Three books suggest ways to improve your life.
We typically spend four hours every day resisting temptation, says social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (Penguin Press, 2011), Baumeister and New York Times science writer John Tierney reveal that one of our most valued abilities—self-control—actually operates like a muscle: it can be strengthened with practice and exhausted by overuse. The authors share how entrepreneurs, parents and artists have improved their willpower and how we can, too.
Improved self-control can help diminish stress, an important skill for harried parents. In Kids Pick Up on Everything: How Parental Stress Is Toxic to Kids (CreateSpace, 2011), family coach David Code describes how, just as they can catch a cold, children can “catch” their parents’ anxiety, making them more likely to develop learning disabilities, mental illness and obesity. Code, who founded the Center for Staying Married and Raising Great Kids, tells parents to relax and have fun to help their children grow up healthier and happier.
Another key to a good life comes from our ability to explore complex social problems through stories, writes Jonathan Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Gottschall, who studies the link between literature and science, argues that our penchant for spinning yarns developed, as with other behaviors, to enhance our survival. This book may offer insight on how our storytelling abilities can help us solve problems.