Dr Christine Whelan is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, USA in the School of Human Ecology, where they look at how people interact with and are interconnected with their natural, built and social environments.
Her motto is ‘not for school but for life we learn’. If we are learning something it should be remembered for the rest of our lives to positively impact us. Christine likes her student to gain a great bit of cocktail information from every lecture – a really interesting thing that they want to share with friends or family in real language, that everyone understands.
There has always been interested in advice for Christine. Who gives it, who takes it, does anybody follow it and what advice works? What is the difference between advice, teaching and learning?
Christine believes that people shouldn’t be told what to do but they should be given a whole variety of choices that provide the education to help people make the right choice for themselves. Teaching provides that education and helps to guide people to give them the space to make the choice that is right for them. In life we are given a lot of advice but we are not given enough space to think about it or properly employ it, and this is what teaching should do.
Christine has never written any book that has not worked for her personally. She clearly links advice to experience. So many self help books create a picture perfect world, using various people situations to create an ideal scenario with a perfect happy ending – but life does not work that way. Life does not always work out as planned and rather than beating ourselves up for making the wrong decision, we need to understand that we can only do the best we can do at the time and we can learn from it going forward.
Good advice is open-ended and does not tell you what to do. This is an interesting point of tension within self-help because all of the best selling self-help books tell you exactly what to do.
We need to provide a lot of white space and opportunities for people to pick out what works and what doesn’t. This allows people to customise any advice that you may give, for their individual situation. There is no one size fits all when it comes to life – we are all an experiment of one. So we need to learn as much as we can to make things work for us and learn from our experiences.
Christine is bias towards action, to try things out and see if they help.
There may be many big decisions that you have to make in life that can be very difficult. Christine’s advice is to do your best to research both sides of the argument and then you pick one. Commit to your decision and do not agonise over whether you have picked the wrong one.
Providing the structure and the space, allows people to work through things. We need to ask the questions:
Who am I? What matters to me? Why does it matter? and How do I make it happen in my life?
Most readers of self-help books tend to read them and adapt them. They find a nugget that really resonates, that they are able to go off and use. Behavioural change is very hard so it is easier to take a little nugget from here and there and incorporate them into your current structure.
These books are manuals for self-control, as that is what we are seeking when we buy them. They are quite a weak commitment as you are buy them privately and no one is holding you accountable. We need to pick and choose carefully about what changes we want to make and then what we are not going to do if we add something new in.
The single biggest thing that people do not do when they are thinking about changing their behaviour is that they don’t think about what they are going to give up, to enable them to add in the new thing. If you decide to go to the gym 3 times a week – what will you not be doing to allow you to do this?
Christine’s top self-help books that she regularly recommends to people are:
- Dale Carnegie ‘How to win friends and influence people’, which provides such practical advice that works. When you read it you may know all of it but do you practice it? If you practice his guidance chapter by chapter, it will provide you with the fundamentals of social psychology. Academics have proved that what he wrote about back in the 1930’s is true
- Stephen Covey ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’, which talks about the important verses the urgent and how to sharpen your saw. Great bits of advice that we know, but need to be reminded of.
Some of the best self-help books were written in recessions and depressions because that is the time when people need all the help they can get to thrive.
Christine wrote her book ‘Generation WTF’ to help people become more wise, tenacious and fearless. She took the best of the classic self-help processes and remixed them for the modern, young, adult audience to really speak about the problems that they have now. Her most recent book is the ‘Big Picture – a guide for finding your purpose in life’ again bringing this to the young, modern, adult, audience in a language and setting they understand.
Listen to our full podcast with Dr Christine Whelan where she goes on to talk about life’s purpose…. or purposes which is an interesting angle.
You can contact Christine via her website www.christinewhelan.com and view her books.
- The Big Picture – A guide to finding your purpose in life
- Generation WTF: From “What the #%$&” to a Wise, Tenacious, and Fearless You
- Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to True Love
- Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women
- Changing Dating and Marriage Patterns