Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book of the Week: The As If Principle

The AS IF Principle is not your typical self-help book. The AS IF Principle presents the idea that if we change our behavior then we can change the way that we feel. Richard Wiseman uses examples from psychological research to show that by changing our behavior we can increase motivation, overcome depression, lose weight, stop smoking, fall in love and even slow aging.  He presents the idea that it is actually action that is what controls your emotions, not what you are thinking.

Common sense suggests that the chain of causation is:
·         You feel happy—you smile.
·         You feel afraid—you run.
·         You have willpower—you clench your fist.
·         You feel compassionate—you give.

The As If Principle suggests that the chain of causation is:
·         You smile—you feel happy.
·         You run—you feel afraid.
·         You clench your fist—you have willpower.
·         You give—you feel compassionate.

Which comes first the chicken or the egg? Or in this instance the action or the thought?
Richard Wiseman presents a very clear argument for the idea that is our actions that influence our thoughts and our feelings and while I agree with him, I also found myself questioning it some too. Our habits are important and many things we do throughout the day come from habit, but at the same time how is a new habit developed? So I ended the book with the question running through my mind, “Which comes first the action or the thought?” To be honest, my personal opinion is that is a combination of the two is actually needed. I think that our thoughts can influence our actions, but also that our actions can influence our thoughts.

As I said earlier, this book is not your typical self-help book. While most authors present a lot of anecdotes from their lives or from the lives of people who have followed their advice, Richard Wiseman uses scientific research to back up his arguments for the As If principle. I will have to say that unless you are like me and enjoy reading psychological texts that this makes reading this book a little dry. 

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