A More Powerful Brain From Reading Fiction
On my latest Moneylove Club audio, I talk about some secrets of success that folks might find shocking, or at least unexpected and surprising. One of these is something I have actually been advocating for thirty-some years: The regular reading of fiction in addition to any nonfiction one reads for education, motivation, inspiration, or work-related information. Now this is being backed up by a number of studies by brain scientists.
One such study at Emory University shows that reading a novel that really engages your attention causes changes in the left temporal cortex of the brain that can last up to five days. This part of the brain is the part most associated with language. Also neurons of this part are the ones that can fool the mind into thinking it is doing something it is only thinking about. I used to talk about this a lot when I was involved in running the Biofeedback Institute in New York. How a basketball team training by just visualizing playing had close to the same results as a team actually practicing out on the court. A recent name for this phenomenon is “grounded cognition,” commonly known as muscle memory.
The best brain-boosting results happen when the reader is pulled into the plot of the novel, and strongly identifies with the hero or protagonist. This has a strong impact on one’s measurable level of empathy and ability to communicate. And these two factors, in turn, are greatly responsible for success in achieving one’s aspirations in the real world. This is quite a realization and quite a change from back in the 19th Century, when reading novels was considered a sinful waste of time.
A study at the New School for Social Research shows the empathy factor is enhanced because reading literary fiction helps us put ourselves into the minds of others, and enhances our ability to guess the feelings of others. Children are greatly impacted by reading novels, with better performance in vocabulary skills and even math.
On my audio, I recommended two favorite books that are nonfiction but talk a lot about fiction. They are by two of the most talented storytellers of the 20th Century: W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage, and the highest paid writer of the 1930s, who talks about his love of writing and reading novels in his memoir, The Summing Up. And Louis L’Amour, who wrote 100 novels and many short stories, many of which were about the Old West. L’Amour left school and went to sea at the age of fifteen with a very large box of books. He normally read 100 books a year, and some very interesting lists of these books appear in his Education of A Wandering Man. I consider these two books the best ever written in terms of inspiring those reading them to want to be readers all their lives.
I’ll leave you with one quote from each of these authors.
From Louis L’Amour:
It is often said that one has but one life to live, but that is nonsense. For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in all periods of time.
And from W. Somerset Maugham:
To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.
Now go find a book.
When It Comes To Books, Are You A Reader or a Faddist?
This post was inspired by one I put on Facebook this morning:
So many self development books are being published now that there is a real danger. As new readers come along, they may believe in the cult of the new, not realizing the tremendous breakthrough books that came out in the 1970s and 1980s, or even earlier. There’s, for instance, Think and Grow Rich, and How To Win Friends and Influence People. Here’s the problem: many of the new books are watered down, surface scratchings of these earlier books. The essence and heart of some of the classics is missing in these new books that are basically like bad movie remakes.
And that post was inspired by the fact that so many people tell me about new books they’ve read (or, more likely, skimmed) and when I check them out, I find them to be merely a rehash of a book I read thirty years ago, or even one I wrote thirty years ago.
I remember when I was a kid, hating the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, a series that had about five popular books in abridged form in each volume and lasted for about fifty years. I felt battered and insulted that some editor would distill the ideas or plot in a well-written book and spoon it out in a shortened form. I feel that way about many of the new books being published. This is not to say there aren’t some great new and innovative books being published. There are even some great books that take the themes of earlier books and expand on these and see those older ideas in useful, original ways.
There is such a glut of books being published, that I realize it is hard keeping up with new titles, let alone older ones. Luckily, however, we have online search engines that can track almost any book ever published. I do think many people are missing out by never having read the real classics in personal development and growth. If you choose to check some of these “classics” out, you will find they laid the foundation for many of the concepts being touted as cutting edge today. Way back in 1976, I wrote a book called Friends, and at the back of the book there was an annotated bibliography, listing fifty powerful books in interpersonal communication and self development. I decided to choose, for your consideration and edification, seven of my favorites from that list, books that really had a strong impact on my attitudes and approach to life:
1. Be The Person You Were Meant To Be, by Dr. Jerry Greenwald. This was the first book to really delve into the differences between nourishing and toxic relationships.
2. Beyond Success and Failure, by Willard and Marguerite Beecher. A classic with a lot to say about dependency and self-reliance.
3. Decision Therapy, by Dr. Harold Greenwald. I got to attend some of Harold’s workshops and they informed my own work on the importance of making good decisions in one’s life.
4. Contact: The First Four Minutes, by Dr. Leonard Zunin. Leonard was a friend and a pioneer in the study of the impact of first impressions. The book has exercises, and I especially like his comment that, “A friendship may start in four minutes, but it has to be cultivated like a plant.” His title is also a great example for quickly letting a reader know what the book is about.
5. Handbook to Higher Consciousness, by Ken Keyes, Jr. This book changed countless lives, including mine. Ken became a good friend as well as mentor. I attended more of his workshops than anyone else’s. He probably knew more about the psychology of the human brain than any author or teacher I can think of. A paraplegic, due to a bout of polio in his twenties, Ken was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met–and sometimes he called his work, The Science of Happiness.
6. Love, by Leo Buscaglia. The next best thing to seeing Leo in person or on one of his PBS specials. Lots of great stories and gems of wisdom you’ll find yourself quoting to friends.
7. Ways of Growth, edited by Herbert Otto and John Mann. A great compendium of articles on humanistic psychology and the human potential movement. Worth having just for the opening chapter, Growing Awareness and The Awareness of Growth, by Dr. Sidney Jourard. Many consider it to be the best explanation of personal growth ever written.
Not in any order of importance or chronology, and I just as easily could have picked another 7 from my list of fifty. But if you haven’t read any of these “classic” self-help works (or perhaps never even heard of them or their authors), you are missing out.
Forget Resolutions–Have a Personal Revolution
I find myself immersed in quotes at the beginning of this new year, as I have recently written an article on this subject and my end of 2013 audio was on the same subject for my Moneylove Club subscribers. I am even considering doing a book on the subject. I know there are hundreds of books out there on quotes, sayings, aphorisms, adages, short statements of wisdom, advice, instructions and observations on life. Several have even been written by friends of mine.
My purpose and approach is to add a new dimension to the subject by creating a new personal development tool I call Quotercises. These are simple exercises to make use of the quotes that strike our fancy, hit a responding chord in us, make our brain buzz with ideas, cause us to go quiet to reflect on the meaning of our lives. In other words, quotes are powerhouses of possibilities we haven’t made nearly as much use of as we could.
And it was a quote from the old genius himself, Albert Einstein, that gave me my inspiration for this first post of a new year. Strangely enough, because I have read a lot of Einstein quotes, and even did an entire audio on his wisdom, I hadn’t come across this specific one before. Here it is:
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Albert Einstein
As I said, a powerhouse. In a way, it is the complete foundation for Moneylove and prosperity consciousness. It even refutes a lot of the basis of many of the books and courses on The Law of Attraction. There is no law, natural or manmade, which can overturn or rectify the crime of a negative consciousness. Not until that negative or poverty consciousness is confronted and is changed.
The answer is to start to become a new and better version of ourselves, to let go of the old and celebrate the new. One personal exercise you might try out, taking advantage of the timing, is to choose to do something this month you have never done before, and especially in the first month of a new year in which you will become, at least some of you, a new person with a different level of consciousness than the one that created any limitations or difficulties or persistent challenges you have encountered in years gone by.
One of the Quotercises I have created, which can easily be applied to the Albert Einstein quote, is to ask yourself the question: Am I ready, willing, and able to use this quote by Albert Einstein, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” as a model or inspiration for the way I operate in my life in 2014? And, are you willing to start immediately, at the beginning of this new year by exploring a different level of consciousness?