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Great basic idea, terrible execution. Not achievable.

  • Full Title: 52 Small Changes for the Mind: Improve Memory * Minimize Stress * Increase Productivity * Boost Happiness
  • Author: Brett Blumenthal
  • Year: 2015
  • ISBN: 978-1452131672
  • Amazon customer rating at the time of writing this review: 4.4 out of 5 (179 reviews)

The idea

A series of 52 «small changes» to be instituted into one’s life, one per week, throughout a single year. Incorporating these «small changes» one at a time should improve your life step by step with measurable improvement in a single year.

The good

The basic idea is good: tackling major changes requires small steps.

Each and every of these «small changes» is explained, broken down to actionable steps and—when needed—appropriately backed up with academic citations.

Some sections have support materials and questions to help evaluate one’s own progress and satisfaction.

The regular

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the past few years, you’ve already seen some of these advice—if not most of it—in one way or another.

The bad

The package is a mess.

First, let’s address the obvious: while it’s possible to introduce major change in one’s life through small actionable steps, setting all of these up as a list to be completed in one year is disingenuous at best. Yes, focusing on one «small change» for a week is a good way to start really incorporating it into one’s routine.

But in my opinion, incorporating all of these in one year is setting up false hopes. And coming up short with this program might make one feel like there’s something more that needs doing, which in turn might move one to seek another 52-week program… see where I’m going with this?

You may have noticed that I write «small changes» with quote marks, and that’s because I don’t believe all of the proposed changes are small, or equally easy to face. Compare, for instance, the changes for week 10 (drinking green tea) and week 15 (moving beyond the comfort zone). While all of these changes are sure to impact positively, some are easy to set in action in one week (week 1: journaling) and some require serious commitment to be effective (week 26: being a lifelong learner). In my subjective opinion, there’s also the fact that some are relatively trivial (week 37: incorporate aromatherapy in your life) and some are not (week 43: being a mentor). Never mind that some might require professional help (looking at you week 49: dealing with demons from the past)

What do you think, Andy?

In my humble opinion, you’re much better off selecting any one of the changes on this book, in any order and focusing on it for as long as it’s needed to make it part of your life. Then and only then should you move to another «small change».

No one is perfect, and trying to achieve perfection is sure to end in misery. Focusing on constant improvement is much more doable and and a good reminder that no matter where we are, we can always get better. We cannot be perfect, and that’s why we need each other.

The list

(Abridged beyond the point of usefulness)

  1. Journaling
  2. Actively listening to music
  3. Learning how to smile
  4. Setting SMARTE goals
  5. Making checklists/to-do lists
  6. Learning how to mono-task
  7. Learning how to stop comparing oneself to the rest
  8. Meditating
  9. Avoiding indecision
  10. Drinking green tea
  11. Seeing the best in others
  12. Reading for pleasure
  13. Taking breaks
  14. Silencing the inner critic
  15. Moving beyond the comfort zone
  16. Getting more physical activity
  17. Expressing thanks
  18. Placing value on experiences rather than objects
  19. Seeking silence
  20. Speaking up
  21. Timeboxing (setting time limits)
  22. Enjoying «brain-boosting fats and proteins»
  23. Adopting an open-minded attitude
  24. Sleeping adequately
  25. Taking a time out
  26. Being a lifelong learner
  27. Screen-dieting
  28. Rewarding oneself
  29. Opening up to new experiences
  30. Getting a massage
  31. Building up self-confidence
  32. Making time for creative outlets
  33. Eating «brain-boosting fruits and vegetables»
  34. Spending time outside
  35. Decreasing small talk
  36. Asking for help
  37. Traveling
  38. Incorporating aromatherapy
  39. Facing/conquering fear
  40. Designing pre/post work rituals
  41. Increasing physical contact
  42. Working with one’s hands
  43. Being a mentor/mentoring
  44. Decluttering
  45. Focusing on/building close relationships
  46. Scheduling/planning activities
  47. Incorporating play «into all aspects of life»
  48. Setting daily intentions
  49. Dealing with demons // Letting go of negativity from past experiences
  50. Engaging in daily cognitive training
  51. Avoiding foods harmful to brain health
  52. Being generous

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