Books that shaped my year: 2013

So 2013 is ending and it’s time we introspect and look back at the year. Many of us read the best books/movies/etc lists. So this time I decided to compile a list of books that shaped me in year 2013. These are books which have left a deep impact on me. In my constant strive of the self enhancement, these books have helped me to reach the next level of self evolution. So here is the list:

1. Daring Greatly.

This book is a great resource which helped me in accepting my imperfections. To embrace vulnerability and encouraged me to live the life wholeheartedly.It is written by Researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown. After the great success of her ted talk The power of vulnerability she compiled her work in this book. I recommend it highly to those who are looking for more and better ways of Living.

2. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking

Susan Cain, author of Quiet is a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant — and a self-described introvert. At least one-third of the people who live on our planet are introverts, notes Cain in her book. Although our culture undervalues them dramatically, introverts have made some of the great contributions to society – from Chopin’s nocturnes to the invention of the personal computer to Gandhi’s transformative leadership. Cain argues that we design our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions for extroverts, and that this bias creates a waste of talent, energy, and happiness. Based on intensive research in psychology and neurobiology and on prolific interviews, she also explains why introverts are capable of great love and great achievement, not in spite of their temperaments — but because of them.

Being born, raised and grown introvert, this book greatly helped me in overcoming inferiority complex that was born because of being labeled as Introvert.

3. Willpower : Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength

For years the old-fashioned, even Victorian, value of willpower has been disparaged by psychologists who argued that we’re largely driven by unconscious forces beyond our control. Here Roy Baumeister, one of the world’s most esteemed and influential psychologists, and journalist John Tierney, turn this notion on its head. They show us that willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice and improved over time. The latest laboratory work shows that self-control has a physical basis to it and so is dramatically affected by simple things such as eating and sleeping – to the extent that a life-changing decision may go in different directions depending on whether it’s made before or after lunch. You will discover how babies can be taught willpower, the joys of the to-don’t list, the success of Alcoholics Anonymous, the pointlessness of diets and the secrets to David Blaine’s stunts. There are also fascinating personal stories, from explorers, students, soldiers, ex-addicts and parents.

4. This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

This Will Make You Smarter presents brilliant ideas to expand every mind. What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? This is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, posed to the world’s most influential thinkers. Their visionary answers flow from the frontiers of psychology, philosophy, economics, physics, sociology, and more. Surprising and enlightening, these insights will revolutionize the way you think about yourself and the world.

5. Swaraj by Arvind Kejriwal

Swaraj is a book published in English and Hindi by Arvind Kejriwal, a social activist-turned-politician. Kejriwal questions the present establishment of the democratic framework in India and proposes a way in which he thinks that the people, the opinion makers and the political establishment of India can achieve true Swaraj (self-rule). Book is available for free download here in English and here in Hindi.

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How our body language shapes who we are.

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

power-pose-visualization

How our body language shapes who we are.

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Mind Wondering is making you unhappy.

Initially Mind wandering was thought to be a evolution’s gift to mankind. It allows us to wander wherever we want. Our thoughts travel faster than anything and we often treat this as a blessing to us. However mind wandering may have an emotional cost.

While most people think of mind-wandering as a lifting escape from daily drudgery, research shows that this may not the case. In fact, mind-wandering appears to be correlated with unhappiness. When people were mind-wandering, they reported feeling unhappy most of the times. Meanwhile, when they were focused on the present moment, they reported feeling more happy.

Live-for-Each-Moment

Happiness is one of the most complicated human emotions and there has been substantial research done on it. Matt Killingsworth while doing his PhD research at Harvard invented a smart tool: an iPhone app called Track Your Happiness that captured user’s feelings in real time. The tool alerts the user at random times and asks: How are you feeling right now, and what are you doing? Matt captured the data and analyzed it which later became the main source of knowledge for the notable paper “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind”. Unlike other animals, human beings spend a lot of time thinking about what is not going on around them, contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or will never happen at all. Indeed, “stimulus-independent thought” or “mind wandering” appears to be the brains default mode of operation.

Escaping mind wandering

Building focus and increasing our mindfulness are an ultimate ways to reach happier life.

Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and “to be here now.” These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

Eckhart Tolle a spiritual teacher and the author of bestselling book The Power of Now, suggests “living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment.” His book sparked a wave of awareness about mindfulness in recent days. The book talks about mind wandering; it’s relation to our sorrows. It shows how we invite misery in our lives by not accepting the present moment. Tolle says the more we escape from now the more unhappy and miserable we become. So being fully in the now is an ultimate solution to find bliss and happiness. Tolle’s philosophy is inspired by Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible altogether.

What modern day scientists, philosophers are inventing is in fact proving to be an ancient wisdom which was practiced long ago in history. Hinduism, Buddhism teachings are focused on many advanced meditation techniques. In fact many Hindu gods are visualized as sitting in meditation postures.

Practical solution to escape the life’s miseries is a focused mind. Meditation is a scientifically proven way to decrease mind wandering and in turn our happiness levels.

In conclusion, a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

— Buddha

Further Reading:

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Albert Einstein’s advice to his son about learning.

Einstein writes an affectionate letter to his son during turbulent times of war in 1915 from war-torn Berlin while his estranged wife and their two sons were living in safer place Vienna.

Einstein had just completed his monumental work of “Theory of Relativity” that made him international celebrity.

My dear Albert,

Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it. I was already afraid you

Albert Einstein

wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys. These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life, when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .

Be with Tete kissed by your

Papa.

Regards to Mama.

Einstein’s Book: Relativity: The Special and the General Theory

Thinking matters.

Pebbles

Many years ago  in a small Indian village, A farmer had the misfortune Of  owing a  large sum of money to a village moneylender. The Moneylender,  who  was old and ugly, fancied the farmer’s beautiful Daughter. So he proposed a bargain.

He said he would forgo the farmer’s  debt if he could marry his Daughter.  Both the farmer and his  daughter were horrified by the Proposal. So the  cunning money-lender  suggested that they let Providence decide the matter.

He told them that he would put a black Pebble  and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would Have  to pick one pebble from the bag.

1) If she  picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her  father’s  debt would be forgiven.

2) If she picked the white  pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be  forgiven.

3) But if she refused to pick a pebble, her  father would be thrown into  Jail.

They were  standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer’s field. As  They  talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he Picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up  two Black pebbles and put  them into the  bag.
He then asked the girl to pick A pebble from the  bag.

Now, imagine that you were standing in the field.  What would you have Done if you were the girl? If you had to advise  her, what would you Have told her?

Careful  analysis would produce three possibilities:

1. The girl  should refuse to take a pebble.
 2. The girl should show  that there were two black pebbles in the bag And expose the  money-lender as a cheat.
3. The girl should pick a black  pebble and sacrifice herself in order To save her father from his  debt and imprisonment.
Take a moment to ponder over the  story. The above story is used with The  hope that it will make us  appreciate the difference between lateral And logical  thinking.

The girl’s dilemma cannot be solved with  Traditional logical thinking. Think of the consequences if she  chooses The above logical  answers.

What would you recommend to the Girl to  do?
Well, here is what she did:

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble.  Without Looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the  pebble-strewn path Where it immediately became lost among all the  other pebbles. “Oh, how clumsy of me,” she  said. “But never mind, if you look into the Bag for the one that is  left, you will be able to tell which pebble I Picked.”

Since the remaining pebble is  black, it must be assumed that she had Picked the white one. And  since the money-lender dared not admit his Dishonesty, the girl  changed what seemed an impossible situation into An extremely  advantageous one.

                                                                                                                                                                                               
MORAL OF THE  STORY:
Most complex problems do have a solution. It is  only that we don’t Attempt to  think.

                                                                                                                                              

Some interesting books on Lateral and Logical Thinking on Amazon:

Some interesting books on Lateral and Logical Thinking on Flipkart: