Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, & Happiness by Rick Hanson
[Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a book summary or book review. This is just stuff in the book that I found personally valuable or interesting at the time of reading. Most of these “notes” are actually highlights, i.e. directly copied lines from the book, but some notes are personal adaptations or added personal insights.]
– Resilient: able to cope with adversity and push through challenges in the pursuit of opportunities.
– You learn to be calmer or more compassionate the same way you learn anything else: through repeated practice.
– Every human being has three basic needs — safety, satisfaction, and connection — that are grounded in our ancient evolutionary history.
– Resilience starts with compassion.
– Compassion: the recognition of pain with the desire to relieve it.
Compassion is a warmhearted sensitivity to suffering along with the desire to help if you can.
– Compassion is a psychological resource, an inner strength.
Compassion for yourself is fundamental. You must first care how you feel if you wish to take the necessary actions of being resilient.
– Imagine treating yourself like you would a friend. You’d be encouraging, warm, and sympathetic, and you’d help yourself heal and grow.
You always have a best friend in yourself. Someone who always cares and is always there. Someone who always knows your good intentions. Someone who always knows your shortcomings don’t define you. Someone who always believes in your capabilities. That someone is you. Do not deny yourself as a friend.
– Think about how it would benefit others if you felt less stressed, worried, or irritated, and more peaceful, contented, and loving.
– The basis of true resilience is turning your resourceful thoughts and feelings into lasting strengths.
The essence of doing this is simple: 1) experience what you want to develop in yourself — such as compassion or gratitude – and 2) focus on it and keep it going to increase its consolidation in your nervous system.
(“Take in” the experience. Savor it. “Hardwire” it – intend for states to become traits.)
– Recall what it’s like to really be on someone’s side. To really believe in someone’s good intentions. To really believe in someone’s capabilities.
Apply this attitude to yourself.
– The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function.
– Once you’re having the experience, feel it as fully as possible and take a little extra time — a breath or two, or ten — to stay with it. The more often you do this, the more you will tend to hardwire psychological resources into yourself.
– Imagine your parents, your wife, your children, your siblings, your closest friends over the years — imagine them really deeply loving you…
It is a fact that these people have really deeply loved you, and DO love you. They have looked at you proudly, and thought of you with unconditional positive regard. They’ve looked at you with absolute fondness. They’ve felt deep appreciation for your role in their life.
Take this in. As often as possible. Make it is vivid as possible. Never forget the deep genuine feelings people have for you and will no doubt continue to have for you. Recall them and savor them deeply.
– Acceptance of reality is essential.
Acceptance can sit alongside other reactions.
Acceptance does not mean complacency.
You can disapprove or disagree with people or things yet still accept them.
– Look for opportunities to practice.
Let’s say you’d like to be more patient at home or work. To grow this inner strength, look for opportunities to experience some patience. Then focus on whatever is enjoyable about it, such as how good it feels to stay calm and relaxed.
An experience of patience or any other psychological resource is a state of mind, and intending to experience it and enjoying it during and afterward helps turn it into a positive trait embedded in your brain.
There really is no other way to develop an inner strength / psychological resource. You must experience it. Just deciding to be more patient, or studying patience in depth, will not work in itself. You actually have to experience states of patience, consistently, to become genuinely patient.
You must also consistently ‘intend’ to experience patience in order to recognize opportunities to actually be patient. Otherwise, without intending to experience it, your development will be inefficient at best.
– “Make the next right decision.”
Each passing minute is an opportunity to take a small step in the right direction.
Just keep making the next right decision. You know the right move for you. Keep taking the next right step.
– Trust yourself. Over and over again. Never stop trusting your own good intentions, your own potential, and your own unique process. Also trust in your own humility, knowing that you’re doing your best to be careful and considerate and realistic. You know full well that you really are trying to do your best with what tou have. Just trust.
– Accept your current reality rather than resist it.
Regardless of current condtions, you’ve still come a long way, and you continue to take action on improving yourself in the best, most practical ways you know how. Knowing this should reduce your resistance.
– “The education of attention would be the education par excellence.”
– Your nervous system is designed to be changed by your experiences—the technical term for this is experience-dependent neuroplasticity—and your experiences depend on what you’re paying attention to.
– In order to convert passing experiences into lasting inner strengths, we have to be able to focus attention on an experience long enough for it to start being consolidated into the nervous system.
– Mindfulness holds your reactions in a spacious awareness that is itself never disturbed by whatever passes through it. (Like pure, objective observation.)
– Return to an awareness of your breathing many, many times a day.
– A refuge is anything that protects, nurtures, or uplifts you.
When you find a refuge, slow down. Be aware of what that refuge feels like: perhaps a sense of relaxation, reassurance, and relief. Stay with the experience for a breath or longer. Notice what feels good about it.
– Eventually the storm will pass, as all experiences do, and the peaceful intact core of you will remain.
– Imagine that your mind is a garden. You can tend to it in three ways: observe it, pull weeds, and plant flowers.
– Three basic needs: safety, satisfaction, connection.
Safety – avoiding harms
Satisfaction – fulfilling needs/wants
Connection – experiencing with others
– We’re designed to over-learn from bad experiences while under-learning from good ones. The negativity bias made sense for survival over millions of years of evolution, but today it’s a kind of universal learning disability in a brain designed for peak performance under Stone Age conditions.
– The Responsive mode is our home base, a healthy equilibrium of body and mind. It’s the essence of well-being and the basis of sustained resilience.
– Consider the meanings you gave to situations or how you interpreted the intentions of others, and let go of whatever is untrue, needlessly alarmist, or mean-spirited.
– There are three major ways to relate to and engage the mind usefully: be with it, decrease what is painful and harmful, and increase what is enjoyable and beneficial.
– Well-being comes from meeting our needs, not denying them.
– In essence, you develop psychological resources by having sustained and repeated experiences of them that are turned into durable changes in your brain.
– Look for good facts. (They are everywhere.) These are the things that support your well-being and welfare and that of others. You can find them in many places, including your current situation, recent events, ongoing conditions, the past, and the lives of others.
Facts are facts. You can count on them.
– Produce good facts by taking action.
– The essence of “installation” is simple: enrich the experience and absorb it. In your mind, enriching an experience means keeping it going and feeling it fully, while absorbing it feels like receiving it into yourself.
– Internalize key resources.
When you do find facts that are natural opportunities to experience an inner strength, slow down to focus on them and help the recognition of them become a beneficial experience.
– Implicit memory: the residues of lived experience that shape your expectations, ways of relating to others, and background sense of what it feels like to be you.
– Think of [linking and mental reconsolidation] like reorganizing your basement. It may be dirty and cramped and cluttered, but you can always clean and move things around. And in the process you will find some stuff you can throw out for good as well as some stuff that you forgot you had that may be useful.
– To do Linking, a person must be able to hold two things in awareness, keep the positive material more prominent, and not get hijacked by the negative.
– We acquire mental resources (psychological strengths) through learning. This happens in two stages: activation and installation. First, there must be an experience of the resource or related factors, and second, that experience must be converted into a lasting change of neural structure and function.
– Linking involves intentionally and directly associating positive material with experience, but it’s not the same as positive thinking. Rather, it involves realistic thinking: it looks at the facts, and doesn’t deny any negative experiencing. Linking is simply allowing for the positive aspects of the experience to become more prominent in awareness so that psychological resources can “install” and develop more effectively.
– Agency is the sense of being a cause rather than an effect.
Agency is the opposite of helplessness.
With agency, you are active rather than passive, taking initiative and directing your life rather than being swept along.
Agency is essentially the “Control” element of psychological Hardiness.
— recognizing the Challenge as manageable (“it is possible to handle this / I can mitigate the negative effects”, and seeing it as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than an unfair misfortune that might break you
— keeping your Commitment, regardless of the difficulty and discomfort, delaying gratifaction in honor of your own well-being and in honor of serving a greater purpose
— believing you are generally in Control of your own circumstances (or at least in control of how you respond to them), or that you’re able to influence the current conditions enough and thus believing you’re capable of positively affecting the outcome
– Just LOOK and you will see: hardiness is always available to replace helplessness.
– Keep asking yourself, “Ok, now what’s my next best move?”
“What action makes most sense for me to do right now?”
“What’s the easiest worthwhile thing I can do for myself right now?
(Take a shower? Laundry? Take the trash out? Have coffee? Respond to an email?)
– Challenging things happen to every person. Determination is the steadfast fortitude we draw on to endure, cope with, and survive them.
Determination has four aspects: resolve, patience, persistence, intense toughness (when all else fails)
– Looking back, many mistakes in life come from impatience: annoyed with how long something was taking, pressuring others to hurry up, or jumping to a conclusion.
Resolve to not make “mistakes of impatience”.
– Patience might sound like a modest virtue, but it’s the essence of two primary factors in mental health and worldly success.
The first is delay of gratification, the willingness to put off immediate rewards for the sake of a greater future reward.
The second is distress tolerance, the capacity to endure a painful experience without making a bad thing worse.
– We worry about what others are thinking about how we look, but usually they are thinking about it about as much as we are thinking about their appearance… not much at all!
– Physical health is a tremendous aid to resilience, and the most consequential threats to safety are threats to the body.
– With gratitude, you feel good already.
– As Søren Kierkegaard wrote, “Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it.” In fast-paced cultures, it takes a deliberate effort to slow down and relish a pleasure.
– Living is inherently goal-directed. Experiences of meeting your goals feel good, lower stress, and build positive motivation.
Basic accomplishment – accomplishment of any task – builds on itself and is one of the greatest motivators.
A “sense of accomplishment” is a truly empowering feeling. Grow a sense of accomplishment by completing any little worthwhile thing you set out to do.
– Sense your success, from your basic operations, and build on it:
Take a few breaths and relax. Get a sense of being on your own side. Bring to mind some small outcome goals you’ve already accomplished today, such as getting out of bed, drinking water, and doing tasks at home or work.
Keep your sense of success prominent in the forefront of awareness, and let go of negative material if it grabs you.
– To paraphrase the Dalai Lama: If you can be happy when others are happy, you can always be happy, since there is always someone somewhere who is happy.
– Just the simple fact that people are alive is reason enough to be happy for them.
Your sense of ‘Aliveness’ is a constant good fact.
– Remember that whatever is happening in anyone’s life is a local ripple in a vast river of causes. Most of those causes are impersonal, such as the luck of the DNA draw or the social class of parents.
– Wholesome pleasures substantially outweigh unwholesome pleasures.
– The plasticity of the nervous system that makes us so easily affected by bad experiences in relationships also enables us to heal and grow from good ones, and to become more secure—more centered in the responsive green zone with others—over time.
– Take in being cared about.
Think of beings who care about you today, or who have cared about you in the past. They could be individuals, a group of people, a pet, or a spiritual consciousness. Any form of caring counts. Recognize the fact that you are currently cared about in various ways and that you have been cared about. Let your knowing of this fact become an experience of feeling included… seen… appreciated… liked… loved.
Keep returning your attention to feeling cared about.
– Help others securely attach to you.
– Identify any over-the-top moralistic self-condemnation: “You should be ashamed of yourself, you’re a bad person.” … See the dogmatism, harshness, and absurdity in much of what the inner critic has to say.
– Imagine you have a “caring committee”: a core group of people from your past or present who care or have cared about you the most…
Imagine the caring committee is always looking out for you from afar (as you know they would be fully in your corner and helping you out if they were present).
– You know your inner crtic. It’s time to get to know your inner nurturer.
Get a sense of your inner nurturer taking control of your experience.
Keep reinforcing your inner nurturer.
– Let the good you see in others sink in, and know that’s how they feel about you. They feel it because they see it. You’re not tricking or fooling them. They know you have flaws and faults, and it doesn’t matter. The key people in your life still think you are a basically good person.
– Let a sense of confidence in your inherent value grow and fill your mind. Let it sink in. Try to do this again and again.
– Knowing in your heart that you are a basically good person is a true refuge. No matter the ups and downs of successes and failures, loves and losses, you can find comfort and strength in this knowledge.
There is always goodness in the core of your being.
– “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.” – Pema Chödrön
– The autonomic nervous system manages your body and mind through its parasympathetic and sympathetic branches. Think of these like the brake and gas pedals of a car. The “rest-and-digest” parasympathetic nervous system evolved first, before the sympathetic nervous system developed. When it is engaged, the heart rate slows down and the body refuels and repairs itself.
– The sympathetic nervous system puts the pedal to the metal, mobilizing the body for action by speeding up the heart while hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol course through the blood. As the body revs up, so does the mind, with more intense thoughts and feelings.
– Settling down: As you relax, parasympathetic activation increases, which decreases sympathetic activity and related stress hormones.
When you repeatedly internalize experiences of relaxation, your baseline sense of life will become less pressured, anxious, or irritable. Then if you do start to feel tense or upset, you’ll be able to return more quickly to a calm and centered place inside.
– If you lengthen your exhalation, that naturally engages the parasympathetic nervous system.
– Release Tension: Pick a key region such as your jaw muscles or your eyes or your arms or legs, bring awareness to the area, and deliberately relax it.
Remember to practice:
Untensing, from face to feet.
Loose stillness (when not moving);
Light steadiness (when moving)
M.E.D.: Minimum Effective Dose of force / pressure (across all operations involving touch)
– Try relaxation visualization:
Imagine being perfectly relaxed, as if you’re truly a master relaxer. Imagine you have this incredible ability to deeply relax on demand. Imagine relaxtion being the thing you’re known for, as if you’ve become the most relaxed person people know.
Really see yourself as deeply skilled at relaxing. In your mind, practice fully assuming the role of Master of Relaxation.
– Paper Tiger metaphor: As the nervous system evolved, animals could—metaphorically speaking— make two kinds of mistakes: 1. Believe there is a tiger in the bushes when there isn’t one 2. Believe there is no tiger when one is about to pounce
In the wild, what’s the cost of the first mistake? Needless anxiety, which is uncomfortable but not fatal. What’s the cost of the second mistake? A good chance of death. Consequently, our ancestors developed a strong tendency to make the first mistake again and again in order to avoid making the second mistake even once. In effect, we’re adaptively paranoid of paper tigers.
– Anxiety functions as a signal of danger, but much of the time it is only noise, like a car alarm that’s stuck, blaring away, unpleasant but meaningless.
– Fear arises when threats seem bigger than resources.
But due to needless anxiety from “paper tiger paranoia,” threats often look larger than they really are, while resources look smaller than they really are…
To be safer, we need to decrease actual threats and increase actual resources.
To feel safer, we need to stop inflating threats and start recognizing all our resources.
– See threats clearly: What is the actual threat to me? What would the realistic worst case scenario be for me? How likely is the realistic worst case scenario to actually happen? 1% chance? 5% chance? 20% chance?
Odds are the chance of your worst case scenario happening are way less than you perceive.
And the odds of the negative ‘effects’ being as bad you think they will be and last as long you think are even less than the worst case scenario happening. In other words, even if the unlikely negative event occured, your suffering in its aftermath is even less likely to be as bad or last as long as you think.
– A flat tire is no big deal if you know how to change a tire.
– Resources come in three primary forms: Mind, Body, World.
Aka: psychological resources, physical resources/capabilites, social/environmental (external) resources
Know your resources. Remain aware of your resources. Utilize your resources.
– Fear alone doesn’t make you any safer.
It’s important not to suppress fear or overlook what it’s trying to tell you. Reasonable concerns are your friend, keeping you out of potentially dangerous situations. But being consumed, invaded, and compromised by fear doesn’t make you safer.
If anything, the distractions of excessive fear and its wear and tear on the body actually undermine your safety.
A little fear goes a long way.
– Notice that you are basically all right, right now.
You definitely have enough resources (internal and/or external) to remain basically okay.
You may have pain or discomfort, but there is no mortal threat, no tiger about to pounce.
Continue to notice and seek out resources, within you and outside of you…
Despite any difficulty, always continue to build upon your resources.
– No matter how ‘dire’ the circumstances may feel, and no matter how hard it might be to adapt to the circumstances, take deep comfort in the fact that you are still basically safe (you are not about to be attacked or literally broken) and that all your physical and mental potential remains in tact despite the change in externalities.
– No matter what, just do this:
Continuously recall the fact that you’re fundamentally alright. You are not dead or ruined. You don’t need to panic or take drastic measures. All you ‘need’ to do is focus on what you can affect right now, continue to tap your resources, and continuously do the next right thing.
– You are still breathing just fine, the next moment is passing through, and you’re still OK. You’re safe now in this moment. In each passing moment you’re basically all right. Keep noticing this.
– Anger is layered, and its brittle, hot, aggressive surface usually rests on a soft, vulnerable, anxious foundation of unmet needs—especially safety, since anger is a primal reaction to threat.
– Anger is a messenger. What is it telling you about your deeper frustrations, unfulfilled longings, and emotional pain?
– Anger is generally rooted in insecurity.
Habitual anger, or anger as a mode of responding to experience, is a conditioned mode of responding based in underlying insecurities. These insecurities may be from the past and/or present. The more frequent and intense the anger, the more likely it is that insecurity was/is significant in both past and present. Thus, while there may be no direct, identifiable source of insecurity relative to a particular situation, underneath the significant anger is some type of significant insecurity that has not been effectively dealt with.
– See the trigger of anger clearly. You will realize the trigger itself isn’t actually that bad, and it will help de-fuse your reactive feelings as you consider the actual source of your anger.
– Disengage from righteousness. In your mind, try to separate any all-knowingness or “I’m better than you” from the actual heart of the matter.
– Much of what bothers people does not cause any direct harm.
– Think about the stress that comes from preoccupations with others, particularly with what you perceive as their faults, flaws, or failings. Now imagine setting down those preoccupations with others.
Let go of your preoccupations with others, and see how good it feels. Notice how less-stressed you feel.
– Slow it down. Tone it down. Scale it back. (it = emotional reactivity)
– Much like you would use a tool to fix an issue, use your psychological tool of calm to fix the issue of active anger.
– Look for regular opportunities to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, such as relaxation or meditation.
– You can be powerful and assertive without being angry. (In fact, you will be much more empowered without anger.)
– Anger comes in two stages: the priming and the trigger. Try to act early to reduce the priming and respond to the trigger in proportion to it.
– “Wisdom is choosing a greater happiness over a lesser one.”
– People who are resilient are also able to pursue opportunities in the face of challenges.
– Know the difference between liking and wanting. The distinction is clear.
– It’s extremely useful to transition from wanting to liking in real time. Like it if happens, but try not to actively want it.
Practice shifting into simply liking, and pursue opportunities and enjoy pleasures without adding the stress that comes from wanting.
– Try to notice your auto-wanting. Your conditioned auto-wanting is causing restlessness and unsatisfactoriness.
– Just because you have an experience of wanting does not mean you have to do anything about it. The crux is not whether wanting arises but what your relationship to it is.
– Disengage from any sense of pressure, compulsion, or “must-ness.” Consciously let go of wanting as often as you recognize it.
Recenter yourself in enjoyment and purposefulness — without wanting.
– Take a few moments just to breathe. Notice that your heart is beating. Notice that you are going on living.
– No matter what might be missing in your life, there is still the abundance of nature, so many kinds of living things enabling you to live. Let yourself feel supported, protected, and fed by the fullness of life.
– Find your sweet spots throughout your day. There’s a sweet spot where what you’re doing is challenging enough to be engaging but not so challenging as to feel overwhelming.
– Be comfortable with your body revving up.
As you feel your body become tense or nervous, remind yourself this is just your body’s natural way of preparing or coping in attempt to protect you. But know that your body speeding up does not indicate any actual threat.
Realize your body’s response does not have to represent your psychological state. In other words, your body’s distress doesn’t mean your mind should become panicky, just as it doesn’t when your body’s distressed during exercise.
If you’re not conscious of your mind’s ability to separate from your body’s stress response, your amped up body can quickly pull your mind into a state of psychological distress. However if you are conscious of this tendency, you’ll see that you have a choice of how to interpret the body’s distress, and from there you can develop an ability to maintain full calmness of mind as you allow the body to run its natural course of tension, without needing to resist it or join it.
– Embrace positive emotions. Welcome them, and try to identify with them as they occur.
Why not invite positive emotions to join you? And once they’re with you, why not invite them to stay and become a part of who you are?
– Really practice noticing the rising tension inside you — that “heatedness” — as soon as you feel it.
As you notice the tension rising inside, that heated frustration, quickly separate yourself from the feeling — see it as something truly separate from you, like an object. Actively de-fuse your body. Breathe and un-tense (loosen all your muscles from face to feet).
– Building Motivation: Keep looking for what could be fresh or surprising about what you’re doing. Dopamine spikes when the brain encounters novelty.
– When you’re done doing something really enjoyable and/or worthwhile, take a little time to savor the results.
Literally take a minute to take in the experience — a “savoring minute”. If you do an enjoyable activity, or you feel proud after applying yourself, or feel grateful after receiving something, take 1 minute to consciously and deeply savor it. Let it set into memory. Let your appreciation deepen. Really give all your attention to the savoring for the whole minute. Do not rush your savoring or force any thoughts or feelings. Just feel as good as you feel, deeply notice it, and embrace it.
– Remember you should be drawing on your inner nurturer, not your inner critic.
Remember that self-criticism isn’t always direct, which is why it can be insidious. Rather than direct self-insult or belittlement, self-criticism tends to come in the form of wanting to give up or check out. It’s that feeling of, “I done with this. I can’t deal with this hassle.” That is surely a form of self-criticism, and it should be disregarded or disengaged as often as a direct self-insult would be. Notice when an indirectly critical feeling occurs. Don’t take it seriously. Know that’s just your overly harsh, overly dramatic inner critic. Notice it, let be and let it go, and allow your inner nurturer to surface instead.
Your inner nurturer says:
“Ok this is definitely not the end of the world. We have options. We’re gonna stay calm, light and loose, and we’re gonna put all our attention on taking little steps in the right direction – we’re just gonna keep making the next right move for us, moment to moment.”
– Deliberately emphasize the attitude and feeling of guidance.
– If you know your course is good, even if it is not immediately rewarding, stay with it. This is the essence of motivation: being able to sustain action based on knowing in the core of your being that you should do something.
– Resilience is more than bouncing back from adversity. People who are resilient keep pursuing their goals in the face of challenges.
Resilience is courage + toughness + perseverance:
Courage – the willingness to face necessary or worthwhile challenges
Toughness – the ability to withstand and endure necessary or unavoidable pain or discomfort, understanding that it’s bearable and only temporary; Objectifying pain and discomfort, not allowing it to become suffering
Perseverance – conscious determination and persistent action over time despite ongoing difficulty
– When you take care of your needs, there’s a natural receptivity to the needs of others. Knowing you can step back aids stepping in.
– Empathy is tuning into and understanding other people.
It’s good to develop a deliberate habit of empathic understanding when you’re with other people. This gives us insight as we feel more connected with others.
– Explore what it’s like to hold your views and values lightly. You don’t have to give them up, just get a sense of what’s like to lighten up your attitude surrounding them.
– Consider how rare it is for other people to stay present and attentive to you for several minutes in a row — and how good it feels when they do.
Deliberately try to attend to other people longer. Not only will this improve all your relationships, but it will grow your general sense of connection to others.
– Warm your heart. This may sound corny, but you already have a sense for what this means and what it feels like…
Let go of your grievances and let some light in.
Besides being good for other people, warming the heart calms your body, protects your immune system, lifts your mood, and evokes caring.
– Separate your analysis and judgments about someone from a simple compassion for the experience of suffering.
– Unilateral virtue: you draw on autonomy, empathy, compassion, and kindness to be honorable and responsible even when others aren’t.
This approach to relationships simplifies things. Instead of getting lost in what others ought to be doing, you focus on your own actions.
– Notice how good unilateral virtue feels as it pulls your attention away from your preoccupations with others.
– People are rarely perfect communicators, and their requests and complaints often come wrapped in euphemisms, confusing word clouds, exaggerations, side issues, falsehoods, moralizing, accusations, excuses for their own bad behavior, demands, and threats.
– When you act with unilateral virtue (self-initiating and self-sustaining goodness) you’ll be laying the foundation for healthy, cooperative, and fulfilling relationships.
– Focusing on the faults of others creates deadlocks and resentment. It’s better to practice unilateral virtue: focusing on your own responsibilities and personal code of conduct no matter what others do.
– Know your truth: try to be very clear about what it is you’re seeing, what you’re feeling, and what you’re wanting.
– When we feel connected to other people, it’s easier to solve problems together. To feel more connected, share your experiences and “join in” as others share their experiences.
– Speak wisely. Wisdom is a fancy word, but it boils down to the combination of skillfulness and goodness.
– Check that your speech isn’t harsh. It’s not what we say, but how we say it, that’s often most hurtful or provocative to others.
– Others’ actions are influenced by many factors — a nagging headache, a late bus, the residues of childhood — that are not about you. You have to deal with the impacts of others upon you, but you may not need to take them so personally.
– Be conscious of your contributions, and always intend to be contributing, even if it’s just by having a pleasant/interactive presence.
Make sure you’re balancing your needs and wants in your relationships with direct contributions.
Less wanting + More contributing = Harmonious relationship
– People often think that the relevant values are obvious and shared by everyone – “Of course we should eat together” vs. “Of course we shouldn’t force our teenagers to eat with us” — when they’re actually not.
– Focusing on the past—which you can’t change — also takes you away from what you can influence: what happens from now on, three of the most hopeful words I know.
– What we communicate has three inherent elements: the content, the emotional tone, and an implicit statement about the nature of the relationship.
We tend to put the most attention on crafting the content, but it’s usually the emotional tone and message about the relationship that have the most impact.
– Our reactions to others are shaped by our appraisals — what we see and how we interpret it — and our attributions: the thoughts and feelings and intentions we believe are operating inside their minds.
It can be humbling to realize how often we have only a partial picture of what’s going on.
Once your understanding is clear, you just might decide to let something go.
– In relationships, truth and harmony are both important. But harmony should not be upheld at the expense of truth: People who repeatedly value harmony over truth often end up having neither.
– All good relationships rest on a foundation of trust, respect, and commitment.
– Speaking wisely means saying things that are well intended, true, beneficial, timely, not harsh, and, if possible, wanted.
– Studies in adult development show that you still have much influence over how things turn out through how you work through cycles of stability and change, draw on teachers and mentors, and realize your dreams, including the ones you had in childhood.
– It’s so easy — poignantly, sadly easy — to talk yourself out of pursuing things that could be very fulfilling while also contributing to other people.
Think about your attitudes toward your dreams. Then ask yourself: “Which of these attitudes are truly mine, and which have I borrowed from other people? Deep down, what do I want, what matters most to me?”
– Take some time to think about how your life has been bounded and shaped by the experiences you’ve tried to avoid.
Dreaded experiences cast a long shadow over our dreams. But what we dread is usually rooted in childhood, and today it is much less likely, less painful, and less overwhelming than we fear.
– Honoring what you like, are gifted/skilled at, and feel committed to can mean taking your own path and turning away from more conventional ones.
– When you eventually come toward the end of your life and look back over it, staying true to yourself and taking chances to honor your dreams could turn out to have been the safest bet of all.
– Use the time you have. “The days are long, but the years are short.”
– Life is fragile, fleeting, and precious. It’s not morbid to recognize this. Rather, it’s a way to celebrate the days we do have, and commit to making the best of them.
– (On his post-doctoral requirements of becoming a psychologist) I was in my mid-thirties and tired of still being a student. I complained that I might even be forty years old, which seemed ancient at the time, before I was licensed. [My friend] asked, “Do you plan on being forty?” Startled, I said, “Um, yes, I hope so.” “Well, then,” he went on, “how do you want it to be?”
More often than not, people presume too easily and too quickly that an opportunity has irrevocably passed.
– Ask yourself: “Do I plan on being that age? How do I want it to be?”
– Try to value each day as literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You will never get back this day.
– Aspire without attachment: dream big dreams and pursue them with commitment while also being at peace with whatever happens.
– Have a “growth mindset”. Intending to grow from experience never hurts.
People with a growth mindset tend to be happier, more resilient, and more successful.
– How would it feel if you aimed high but fell short? There could be disappointment, a sense of wasted effort, and fears about looking bad in the eyes of others. But you would still be basically all right. Your life would go on, your friends would still like you, and you would have other opportunities.
– In your heart, see if you can accept whatever happens. You may not like it, but you can be all right with it.
– Don’t take it too personally: try to appreciate that many of the causes of success or failure don’t have your name on them.
The perhaps uncomfortable reality is that much of what shapes our lives is beyond our control, including environmental, genetic, historical, cultural, and economic factors.
– If a person gets caught up in comparisons to others, pulling for approval, or quarreling over crumbs of credit, then “me, myself, and I” have taken over. So try to hold the sense of self lightly.
– In general, any tenseness we feel stems from a preoccupation with self.
– Consider an act of resilience as an offering.
When you look at the things you do as offerings, they feel simpler, lighter, and more heartfelt.
– Think about times in your life when you really blossomed. When you identify such times, look closely at their characteristics. What were the best things about those times? What good qualities did you have at those times, and what negative qualities were absent?
How might you be able to genuinely recreate some qualities from those times?
– NOW is your opportunity to be however you want.
When you realize Now is the future for past you, and that any point in the future will also be Now once you arrive there, you realize that right Now is as good of time as any to be how you want to be.
– Practice everyday giving. The essence of generosity is altruism, giving without expecting anything in return.
– Start to see yourself as a giving, generous person, and notice what this feels like.
– It’s striking how simple it can be to add to the lives of other people, even just by offering a little praise or giving your full attention for longer than usual.
– See what happens when you pull all attention away from yourself and put it all on others and environments.
– With equanimity, you can feel the pain of others without being swept away by it – which helps you open to it even more fully.
To bring equanimity alongside compassion, it helps to stay grounded in your body, aware of the sensations of breathing as you feel the pain of other people.
Reflect on the fact that the suffering is part of a vast web of causes and effects.
– Action eases despair.
– You can’t forgive something fully if you haven’t named it fully: the facts of what happened, how it impacted you and others, and how it felt way down deep inside. This is also the process of forgiving yourself. You must thoroughly and honestly examine past events in order to truly get past them.
– Recognize the costs of not forgiving a person…
Paying the price of resentment and bitterness is often excruciating.
– If the same mistreatment or injustice landed on ten people from around the world, there would be noticeable differences in how they experienced it…
When we’re angry because we feel wronged, we deludedly think 10 out of 10 people would react in the exact same way as us. Never is this true. With 10 different people there would be 10 different feelings, 10 different responses, and ultimately 10 different versions of experience.
Any experience can be processed and interpreted differently. You are not bound to respond in any particular way. Be sure to process your feelings, but know that you don’t have to stay feeling hurt simply because you think that’s how you’re supposed to feel.
– Let go of any ill will. You may not like the people who wronged you, and you may even be taking appropriate action against them. But you can always let go of hostility and vindictiveness.
– Be aware of what resentment feels like in your body, and then use long exhalations to relax and to release these sensations.
Resentment is usually the epitome of taking something too personally…
Intense resentment – the type that pains you, and that you can’t let go of at all – is the first and most clear sign that you’re stuck in self-centeredness.
– “There are those who do not realize that one day we all must die, but those who do realize this, settle their quarrels.” -Buddha
– See the whole person.
When we’re appalled, hurt, or angry, it’s easy to reduce people to the one terrible thing they did. But around that is so much else: other intentions that were good, a whole complex life history, and their own hopes and dreams.
When we see the whole, it’s not as hard to forgive the part.
– Everyone suffers, including the people who wrong us. Whatever they did is not negated or excused by their pain and loss and stress, but compassion for the load they carry makes it easier to forgive the load they put on you.
– As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.”
– Be willing to admit to yourself anything you’ve done. As you take inner responsibility, let yourself feel any appropriate remorse. Now also see the larger causes of your actions. Whatever you did was the result of many forces, so by definition it wasn’t all your fault. And no matter how big it was, in the sweep of time and space it’s such a tiny part of everything.
To give yourself a full pardon, take responsibility for whatever you did, feel appropriate remorse, make amends, ask for forgiveness, and actively forgive yourself.
Also, accepting what you are responsible for helps you to know — and if need be, to assert to others — what you are not responsible for.
– It is not “Us” and “Them.” It is all Us.
Picture those who you might consider as your “Us”, i.e. those that are part of your circle of connections. Now include those just outside your circle . And then those just beyond them. Now consider everyone as part of your circle of connections, as one big Us.
– As you grow inner strengths such as compassion and courage, you develop resilient well-being. And as you give, the world gives back – helping you become even more resilient.