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My favorite popular scientific self-help books

11 Post author: lukeprog 10 September 2011 09:53PM

I've spent several years studying scientific self-help. I'm sharing some of what I've learned in my sequence The Science of Winning at Life, but I probably won't have time to write additional posts in that series for a while. In the meantime, those who are interested in what mainstream scientists have discovered so far about effective self-help methods may want to read some of my favorite popular-level scientific self-help books:

Comments (14)

Comment author: Hyena 11 September 2011 12:15:32AM 6 points [-]

Sad fact: I am still putting off The Procrastination Equation.

Comment author: Miller 11 September 2011 03:17:27AM 3 points [-]

I read it. Luke's article here was more or less a transcription of the more interesting parts. The author essentially agreed. So you need 30 minutes. Set your pomodoro.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 September 2011 02:30:16AM 2 points [-]

Luke's article here was more or less a transcription of the more interesting parts.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/3w3/how_to_beat_procrastination/

Comment author: jpulgarin 10 September 2011 11:53:26PM 1 point [-]

The link to your favorite journals has the wrong endpoint.

Comment author: lukeprog 11 September 2011 01:20:10AM 0 points [-]

Fixed, thanks.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 10 September 2011 11:39:33PM 1 point [-]

Is there a self-help book not about things like making money or being happy, but about being flawless along a set of dimensions the designation of which as desirable is itself considered flawless reasoning? I've only really gotten hints form Taoism, Buddhism, decision theory, and economics thus far; nothing really from science-y folk. This kinda thing:

“One must give value to their existence by behaving as if ones very existence were a work of art.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

But with more detailed advice.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2011 02:05:32AM 3 points [-]

This is getting into other-optimizing territory, but I'm inclined to think that sort of goal is a bad idea. I'll give details if you're interested.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 11 September 2011 03:51:55PM *  0 points [-]

I am interested in why you think that sort of goal is a bad idea.

My own view is that there seems to be an implication that our life is static ("a work of art"). This is a fairly well-known pitfall, not in terms of the psycho happiness research as far as I know, but in terms of the common-sense idea that we are often deluded by the idea that I will be happy if (or if and only if) I get that degree, that job, that girl, &c.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 September 2011 05:02:27PM 2 points [-]

I've recently read Compassion and Self-Hate by Theodore Ruben, which builds on Karen Horney's idea that people who were abused, neglected, or overly manipulated as children are apt to conclude that being a human wasn't good enough, and then they invent inhuman standards (always right, always victorious, the perfect martyr, etc.) in the hopes that they can find a way to be good enough.

I'll add that self-hatred can lead to overreacting to ideals from fiction. I found the book to be a very specific salve to some damage I'd picked up from Ayn Rand. Her preferred characters are very passionate and energetic, and I'm not like that. I hadn't realized how much my concern with the mismatch was (and probably still is) haunting me. I described the book to a friend, and that made him realize he was haunted by Heinlein characters, and not in a good way.

Ruben addresses self-hatred as a semi-autonomous and very debilitating pattern, with compassion towards oneself as a not fully comprehensible or optimizable system as the solution.

Will's "being flawless along a set of dimensions the designation of which as desirable is itself considered flawless reasoning" strikes me as one of those inhuman standards.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 11 September 2011 06:03:18PM *  1 point [-]

Maybe swap in "ideal" for "flawless"?

Also: I tried to google that Nietzsche quote and could not find it on the first search page. I wonder how valid that sucker is. There is a lot of poorly translated Nietzsche.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 12 September 2011 12:54:13AM *  1 point [-]

If I am trying to live up to an unreasonable standard then I am being unreasonable aka flawed. This is where Taoism is really important. Effortless action, keeping the gears from grinding needlessly, from wasting the chi, the money, the metaness, the subtelty, the self-correcting-ness of the world, building better institutions with low transaction costs...

Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 September 2011 11:34:39PM 0 points [-]

I automatically think of architecture like music. Does anyone know where I might have gotten that meme?

Comment author: lukeprog 11 September 2011 01:23:28AM 3 points [-]

Not that I know of. If Baron's Thinking and Deciding was turned into a 200 page how-to book for the masses, is that the kind of thing you'd be talking about?

Comment author: XFrequentist 12 September 2011 02:56:55AM 0 points [-]

Is this roughly what Elizer's books aspire to be?