We Have Met the Enemy - Self Control in an Age of Excess by Daniel Akst is not the self-help book I expected it to be. It's not full of advice and suggestions to making the "smart choices" when it comes to this world of excess that we live in, but rather an often in-depth review of many, many studies and experiments done by scholars, theorists, and philosophers in history.
One of the chapters that really got me thinking was "The Marshmellow Test". Walter Mischel, a European born and New York raised psychologist began his study in Trinidad and later brought them to the US. "The Marshmellow" asked children to choose their treat- one now or two if they waited a couple of days. As you can imagine, most children would choose the candy reward now- immediate indulgence wins out of patience in the case of most children, I think. What I found interesting, however, is that Mischel's study concluded that the children more likely to choose the immediate rewards were the child less likely to believe that the later reward would ever be given out. Why risk losing out when you can enjoy now? It's this general idea that we all bring into adulthood that creates this need for instant gratification. The question is- if this is ingrained in us from childhood, is there anything we can do about it? Honestly the book isn't about helping you overcome this. Instead, it leaves you reflecting the scenarios that are relatable to your own life and makes you think of what you can do to change it, without making unreasonable suggestions as to how. "Don't Eat The Marshmellow" was put on the t-shirts of a Philadelphia Charter school to encourage the kids- sometimes it's OK to hold out for something better. Sometimes reflection and encouragement is enough.
In the chapter "Self-Control, Free Will, and Other Oxymorons" the author review studies that asks the question- is there really such a thing as Free Will? One study showed that students who were put in a room where there was a subtle smell of orange cleaners were more likely to clean up after themselves (after being given a snack) then students who were put in a similar room without the cleaner smell. When I read and really thought about the idea that I am controlled largely by my surroundings I realized this is, in fact, very very true. At least for me. When my work space is messy I find that my mind can be scattered and I am more distracted. When there is organization, however, I find that I am more focused on my work and my productivity increases greatly. I am a bit of a slob- allowing my surroundings to influence my mood, thoughts, and productivity is a challenge that I deal with every day. Again, Mr. Akst doesn't get into how to solve this inner dilemma but rather gives the readers the ability to think and analyze for themselves.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I was not familiar with most of the people mentioned in the book though I was familiar with a couple of the studies mentioned within. You don't really need to know who the author is talking about in We Have Met the Enemy in order to understand what it all means. This is a thinking book and almost requires you to self-analyze in order to get the full message. Since this is the New Year and eating better and being healthy is a common resolution among Americans this may be a good book to pick up right now. It may help you realize what your real obstacles are and give you the chance to think for yourself- which, really, is the best beginning to a healthier life!
In a nutshell, this is not a self-help book, it's a self-education and self-thinking book. Far more effective for a lot of people, I would think!
About the AuthorDaniel Akst has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and many other publications. His previous books include Wonder Boy, which chronicled the wondrous financial fraud he had a hand in exposing, and the novels St. Burt's Obituary and The Webster Chronicle. He lives with his wife and sons in New York's bucolic Hudson valley, generally a good place to hide from temptations.
I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me the opportunity to review this wonderful book!
We Have Met the Enemy - Self Control in an Age of Excess by Daniel Akst is available for $17.79 for the hardcover version or $12.99 for the Kindle Edition.
The publisher is offering a free copy of We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst! This is a wonderful book, a great start to making yourself really think about how YOU can create a healthier life for yourself.
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