The last year has brought about much change for many of us. Some of us chose to make changes, others had change thrust upon them. Either way, change can be daunting. But if well understood, it can help us transition closer to our ideal life, and internally, to transform ourselves towards a better self. We are all, after all, a work in progress. The only constant is change is a cliché that is hard to avoid, especially because it continues to be true, timely and relevant.
When I need to tackle any topic, I like to turn to books as a first source. It was telling that there were several books about change published in the last 24 months. Not to mention that Atomic Habits by James Clear continues to be #1on the NYT Best Seller list, as I am writing this article, even though it was published in 2018. Clearly, many people are thinking about how to deal with change, and how to change themselves.
Here are three books published in the last 12 months about change:
Be Who You Want is a book by a psychologist – Christian Jarrett may be a familiar name for avid readers of Aeon (if you are not, I recommend checking it out). Unsurprisingly, this book is grounded in psychology research, while tackling the topic of personality change. research and science behind changing personality. Recently, I wrote about how a shift in identity is an inevitable result of transitions. In this book, Jarrett defines the concept of personality (one of the elements of our identity) and demonstrates the (high) correlation between personality traits and success and longevity. Changing your personality can help you become happier, wealthier and healthier. And this book shows you how, based on current research.
How to Change by Katy Milkman reads as an Engineer’s approach to making change happen. Milkman approaches each of our behavioral impulses which may cause a hindrance to change as a “problem” to be solved, and develops us for a solution, much like an engineer would do when building a bridge or fixing a bug. The book starts with a fantastic example about Andre Agassi’s comeback, I definitely learned something from that one story. But later on, I found some of the solutions a little too optimistic (e.g. align the timing of changes to new year), and perhaps there is more science in there than necessary, especially if you are just looking for a practical book. But that said, I thought it was a good read, and you will learn a few new things to help you change.
Uncharted by Margaret Heffernan is slightly different from the other two, in the sense that it is not a book which tells you how to make change happen through changes in behavior. But I decided to include it here because it is about using uncertainty to power change. Heffernan warns us of the perils of trying to predict a future that is inherently complex and unpredictable. Therefore, instead of trying to plan a path in expectation of a projected future, she suggests an alternative approach. Our choice is not between false certainty or ignore, she says, but between surrender or participation. Participation in creating the future is about changing the present and therefore, this book, is a good addition into the literature of change.