[Book Review] Big Potential by Shawn Achor: My Positive Self-Talk Challenge

As with many of my other goals this year, one of my personal desires was to change the story about the fact that I’m not a “reader” – something that doesn’t seem to make sense when you’re a published author trying to sell a book you wrote. Truth be told, I can probably say that I can recall reading and COMPLETING potentially maybe SIX books (not including kid and toddler books) from the day I graduated from college (back in 2002) to before I officially started my coach training program in 2015. Maybe I tried reading some other books in that time, but never finished, or had any takeaways other than lost time to do other things. To be honest, reading used to be painfully boring to me. I am very literal in the way I read, so if I don’t understand the intent of a sentence, I can get lost in it for hours trying understand it before moving forward. Many times I would just give up and stop reading. Maybe I just didn’t know at the time what books were worth reading. But as soon as I published my book, I felt like I wanted to walk a better talk as an author. So as I’m gearing up to start writing book #2, I wanted to soak in as much new knowledge as possible, and to that, I aim to read at least one book each month.

In January, I read Big Potential by Shawn Achor. A friend of mine once sent me his TED talk, and I was in complete awe. Happiness is a SCIENCE? Now you’ve got my inner geek engaged! I also had the honor of seeing him speak at a conference I attended last year, which was even more inspiring than the TED talk.

I found out his new book was being released in late January 2018 (haven’t read his prior work obviously, but I think I will down the road), so I immediately pre-ordered a copy and luckily received an advance copy to start reading ahead of time. I enlisted two of my friends to read it with me (because that’s what a productivity and accountability expert would do to get things done faster and in a more fun way), and we finished reading the book, despite our busy lives, in four weeks.

Without giving the full book away, I wanted to share three of my main takeaways from the book. I highly recommend you read it if you’re a high achiever, but here’s what specifically came up for me:

  1. Without being an official happiness researcher/scientist, I’m still doing all of the right things with regard to personal development and growth. To be honest, when I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but notice the synergies between what Shawn was saying and the things that I “preach” in Finding Success in Balance and what I do with my clients in The Cheerful Mind. Considering the fact that I haven’t historically read much, I’m still somehow taking in relevant learning from my experiences and personal interactions that I turn into teachings for my clients and people who follow my work. This is super powerful, because it just reiterates that no matter what your learning style is, or what educational credentials you have, there are lessons EVERYWHERE that you can absorb to heighten your expertise on any topic. You can learn SO much from just living life and practicing self-awareness and reflection. Truly, we are our own experts.
  2. The success I want cannot be achieved alone. Shawn talks about how important your Big Potential is dependent on your ability to work with others. While competition can be beneficial in some respects, living the cutthroat ways that some competitive people do is only going to get you so far. You need a supportive and positive team behind you, and also need to support and build others to really take yourself to that higher potential.
  3. Positive Self-Talk is crucial. One of the things my coach has been repetitively pointing out to me in the last 19 months we have been working together is my occasional tendency to choose and speak words about myself that are not self-honoring or self-loving. I have struggles with feeling like I’m bragging about myself and it feels uncomfortable to think of myself as anything close to a “big deal.” Because truly, I don’t feel I’m better than anyone else. That said, sometimes I go overboard squash my accomplishments, when I am the biggest cheerleader and praise-giver for others. Shawn mentions in his book the need to visualize your success in order for it to be realized, so I’m acknowledging that my negative self-talk is actually sabotaging my ability to achieve the success I want. This is something I commit to monitoring very closely in the coming months to see how it impacts my progress and overall happiness.

I look forward to sharing more book reflections with you as I continue to expand my mental library of knowledge. Please feel free to share in the comments if there is a book that has profoundly impacted you recently and what takeaways you had. I am open to book recommendations for the coming months!

The Cheerful Mind