Rating: 5 of 5: TMBOA Recommended
Author: Jim Randel
What I like about Jim Randel’s The Skinny On books, is that they are like hiring an excerpt consultant to come and spend a couple of hours teaching from their extensive research and experience, all for the price of a couple of cups of coffee. Written in a power point type fashion with wonderfully simple but effective and well illustrated characters, Randel teaches through fictional case studies. Peppered throughout these studies are the wisdom of experts who have been well researched and quoted by Randel along with an extensive bibliography for those wanting to delve deeper. Usually when I attend a conference or listen to an expert speaker, I consider it well worth my time if I can learn one new factoid or item that I can put into practice. While I have read a number of the references Jim uses in his books, I still found multiple take-aways to use going forward making reading The Skinny On books well worth the time.
In The Skinny On: Willpower, Randel uses an example of eating properly (fewer marshmallows!) and losing weight to impart lessons regarding willpower. Given the number of dieting books, exercise videos, and overall size of this market, use of this example should resonate with many readers. Randel reiterates common lessons with respect to willpower which include goal setting. Important in this exercise is the specificity of the goals – how much, by when, etc. Generic goals – be happier – eat better, etc. are prone to failure because there isn’t anything objective to hold oneself accountable to.
Of even greater interest to me, however, was Randel’s focus on preparing for challenges. Inherent in needing to exercise willpower is the fact that one’s will will be challenged. For example, in dieting, one will be challenged with emotional stresses that could trigger unhealthy eating – before setting off on a new goal, one needs to anticipate what the potential challenges to the goal and one’s will will be and create a “willpower plan”. The idea is to think through these future stresses and how to manage them before they happen. By making a plan before the issue comes up, one is able to effectively plan a response and practice this response before the challenge comes. This way, when the eventual challenge comes the stress of the challenge itself does not break one’s will and success is easier to obtain. Randel provides some research suggesting that this practicing improves one’s willpower similar to training a muscle in athletics or the mind in intellectual pursuits.
Finally, I enjoyed the discussion on self discipline. Randel’s writes “self discipline is about doing things today that may not be your first choice for the pleasure of experiencing bigger and better things tomorrow.” Well said.
Regardless of the methods you use, Randel’s book contains a lot of information packed into a small and engaging package. Perhaps not all ideas will resonate with everyone, but there is so much good content here, everyone will gain a key take-away or two.