59 Seconds – Think a Little, Change a Lot (My Review and Detailed Notes)

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59 seconds is a self-help book with a difference.  Most are full of waffle and regurgitated advice, based on little (often no) scientific or psychological evidence.
59 seconds is different.
In it, Professor Wiseman suggests only strategies and tactics which are supported by research. Even better the key take home messages can be explained and understood in under a minute. Hence the books title.

The book covers all sorts of subjects. Each of which is given an overview and then an analysis of the most effective psychological strategies, tactics, tips, nuggets, and hacks are outlined concisely. At the end of each chapter you are provided with actionable advice you can implement immediately.

This approach is refreshing. It Is insightful. Better yet it is useful.

Much of the advice is common sense (although common sense isn’t that common!) while some of it is not. 59 seconds contains dozens of fascinating insights and they all have science on their side.

I really enjoyed the book and thought it provided fantastic value. I suggest you go out and get a copy.

Not convinced?

Read my detailed notes to see the sort of content you get and the fantastic tips provided by Wiseman. I have included notes on:

  • Happiness
  • Persuasion
  • Motivation
  • Dieting & Drinking
  • Decision Making

There is much more covered in the book. Such as, parenting, creativity, attraction, and relationships. Buy the book to learn more about these and get greater detail on the subjects I have highlighted below.

Professor Richard Wiseman

Happiness –

Creating the perfect diary:

Monday: Thanksgiving

Think back over the past week and list 3 things you are grateful for:

Tuesday: Terrific Times

Think about one of the most wonderful experiences in your life. Imagine yourself back in that moment. Write down a description of that moment. How you felt, what was going on around you, who was there, what you could hear etc.

Wednesday: Future Fantastic:

Spend a few moments writing about your future. Be realistic, but ambitious. Imagine you have worked hard to achieve all your goals and that everything has gone as well as possible.

Thursday: Dear…

Think about someone extremely important to you. Write a short letter to this person, describing how much you care for them and the impact they have had on your life.

Friday: Reviewing the situation

Think back over the past week and make a note of three things that went really well for you.

The Power of Purchases:


Buy experiences not things. Click To Tweet

It is better to give than receive. It doesn’t have to cost money – 5 non-financial acts of kindness on a single day can significantly improve happiness.

Happiness Is a Pencil:

Smile. Use an hourly reminder to remind you to smile regularly. Hold the expression for 15-30 seconds

Sit Up. Your posture can affect your mood.

Act Happy. Walk in a relaxed way. Make expressive hand gestures during conversations. Nod your head when listening to others. Wear colourful clothing. Use positive, emotionally charged words more often (e.g., love, like and fond). Refer to yourself less. Vary the pitch of your voice. Speak a little faster. Have a firm handshake.

Persuasion –

Giving the Perfect Interview:

Firstly, likeability is more important than academic achievement, so…

  • Find something you genuinely like about the organisation and tell them
  • Give a compliment (as long as it’s genuine)
  • Chat about a non-job related topic you both find interesting
  • Be interested in them – ask what they are looking for in the role and how it fits with the rest of the organisation
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Smile and maintain eye contact

Secondly, address weaknesses early to boost credibility. Modesty is important, so, retain something positive and strong about you until the very end.

Finally, if you slip up don’t overreact. It almost always seems bigger to you than them.

Favours, Pitfalls and Gossip:

The Franklin Effect. People like you more when they carry out a favour for you. Keep your request small though.

The Pratfall Effect. The occasional slip-up can be endearing. This is only the case when there is a danger of you being seen as too perfect though.

Gossip. Whatever traits you assign to others via gossip end up being reflected on to you and seen as part of your own personality. So be careful what you gossip about!

Why Too Many Cooks Leads to No Cooking at All, and What Can Be Done About It.

The Bystander Effect can limit the amount of assistance offered if many people are present. To combat this pick out a friendly face and clearly tell them what you need. This effect is apparent in-person but also online. For example, if you want help via email do not send it to a large group of people as they will assume someone else is dealing with it. To increase your chance of getting help send it to each person individually.

On the Importance of Scratching Backs:

Carrying out a favour for someone often results in them giving significantly more in return. There are several subtle factors that influence when favours are most effective though.

Favours have their biggest impact when they occur between people who don’t know each other that well, and when they are small but thoughtful.

If you want for maximum return on your investment ask for your return favour quickly. Leave it too long and people forget what happened or convince themselves they didn’t need your help in the first place.

Never Lose Your Wallet Again:

Display a picture of the happiest, cutest baby prominently in your wallet and it is more likely to be returned.

Motivation –

Creating The Perfect Plan:

The Ultimate Motivational Journal…

  1. What Is Your Overall Goal?

My overall goal is…

  1. Create a Step-by-Step Plan

Break your overall goal into a maximum of 5 smaller steps. Each step should be associated with a goal that is concrete, measurable, realistic and time-based. Think about how you will achieve each step and the reward that you will give yourself when you do.

Step 1

My first sub-goal is to…

I believe I can achieve this goal because…

To achieve this sub-goal, I will…

This will be achieved by the following date…

My reward for achieving this will be…

Step 2

My second sub-goal is to…

I believe I can achieve this goal because…

To achieve this sub-goal, I will…

This will be achieved by the following date…

My reward for achieving this will be…

Step 3

My third sub-goal is to…

I believe I can achieve this goal because…

To achieve this sub-goal, I will…

This will be achieved by the following date…

My reward for achieving this will be…

Step 4

My fourth sub-goal is to…

I believe I can achieve this goal because…

To achieve this sub-goal, I will…

This will be achieved by the following date…

My reward for achieving this will be…

Step 5

My fifth sub-goal is to…

I believe I can achieve this goal because…

To achieve this sub-goal, I will…

This will be achieved by the following date…

My reward for achieving this will be…

  1. What Are the Benefits of Achieving Your Overall Goal?

List three important benefits, focusing on how much better life will be for you and those around you. Focus on the benefits associated with your desired future, rather than escaping the negative aspects of your current situation.

Benefit 1

Benefit 2

Benefit 3

  1. Going Public

Who are you going to tell about your goal and sub-goals?

I will go public by…??? Tell your partner, colleagues or parents? Post it on social media? Etc.

Doublethink:

Use doublethink to motivate you to achieve your goals and persevere in the face of difficulties.

  1. What is Your Goal?
  2. Potential Benefits and Setbacks?
    1. Write down one word that reflects an important way in which your life would be better if you achieved your goal.
    2. Write down one word that reflects a significant barrier standing in the way of you achieving your goal.
    3. Write down one word that reflects another important way in which your life would be better if you achieved your goal.
    4. Write down one word that reflects another significant barrier that stands in the way of you achieving your goal.
  3. Elaboration

On a separate document elaborate on your answers to the above.

Elaborate your answer to question a. Imagine all the benefits that would flow form this achievement.

Elaborate your answer to question b. Imagine how the obstacle hinders achievement and the steps you would take to deal with it.

Elaborate your answer to question c. Imagine all the benefits that would flow from this achievement.

Elaborate your answer to question d. Imagine how the obstacle hinders achievement and the steps you would take to deal with it.

Dieting and Drinking

The Power Of Slow. Eating more slowly helps people lose weight. Interestingly, the most effective strategy is to eat at normal then slow rate. Begin at your normal rate and then switch to eating at half your normal speed. The secret to feeling satisfied appears to be starting at normal speed but, then savouring every mouthful.

Make Mine a Tall, Thin One. If you want to reduce your drinking, stay away from short, wide glasses and stick to tall, narrow ones. It appears that we use depth of liquid as an indicator of the amount of liquid in a glass so this tip will reduce the amount in the glass by 20-30% on average.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Don’t keep tempting ‘trigger’ foods in the house. If you have to have them in stock at least  put them out of sight and place them in a difficult to access place. For example, at the top, back of a high up cupboard or in the cellar.

Focus, Focus, Focus. People drink significantly more when they are distracted at meal times. So, stop eating meals while also watching TV, reading a magazine, checking your email, or even chatting with others. Focus on what you are eating, be mindful of each mouthful and savour the tastes.

Beware Large Crockery. The size of your bowls and spoons influences how much you eat. Cut down the size of your crockery ad cutlery to cut down the size of your waist.

Keep a Food Diary. Those who keep a daily food diary have been found to lose twice as much weight as those who didn’t keep one. Becoming more aware of what you eat on a day to day basis will help you to break bad habits and consume less.

Regret and Reflection. Harness the power of regret and avoid reflection. Spending a few moments thinking about how much you will regret not going to the gym will help to motivate to get yourself up off your ass and in the gym. As they say…”I regret that workout, said nobody, ever!”

Once you are in the gym don’t spend time checking yourself out in the mirror. Those who constantly saw themselves in the mirror ended up feeling significantly less revitalised and more exhausted than exercising in front of a wall. Researchers believe this is because people tend to focus on their less than perfect bodies and end up doing more harm than good.

Use More Energy. Small changes add up to big changes. Try to think of how you can burn more calories with small changes to your daily routines. Some examples, use the stairs instead of escalators or lifts, listen to upbeat music when walking, doing housework or mowing the lawn as this will encourage more vigorous movement.

Mirror, Mirror on the Kitchen Wall. Putting a mirror in your kitchen might help you lose weight. Seeing your own reflection makes you more aware of your body and less likely to eat too much.

The Pitfalls of Diet Packs. So called mini or ‘diet’ sized packs of food should mean we eat less. The problem is the name implies they are diet friendly or somehow magical. As a result, people seem to feel they don’t need to exercise restraint and end up eating more.

Decision Making:

Getting Your Foot in the Door, and the Door in Your Face

We are not the rational creatures we like to think we are. When people sell things the “that’s not all” principle and people who start small and build up, or start big or quickly back down to a more “reasonable” offer have great success.

Never Regret a Decision Again

Anagrams and the Unconscious Mind. When making straight forward decisions stick with the conscious mind by thinking about the pros and cons and assessing the situation in a rational, level-headed way. However, for more complex choices, try giving your conscious mind a rest and letting your unconscious work.

Here is a way to put this to use…

A What decisions do you have to make?

B Work through as many of these anagrams as possible in 5 minutes. If you get stuck, don’t struggle for too long and instead move on to the next one.

There are 15 anagrams.

C Now, without thinking too much about the problem, write down your decision here…

Ring-Fencing Regret. To avoid regret. Adopt a will do attitude to ‘opportunity’. (Quote pg. 252). Second, if you do regret not doing something, see if there is anything you can to remedy the situation. Finally, if it isn’t possible to do anything to make things better, make a mental image of a ring-fence around the imagery ‘what might have been’. Instead of dwelling on what might have been, spend time thinking about 3 benefits of your current situation and 3 negative consequences that may have occurred had you taken the decision that’s causing regret.

Stop people lying to you…Email Me. Research reveals people only lie in 14% of emails, compared to 21% of texts, 27% of face to face conversations and 37% of phone calls. People are reluctant to lie in email because a record of what they have said is saved and their words could come back to haunt them.

Deciding How Long Something Will Take. Mentally unpack all the processes involved in getting something done. Isolate all the steps involved before making your estimate and you will be far more accurate.

There is way more in the book. It covers the above in far more detail. It also covers other topics. I have just tried to outline the ones I thought would be most relevant/useful to you.

I highly recommend getting the book discover more of Wiseman’s fascinating nuggets of wisdom.

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