Leonardo da Vinci, for example, then the results will probably be the same for both groups.

In 2005, Forster came up with the notion to get people to look at a modern work of art before they were asked to solve creative exercises: it resulted in an enormous surge in their creative output!

Also, the more relaxed you are, the more creative you will be, so you will be more creative if you lie down rather than stand.

Based on the assumption that we are attracted to what we like and reject what we don’t, Frideman and Förster found that the volunteers who were asked to drag a table whilst they considered the problem, solved the task better than those who had to push it.

Chapitre 5: Attraction

There’s no reason to play hard to get. The art of attraction is a simple physical contact and sharing of intimate moments. 

Stephen Worchel remarked that a craving really depended on how many cookies there were in a jar. This meant that what was scarce tended to taste better.

Socrates had also remarked that even the nicest food is less tasty when you aren’t hungry compared to when you feel starved.

It’s the same with attraction, you need your partner to understand that you have been selective, that not everyone gets your love and attention.

15. The power of touch

Nicolas Guéguen decided to try two experiments to demonstrate the seductive power of big breasts, the first in a disco, the second one on the street with the lady dressed as a hitchhiker.

As the experiment progressed, the young lady increased the padding in her bra, and it showed that women with large breasts were more attractive to men compared to women with small breasts.

Women didn’t care if the hitchhiker had big breasts or not.

He was also interested in the power of touch in attraction. He came up with these results: while 43% of the women at the nightclub accepted a simple spoken invitation to dance with no physical contact, 67% accepted the invitation when the young man touched their arm at the time of the request.

Also, when approached on the street they were much more likely to give their phone number when touched than when not. 

In our subconscious, the man who touches seems to have the upper hand compared to the person they touch, so most women will give more attention to a man who touches them compared to one who doesn’t. 

You just have to be aware not to go too far…

16. The art of Speed Dating

Richard Wiseman has conducted his own work within this field and established that those with the least success started their conversation off with a dull question such as “do you come here often”, whereas those who introduced themselves with a more original question such as “and if you were a pizza topping, what would you be?” 

Also employ the mirror effect. Don’t make it seem like a joke, just illustrate to the other person that you are on the same wavelength as they are, use the same pose, position your hands … as they do.

A third important point is to be selective.

People who seemed interested in everyone came across as far less attractive than those who were selective.

Don’t be too perfect: handsome men with lots of money, maybe because they came across as less faithful, were less attractive to women.

17. How to have a successful date 

Let’s imagine that you have pulled off the best date possible. Where will you take them on the first date?

Science has some answers that may surprise you, but no doubt they will interest you too! 

Have you ever noticed that your heart pounds when you meet someone you’re attracted to?

Donald Dutton and Arthur Aaron concluded that the opposite must also be true, and the tests seem to prove them right, provided the procedure is not too painful for the heart, like a roller coaster ride.

Aaron tested another hypothesis: people who talk about personal things are much more likely to create a more powerful connection compared to those who talk about quartz watches or plastic trees.

For your first date, choose a place that makes has a great vibe and initiate a conversation on personal issues. You may come across as a little strange, but what wouldn’t we do for science?

Chapter 6: Stress 

It’s better to conquer your resentment rather than to throw a tantrum and retreat home to console yourself with your pet.

Freud breaks down the psyche into three main parts: the id, our impulsive side, then the ego, which represents morality, and the superego, which is the referee. You could look at this as a teenager who wants to do something, a priest who tells you what to do and in the middle an accountant who tries to balance the teenager’s desires with the priest’s morals.

Many psychologists advise that you shout, stomp your feet, bite your pillow… in order to relieve the tensions that weighs upon you.

But Brad Bushman found that such techniques do not relieve tension, they only serve to heighten it.

18. Look for the benefits 

Know that the most appropriate solution will improve how you feel in just a few minutes.

This method is “look for the benefits.”

If, in order to combat your anger, you put on a pair of boxing gloves, this will only make you more aggressive. It’s better, even if it may not seem so at the time, to concentrate your attention on the benefits of certain events, such as fire that burnt your house down, to calm, sooth, alleviate.

19. Anti-stress hairball 

Erika Friedmann found that patients who had just had a heart attack and were dog owners were much more likely to be alive a year later than those who did not: accompanied by their dogs, both blood pressure and heart rate were lower and the results were actually better than with standard blood pressure medication!

The results with cats are not the same: the dog plays the role of the friend who patiently listens without judgement and added to that, they know how to keep secrets!

Another advantage with a dog is that you are more likely to have people approach you (if you don’t have a Rottweiler!): “Oh, he’s so cute… what breed is it? How old is it?”…

An alternative method would be to watch a nature programme: if you look at images of animals it can also relax you.

20. Do nothing to lower your blood pressure 

For 59 seconds think a little, change a lot, Richard Wiseman created a fun experiment: he invited his students to spend an evening with him at a restaurant, at his expense. Once they all seemed fairly drunk, he explained that only half of them had drunk alcoholic beverages, the waiters were instructed to only serve alcohol to those with red badges and not to those with blue badges.

However, until he told them the truth both, the blue and red groups got the same test results. 

In 60% to 90% of cases, the effect of the therapy came down to the placebo effect. 

Another test was carried out with female cleaners: strangely enough, those who were told how many calories they burned whilst they carried out various tasks had lost weight, improved their body mass… but hadn’t changed their lives: they only had to change their perception of themselves.

“The risk of a wrong decisions is preferable to the terror of indecision” Moïse Maïmonide

Chapter 7: Couple 

The dangers of active listening, the power of words and a photo to help make a difference. 

Have you heard the theory that one of the secrets of a long relationship is active listening?

With active listening, you listen to the other’s complaints and then rephrase them and say something along these lines: “I hear what you’re saying to me…”

In the 1990s, John Gottman, a psychologist and marriage counsellor, wanted to know what holds a strong couple together and asked more than 100 newlyweds to discuss an argument in front of the camera. 

There weren’t many active listening instances and it was not possible to tell whether a couple was happy or not.

The researchers continued their study and followed couples for 13 years, it was shown that active listening did not make a couple more stable or any happier. 

Couples who stay together generally follow the same pattern: the woman complains, suggests some solutions, and if her partner is open-minded enough to carry out one of them, then the couple is likely to stay together for a long time.

21. The issue of privacy

James Laird had noticed that people who love each other often look into each other’s eyes.

He wondered whether the opposite effect was also true.

To test this, he pretended to do a study on telepathy and asked strangers of the opposite sex to stare into each other’s eyes.

Then they conducted telepathy exercises which failed.

At the end of the test, participants were asked to describe their feelings towards their partner, which confirmed the original theory: our thoughts and feelings influence our behaviour, but that the opposite is also true.

Arthur Aron wondered whether if he changed the habits of the couples, which would mean the introduction of something new into their lives, it might be possible to bond them even closer.

To do this, he asked couples bound with a Velcro belt to climb over a 1m high foam obstacle.

His theory was confirmed by the trial: couples who had climbed the obstacle together said they were more in love after the test than those who had simply kicked a ball, and they also displayed a lot less hostility and were happier than “football” couples.”

If you want to be happy as a couple, try something that you both like and that excites both of you too!

22. Five against one: when words triumph over actions

Dale Carnegie in his book How To Make Friends believes that the smallest criticism can ruin a relationship and, because of that, we should be as complimentary as possible to those around us.

Modern science has shown that there needs to be five times the number of compliments compared to negative remarks for a couple to stay together over time.

John Gottman observed that a negative remark often tends to unleash an onslaught of negativity as couples thrive on mutual support.

On this point, Richard Slatcher and James Pennebacker found that when couples were asked to write down how they felt about each other for three days, 77% were still together after three months, compared to 52% for those who recorded just what they did every day.

23. Room with a view 

Jon Maner and his colleagues at the University of Florida wanted to investigate the power of love. For this, they asked volunteers, as couples, to choose the photo of the person they found most attractive.

One group then wrote an essay on true love while the other wrote on any subject they wanted to choose.

It turned out that those who wrote about true love found it easier to erase the picture than those who were free to write about any topic, so much so that the “true love” couple could no longer clearly describe the chosen image very well. 

If you can focus on your true love and share objects, photos… in your natural environment, the chances are that it will strengthen the bonds of love.

Chapter 8: Decisions

 It’s best to make decisions on your own, and make sure you will never regret them. 

Do you know how to identify liars?

Do you always ask your colleagues and friends before you make an important decision?

James Stoner found that the group focussed on the individual opinions of members; so the take away from this is that we make more radical decisions if we are alone. So, depending on the group, the decision we make could turn out to be more radical; or more restrained than if we had made it alone.

If we join a group that shares our beliefs, our ideas will become more radical; if we listen to new concepts that align with the way we think.

However, a strong character can also influence the entire group, which gives the illusion of unanimity.

If groups do not provide a solution, what is the best way to make a decision?

24. Your foot in the door and the door in your face 

One experiment showed that while only 40% of customers were prepared to buy a cake and two biscuits for 5 euros, 73% rushed to buy a cake for 5 euros plus two “free” biscuits.

In the early 1960s, psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser conducted an unprecedented experiment: their team contacted 150 women by telephone and asked them if they would agree to have a team of 6 men come to their homes to an inventory of their household products.

Less than 25% of the women agreed.

With another group of women, they asked them to complete a telephone survey about the household products they used. Practically all of them agreed to take the survey.

When they contacted them again 3 days later; more than 50% of them agreed to let the team of men come to their house!

If, initially, people agree to a small favor; then there is a good chance that they will grant a larger favor at some point down the line. 

The “nose through the door” method does the opposite; in the beginning you ask for something big in order to achieve your goal; so you get someone to agree to something of less importance afterwards.

For example, students were asked to spend a day at the zoo with some juvenile delinquents.

Less than 20% of students accepted.

As an alternative, before that they had been asked to spend two hours a week to care for juvenile delinquents; which they overwhelmingly rejected, then; well over 50% of the students accepted the second proposal; which was to accompany juvenile delinquents to the zoo. 

The art of persuasion needs you to put your foot in the door; get door slammed in your face, distract the other person with an unusual request; and offer them a greater range of special offers.

25. Never regret a decision 

How do you come up with your decisions? 

Do you weigh up the pros and cons or do you go with your gut instinct?

The results of an experiment with three groups who were asked to choose a table; proved that a month later those who considered the pros and cons; were the most certain that they had made the right choice.

On the other hand, three months later; those who had looked quickly at the tables and had had to work out various calculations; before they made their choice were those who were the most satisfied with their choice.

Those who had to decide immediately were always the least happy.

It transpires that if we can entertain the conscious EGO after our conscious EGO has realised what is at stake in the decision, the unconscious has been able to take over the majority of the final decision: Whether it’s when you choose a flat, buy a car or invest in the stock market, those who focus on cerebral activity, ultimately make a better decision than others.

Studies have demonstrated that there is another way to avoid regret. Thomas Gilovich concluded that nearly 75% of volunteers who responded; to his questionnaires had regrets that they hadn’t done certain things, whereas 25% regretted a bad decision.

As you know, the consequences of your actions make it easier for you to measure your mistakes; which isn’t possible with something you haven’t done. 

It’s better to feel remorse rather than regret.

26. How do you know if someone tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

How do you identify a liar?

Is it their sweaty hands, their averted gaze, that they don’t move, that they blush… ? 

Studies have shown that the widely accepted theory that liars are nervous is incorrect. 

However, lying usually takes concentration so that you don’t catch yourself out; so liars will come across as more focused, seem to be more vague with information, avoid the finer details, etc.

To determine if the person is a liar, do what scientists do and commence the process with an “honesty check”. And give them some straightforward questions to find out how they behave when they tell the truth. 

If you have your doubts, Jeff Hancock noticed that generally people find it easier to lie when they speak rather than when they write, mainly because once the words are spoken they are then forgotten, whereas the written word is there for good. Ask the person in question to send you an email! 

Chapitre 9: Children 

The myth of Mozart. How to choose your child’s first name and work out their destiny with a bunch of sweets? Also know how to help them to choose the right path.

In the 1990s, you undoubtedly heard as I did; that children who had listened to Mozart were more intelligent than others? 

What they didn’t tell us at the time was that the effect only lasted for 10 to 15 minutes.

Further research also contradicted these results, for example; that the research indicated that students performed better on the spatial awareness test before they listened to a Mozart sonata; but also that those who listened to a Stephen King audio-book beforehand performed better on the same test.

Psychologist Glenn Schellenberg believes that children who study music perform better on IQ tests; because music helps them with self-discipline and to think before they start; as it helps them to focus, memorise, and practice for continual improvement.

27. Choose a child’s first name

Smiling Black parents with newborn baby in hospital

Did you know that your first name can have a huge influence on your life?

People whose surname begins with A or B feel they are more successful than others.

[Personal note: I still remember at school, when the teachers used to ask us questions: generally; they would start with with letter “A”; so because my name started with “V”, I was more likely to miss the questions; which tends to lead to a lack of confidence.]

Research has also shown that people with a strong first name; had better marks than those whose first name could be associated with a flaw, a problem, etc.; which could cause an inferiority complex for those in the latter group.

Initials are also important: people whose initials phonetically conjure up a positive concept (such as TB) tend to be more confident than those whose initials conjure up a negative concept (such as DC, for example).

In England, A and B grades are the top grades whilst C and D grades are lower. Leif Nelson and Joseph Simmons have conducted studies with the use of the student database of those currently enrolled at the university.

For instance, they noticed that there were more Alexanders and Bernards in the best universities than there were Christophers and Davids.

28. Incentives 

Some life coaches will advise you to automatically praise your children to build up their confidence.

In the late 1990s, Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck carried out extensive research on the psychology of praise.

They showed that children who were praised for their intelligence were less inclined to question themselves. Consequently, they had less enjoyment when presented with challenges and always tended to choose the easiest one when given the choice of an easy challenge from which they wouldn’t learn anything new or a difficult one that would teach them something new. 

The children who were more motivated and who tried to improve were those who were praised not for their results, but rather for their effort.

So, from the three groups (children praised for their intelligence, those for their effort and those who had not been praised at all), the ones who had been praised for their intelligence were the ones who quit first and had the worst results in the final challenges, when compared to the initial challenges when everyone had done well.

29. The art of self-discipline

In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel carried out this test; he sat children down with a sweet in front of them; walked out of the room and told them that if they hadn’t eaten the sweet by the time he returned; then they would get another one. If they couldn’t wait; then all they had to do was ring the bell to get him back and they would just get the one sweet to eat.

Ten years later, the children who had been able to wait for Mischel to return were driven young adults; (about 1/3 of the children), who were organised and determined, unlike the others. 

In another trial, Jonathan Freedman wanted to determine the best approach to stop children; before they did something they shouldn’t: should they be threatened or just told not to do it?

Both sets of results were the same: all but one child in each group; when left alone; completely ignored the request.

Interestingly, these were the results of what they did six weeks later; when they were placed in the same situation; but with the ban lifted: 77% of the children who had been warned played with the object they were not allowed to touch six weeks earlier; only 33% of the children in the other group played with the object that they were not supposed to touch.

He deduced that for the child, the more you tell them that they can’t have something; the more they will want what you tell them they can’t have.

Other psychologists speculate that the toy is seen as the forbidden fruit by the child and that, unconsciously; they want to test the boundaries of what is forbidden.

Chapter 10: Personality 

Does graphology work? Learn how to define a person’s personality that you interview based on the length of their fingers; their pet and the time they go to bed.

Researcher Geoffrey Dean compared the results of graphological studies carried out in job interviews with the professional evaluations conducted during the probationary period of new employees.

The handwriting specialists turned out to be completely wrong.

In contrast to what they say; studies done on graphology show that it’s unreliable and should not be used to predict the performance of employees.

“Spend just a few nights sleeping for seven hours or less and your brain goes into slow motion” Richard Wiseman

30. The Rule of Five

Whilst Freud, Galton and Jung tried to interpret dreams, other researchers looked at the use of speech in our personalities.

In the 1940s, a group of researchers used a computer program to identify a group of 200 words that would help identify differences between people.

In the 1990s, the results of this research began to emerge.

It is commonly accepted today that we can classify our different personalities based on a “rule of five” also known as the “OCEAN” or “CANOE” for “open-minded”, “conscientious”, “extroverted”, “attentive”, and “neurotic”.

Someone with an open mind will tend to look for new experiences. They have a propensity to get bored quickly and are able to evaluate a problem from different perspectives. They enjoy new ideas.

Those who are not so attuned to this perspective are more conventional and do not like change.

Conscientious people are organised, reliable, industrious and make plans. They are good employees.

Those who aren’t so good in this respect find it hard to motivate themselves and focus; but they will be better able to adapt to new situations.

Extroverts need to be inspired by others. They would much rather be in charge rather than take orders.

Conversely, those who are more cautious and reserved, perform worse in this respect.

They work better when not distracted and usually have less friends than open-minded people.

An attentive person is more reliable, unselfish, affectionate and makes friends more easily. Those who perform poorly here will be more aggressive; less cooperative and will tend to see things from their own point of view.

In relation to the last point, a neurotic person will be more prone to be overwhelmed by their negative attitudes; they will be more jealous and possessive and will have a lower opinion of themselves; than someone who performs poorly in this area. 

For example, many psychologists believe that the human psyche is not as complicated as it seems and that we all fit into the five boxes of OCEAN.

31. The Casanova Effect

Would you believe that psychologists have spent their time to calculate the size percentage of the second finger (index finger); divided by the ring finger (number 4) to establish that the average for males was 0.98; while the average for females was 1.00?

If you are below 0.98, your testosterone level will be higher than someone who is above 1.

So, men with a D2:D4 of less than 1 were able to lift an average of 11 kg more than those; with a D2:D4 greater than 1; and this would also be true in tests designed to understand spatial awareness.

John Manning went so far as to compare the fingers of 54 musicians to find that the D2:D4 ratio in them was low.

For male celebrities, the average index was close to 0.96 and for actors, it was around 1.01.

32. How to identify the personality of the person in front of you in less than 60 seconds

  • In a study of over 2000 people; Richard Wiseman found that people who had a fish were funnier than those who had a dog; that the dog owners were more reliable and sensitive, while reptile owners were the most independent. He also noted a strong similarity between the animal and the owner: “like owner, like dog.”
  • William Szlemko looked at the behaviour of motorists and found that the more stickers there were on a car; the more aggressive the driver.
  • When people cross their hands; those who spontaneously put their right hand on their left hand are more analytical than those who do the opposite.
  • Results from questionnaires filled out by more than 350 people showed that early risers are more logical than intuitive. And late sleepers are more creative, bold, independent and impulsive.

How do you make decisions?

59 seconds think a little, change a lot” suggests 10 techniques to make the right decisions:

  1. Develop a gratitude attitude. Each day, list three things you are grateful for: it will make you feel better and more positive.
  2. Put a picture of a baby in your wallet. You’ll stand more of a chance to get it back should you lose it.
  3. Put up a mirror in your kitchen. You’ll be 32% less likely to eat junk food.
  4. Buy a green plant to put in your office. It will increase your creativity and reduce stress.
  5. Touch the arm of the person you talk to. It will increase the chance that they will be cooperative.
  6. Write down how you feel about your relationship. It will help make your relationship stronger, healthier and happier!
  7. When you suspect that someone is a liar, ask them to send you an email. There’s 20% less likelihood that they will lie on paper compared to when they speak.
  8. Praise your children for their efforts rather than their talent. This will inspire them to take on challenges rather than to just stick with what they already know.
  9. Focus on action, not success. This will improve your rate of achievement.
  10. Think about your legacy. What do you want to leave behind in this world? This will help you define your long-term goals and measure your progress.

Conclusion of “59 seconds think a little, change a lot” by Jean-Louis Vincent from My Life in My Hands 

“59 seconds think a little, change a lot” is a really excellent book; perhaps even the best I have read on the subject; because it is simple to read and the advice is generally sound and easy to put into practice; which is why I have featured it here. 

I thought the short summaries he makes at the end of each section were great: 59 seconds maximum!

You won’t see the advice of your family, psychologists; other coaches… the same way ever again: you will have a more acute view; because you will now be aware that some commonly accepted techniques; are not what they claim to be and that there are others; often more straightforward, that will allow you to make the right decisions in 59 seconds!

Believe me, to be able to discover new avenues of research that are effective is something that has inspired me; when compared to the continuous repetitive routines that always give the same results. 

Generally, it’s an excellent book, a great insight for anyone who is interested in personal development; whether you want to change your life or someone else’s, it’s the book to read! 

Strong Points:

  • Well researched.
  • Straightforward to read.
  • Easy to understand.
  • You know where the topic is headed at the start of the section.
  • His 59 seconds of tips at the end of each chapter.

Weak Points:

  • Sometimes a little vague, some ideas are not consistent with the section’s heading.
  • A lack of scientific detail in certain cases.

My rating : tribes people leader tribes people leader tribes people leadertribes people leadertribes people leadertribes people leadertribes people leadertribes people leadertribes people leader

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