Book by P.M. Forni, Palgrave Macmillan
Review by Meghan Ingstrup
Freehold Campus Student Services
Brookdale Community College, New Jersey
As advisors, we are often pulled in many directions throughout the day, the month, the semester. How many of us find ourselves at the end of the day wondering if we connected with our students or, if we focused enough during that last meeting to move forward with a new departmental or institutional initiative? With so many competing concerns and priorities we often get distracted from our daily tasks, not to mention our long range plans. In The Thinking Life, P.M. Forni provides us with a guide to bringing thinking back into our lives. This short and powerful book details steps to help us remove distraction from our daily lives so that we can be more here, more now, and more connected.
The author does pinpoint some specific distractions such as the Internet and social media outlets directly. However, we are not called upon to stop using either. Advisors are very familiar with how distracting social media can be throughout the day but we know we must utilize as many means as possible to engage with and remain connected to our students. What we are asked to evaluate is how taking the time to think, reflect, and truly connect with ourselves and others can benefit our work and personal lives.
Twelve chapters not only outline how we can reclaim serious thinking, but also provide us with exercises throughout that help us make connections between the material and our lives. College is often where our students discover themselves. As advisors, we have a role in that process. How can we help them along this journey if we have yet to discover ourselves? The author suggests that we cannot truly know ourselves unless we are continually reflecting, engaging, and thinking- really thinking.
Much of what is covered ties into basic counseling attending skills such as, empathy, listening, reflecting, summarizing, and being in the moment with those around us. These skills are essential for advisors in building rapport with students and developing trusting and therapeutic relationships with them. The book is also full of useful mantras advisors can use to remind themselves of the importance of the thinking life. These mantras can be passed along to colleagues and to students as quick thoughts to help them reframe a situation, or help them remain focused on a task. Specifically, The Art of Being Proactive When Learning, a two-page subsection, can be used directly when working with students as they prepare for college, struggle in subject areas, or even face probation.
The Thinking Life could prove to be a great resource for advisors. While the book is written to help the reader discover ways in which to influence positively his or her own life, what I feel may be most beneficial for the advisor-reader is the multitude of ways in which these skills can be transferred to our students to help them develop skills and habits to enrich their own lives.
The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the age of distraction. (2011). Book by P.M. Forni. Review by Meghan Ingstrup. New York: St. Martin's Press. 170pp., $12.99, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-312-62572-6