Sign in

Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

The New Self Help

In Forge. More on Medium.

The New Self-Help

How to make ‘cognitive ease’ work for you

Book jacket cover for Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Book jacket cover for Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

Suppose you must write a message that you want the recipients to believe. Of course, your message will be true. But that’s not necessarily enough for people to believe that it is true. In a situation like this one, it would be totally reasonable to use cognitive ease in your favor.

Cognitive ease refers, quite simply, to the degree of mental effort required for a given task. Your brain registers “easy” as a sign that things are going well — no threats…


The New Self-Help

The three tenets of radical self-love

Book jacket cover for The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor.
Book jacket cover for The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor.

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

Radical self-love — a deliberate unlearning of the internalized shame and discomfort we accumulate with respect to our physical bodies — is a non-negotiable step in the fight for a more equitable society.

I came to that realization by accident. A few years ago, when my friend Natasha told me she was worried she might be pregnant and didn’t want to be, I asked her why she had chosen not to use a condom with this casual sexual partner with whom she…


The New Self-Help

Shonda Rhimes breaks it down in ‘Year of Yes’

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

At a dinner celebrating women in the TV industry, Shonda Rhimes recalls in her book, Year of Yes, the emcee called out each honoree by name and spoke of her accomplishments. The response of each and every one of these accomplished women deflected or downplayed the praise.

“What is wrong with us?!” the TV mogul and legendary showrunner asks.

This vignette gets to the heart of Rhimes’ book, which traces her yearlong experiment of saying “yes” to opportunities and challenges that come…


An illustration of a stack of books, with the title “21 Books for a Better You”
An illustration of a stack of books, with the title “21 Books for a Better You”

The New Self-Help

‘Self Improvement’ doesn’t mean what it used to

“Self help” is about the “self” being “helped” — but guidance for personal growth is only useful when it works in the world we live in now. We’re most effective when we understand ourselves and the people around us.

The 21st century has been marked by crises that force us to re-learn where we fit, and how we should get where we want to be. The personal “ladder of success” feels increasingly outdated when set against a giant framework of systems and technologies, involving billions of other people. Last century, you could get away with adopting highly effective habits for…


The New Self-Help

But the idea that we — and our children — are never really ‘safe’ is hard to live with

Book jacket cover for Savage Park by Amy Fusselman
Book jacket cover for Savage Park by Amy Fusselman

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

Play is not something that we do; it is something that we are. It is the state of consciousness that we are born with, and it gradually diminishes in power as we age, until, as adults, we generally find that we are able to enter and exit this state with ease only if we have practiced.

I started thinking about this, and how as adults we can integrate more play into our sense of selves, a few years ago, when my family…


The New Self-Help

Every day, I was rewarded for behavior that I was previously punished for

Book jacket for Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee
Book jacket for Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

When I first began injecting testosterone, I clocked the changes primarily in aesthetic terms: the T-shirt that now fit me, the graceful curl of biceps, the glorious sprinkle of a beard. I loved being a man; I loved having a body.

Those first few years of testosterone injections coincided with a period of anxious headlines about men in economic turmoil. Post-recession, surges in suicides, drug addiction, and even beards were all blamed on a broader insecurity about the massive loss of jobs…


The New Self-Help

Even if you hate your job, you can do it in a way that enhances your self-esteem

Book jacket cover for All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks.
Book jacket cover for All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks.

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

Most of us want to live purposefully, particularly when it comes to our work. Unfortunately, many workers feel they have very little freedom of choice once they enter the workforce. What’s more, we’re not used to the idea that the work we do will have a major impact on our capacity to be self-loving. …


The New Self-Help

There’s a better way to heal from harm

Book jacket cover for I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom
Book jacket cover for I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

I have seen people doxed and stalked, both online and in person. I have been stalked, by someone I had never met or spoken to, because they perceived me to be “abusing” them by not responding to a Facebook friend request. I have seen my friends spread rumors about others in my extended community, advocating for shunning and ostraciza­tion over allowing ideological disagreements. On rare occasions, I have seen activists encourage the physical beating of abusive people among us.

As a whole…


The New Self-Help

Cal Newport’s ‘Deep Work’ is a modern self-help classic

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

The humorist Mark Twain wrote the bulk of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer during a single summer vacation in the rolling hills of New York’s Southern Tier. While his extended family lolled around on his sister-in-law’s bucolic farm estate, Twain spent his days bunkered in a repurposed, octagonal shed with a panoramic view of the Chemung River Valley. There, the prolific author purportedly wrote most or all of three book-length travel narratives, two stage plays, dozens of essays and short stories, and…


The New Self-Help

A novel protects what a missile can’t

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

The first weekend of the war in Iraq, I wrote my writing students an email.

I had felt a sudden, intense protectiveness of them. I didn’t want my students to go into the draft, rumored then to be a possibility. I wanted to lead them to another world, one where people value writing and art more than war. But I knew then, and I know now, that the only thing that matters is to make that world here. …

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store