Author: Richard Nelson-Jones,
Effective Thinking Skills: Preventing and Managing Personal Problems
This is a very thought provoking book and certainly lives up to its title. It would be difficult to read this book at a fast pace as it is designed to make you stop and think. I found that I often had to re-read paragraphs in order to grasp the meaning. Although it took me a long time to read the book, it was definitely worthwhile as it made me much more aware of my own thinking and decision making habits. In essence, this book helps you to “think about your thinking so that you become a better chooser’, Pg. 9
I will summarise the parts of the book that I found most effective in the following paragraphs. The author does not go straight into “how to think effectively”. Firstly he looks at possible reasons why people may resist changing their thinking skills. He then moves onto learning how not to think and examines the development of thinking skills and habits from childhood through to adult years. However the author does not allow the reader off the hook by attributing ineffective thinking skills to our childhood by pointing out the difference between acquiring deficient thinking skills and sustaining them.
One point which really struck a chord with me was where the author points out that many people sustain deficient thinking skills through “insufficient awareness of their personal responsibilities for making the most of their lives” (Pg 22). I think that this is something that many people, including myself, could benefit from being reminded of. The author encourages the reader to be “responsible for the authorship of your life” and this theme is carried throughout the book.
I thought that it was interesting that the author explored the relationship between existential awareness and thinking skills. I had never considered the link between a person’s attitude to death and their thinking skills. The author gives some powerful examples of how our existential awareness has a significant impact on how we choose to live our lives.
I found the section on self-talk very relevant to coaching. Some of the tips such as using “I” instead of “You” and “choose to” or “want to” instead of “must” were excellent. The author gives examples of how coping self-talk can be used in challenging situations such as exams and interviews etc.
Looking at self oppressing directives and beliefs was very effective for me. The author gives a list of possible self oppressing directives such as achieving at all costs, the need to be liked by everyone, be in control etc. A useful exercise is given on Pg 71 showing how self opposing directives can be overcome. Another section which I feel is very relevant to coaching is on reducing negative self-labelling. I feel that the advice given by the author in relation to thought stopping, mental vacuuming and thought switching is very practical.
The author also discusses how the way in which we predict the future and measure risks influence our thinking skills and vice versa. A link is made between anxiety and how we predict the future; “high anxiety is a disorder of prediction that involves unrealistically negative estimates of risk and failure” (Pg. 116). One of the techniques that he recommends in overcoming this is reality testing negative predictions.
The section on goal setting and values is also very relevant to coaching. The author emphasizes how setting your own goals enables you to have authorship over your life. I also found the section on preventing excessive stress very useful and feel that the checklist given is essentially a reality checklist and would be very effective in re-gaining perspective in a stressful situation.
Overall, I found that this was a very impressive book and it helped me to change my thinking skills in a very positive way. In the final chapter the author points out that even hugely successful people have to strive constantly to keep in control of their thinking which is re-assuring in the sense that effective thinking is an area that people from all walks of life need to work on and it does not necessarily come naturally!
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