101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think — Highlights
Why did our ancestors develop agriculture, society, medicine, and the like? To survive. The elements of our world were once just solutions to fears
In a more cerebral context, if you consciously learn to regard the “problems” in your life as openings for you to adopt a greater understanding
of the story: Living in the moment isn’t a lofty ideal reserved for the Zen and enlightened; it’s the only way to live a life that isn’t infiltrated with illusions. It’s the only thing your brain can actually comprehend
Not wanting to do something would make you feel indifferent about it. Fear = interest.
You needlessly create problems and crises in your life because you’re afraid of actually living it.
You’re never upset for the reason you think you are: At the core of your desire to create a problem is simply the fear of being who you are and living the life you want.
This doesn’t mean to disregard or gloss over painful or traumatic events, but simply to be able to recall them with acceptance and to be able to place them in the storyline of your personal evolution.
The things you love about others are the things you love about yourself. The things you hate about others are the things you cannot see in yourself.
In short, routine is important because habitualness creates mood, and mood creates the “nurture” aspect of your personality, not to mention that letting yourself be jerked around by impulsiveness is a breeding ground for everything you essentially do not want.
The point is that it’s not one thought that throws us into a tizzy: It’s the pattern of continually experiencing that thought that compounds its effect and makes it seem valid.
You must learn to let your conscious decisions dictate your day — not your fears or impulses.
Happiness is not how many things you do, but how well you do them.
is not experiencing something else; it’s continually experiencing what you already have in new and different ways
their fear instincts are turned off long enough for them to actually enjoy something.
You feel content because routine consistently reaffirms a decision you already made.
They don’t assume to know what it is that will make them truly happy.
In understanding this, they open themselves up to any experience that their life evolves toward, knowing there are equal parts good and bad in anything.
They know that happiness is a choice, but they don’t feel the need to make it all the time. They are not stuck in the illusion that “happiness” is a sustained state of joy. They allow themselves time to process everything they are experiencing. They allow themselves to exist in their natural state. In that non-resistance, they find contentment.
To combat this, they take inventory of their beliefs, reflect on their origins, and decide whether or not that frame of reference truly serves them
They don’t suppress it; they manage it effectively.
usually occurs when the topic in question is not actually deserving of such a strong response, and therefore makes others uncomfortable because they feel pressured to fake an emotional reaction
The fastest way to sound unintelligent is to say, “This idea is wrong.” (That idea may be wrong for you, but it exists because it is right to someone else.) Intelligent people say, “I don’t personally understand this idea or agree with it.
Socially intelligent people do not say, “He’s a prick” as though it is fact. Instead, they say: “I had a negative experience with him where I felt very uncomfortable.”
They don’t use “you always” or “you never” to illustrate a point. Likewise, they root their arguments in statements that begin with “I feel” as opposed to “you are.”
There are many ideas that do not need or deserve to be validated, but everyone’s feelings deserve to be seen and acknowledged and respected
They do not argue with people who only want to win, not learn. You can identify that this is the case when people start “pulling” for arguments or resorting to shoddy logic only to seem as though they have an upper hand. Socially intelligent people know that not everybody wants to communicate, learn, grow or connect — and so they do not try to force them.
They listen to hear, not respond. While listening to other people speak, they focus on what is being said, not how they are going to respond. This is also known as the meta practice of “holding space.
They do not consider themselves a judge of what’s true. They don’t say, “you’re wrong”; they say, “I think you are wrong.”
They don’t “poison the well” or fall for ad hominem fallacy to disprove a point. “Poisoning the well” is when someone attacks the character of a person so as to shift the attention away from the (possibly very valid) point being made. For example, if a person who eats three candy bars a day says: “I don’t think kids it’s healthy for children to eat too much candy each day,” a socially intelligent person wouldn’t respond, “Who are you to say?”; the
Their primary relationship is to themselves, and they work on it tirelessly.
The main thing socially intelligent people understand is that your relationship to everyone else is an extension of your relationship to yourself.
Feeling “lost” or directionless. Feeling lost is actually a sign you’re becoming more present in your life — you’re living less within the narratives and ideas that you premeditated and more in the moment at hand. Until you’re used to this, it will feel as though you’re off-track (you aren’t).
Having random influxes of irrational anger or sadness that intensify until you can’t ignore them anymore. When emotions erupt it’s usually because they’re “coming up” to be recognized, and our job is to learn to stop grappling with them or resisting them and to simply become fully conscious of them (after that, we control them, not the opposite way around).
Feeling like the dreams you had for your life are collapsing. What you do not realize at this moment is that it is making way for a reality better than you could have thought of, one that’s more aligned with who you are, not who you thought you would be.
Real emotional maturity is how thoroughly you let yourself feel anything. Everything. Whatever comes. It is simply the knowing that the worst thing that could ever happen…is just a feeling at the end of the day.
What you have to know is that suffering is just the refusal to accept what is. That’s it. Etymologically, it comes from the Latin word to “from below to bear.” Or, to “resist, endure, put under.”
Trying to change how you feel is like finding a road sign that points in the opposite direction of where you had intended to go and getting out to try to turn the sign, rather than your course of action.
The feelings you most suppress are the most important ways you guide yourself. Your apprehension to listen is not your own desire. It’s fear of being something more or less or greater or worse or simply different than those around you have implied they will accept
Sadness will not kill you. Depression won’t, either. But fighting it will. Ignoring it will. Trying to escape it rather than confront it will. Denying it will. Suffocating it will. Allowing it no place to go other than your deep subconscious to embed and control you will. Not that you’ll take your life or destroy everything “good” you do receive (though you might).
let yourself feel everything or numb yourself into feeling nothing. You cannot select emotions. You are either in accord with their flow or in resistance to their
to their nature. In the end, the choice is yours
we know we like and value and want, we create attachments. We then strive to keep things within the parameters of which we’ve already accepted. Out of that, we create failure.
It’s not failure if it doesn’t look the way you thought it would — you’re valuing your independence and taking responsibility for yourself.
You have time to do something you enjoy, even if “what you enjoy” is sitting on the couch and ordering dinner and watching Netflix.
You’re working toward a goal. Even if you’re exhausted and it feels miles away, you have a dream for yourself, however vague and malleable.
But you’re not uncompromisingly set on anything for your future. Some of the happiest and best-adjusted people are the ones who can make any situation an ideal, who are too immersed in the moment to intricately plan and decidedly commit to any one specific outcome.
It’s about the resistance between what’s right and what’s easy, what’s best in the long v. short term. We hear our instincts; we just don’t listen. This is the single most common root of discomfort: the space between knowing and doing
By not acting immediately, we think we’re creating space for the truth to shift, when we’re really only creating discomfort so that we can sense it more completely (though we’re suffering needlessly in the process).
Eric Greitens says that there are three primary forms of happiness: the happiness of pleasure, the happiness of grace, and the happiness of excellence5. He compares them to the primary colors, the basis on which the entire spectrum is created
One cannot replace another. They are all necessary. But we try anyway. To drink in excess, for example — the happiness of pleasure — is common when the happiness of excellence isn’t being pursued. But it is not, and will never be, the solution.
There’s no contact high during the first days of marathon training when your lungs are stinting and you want to vomit. But over time, you develop your skill. You begin to imagine what you could accomplish. You fall in love with the process.
Common sense tells us that if we put another hour into novel writing each night, ate better, woke earlier, chose affirmative thoughts, spoke honestly and connected more genuinely, we’d live better lives.
There are many reasons we self-sabotage, and most of them have something to do with comfort. Modern society (innovation, culture, wealth, success) is designed to convince us that a “good life” is one that is most comfortable, or able to provide us with a sense of being pain-free and secure.
It’s altering your mindset to focus on the discomfort you will face if you don’t do the thing in front of you, as opposed to the discomfort you will face if you do.
You will never be ready for the things that matter,
It’s uncomfortable to work, to stretch the capacity of your tolerance, to be vulnerable with someone you care deeply about, but it is never more comfortable than going your whole life without the things you really want.
Anxiety builds in our idle hours. Fear and resistance thrive when we’re avoiding the work. Most things aren’t as hard or as trying as we chalk them up to be. They’re ultimately fun and rewarding and expressions of who we really are.
It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking rather than think your way into a new way of acting, so do one little thing today and let the momentum build.
The fact that you do not need to be exceptionally beautiful or talented or successful to experience the things that make life profound: love, knowledge, connection, community, and so on.
Everything you honestly didn’t like about the person you’re no longer with, now that you’re not emotionally obligated to lie to yourself about them.
Little ways you can improve your quality of day-to-day life, such as consolidating debt, or learning to cook an easy signature meal, or cleaning out your closet.
What you subconsciously love about the “problems” you struggle to get over. Nobody holds onto something unless they think it does something for them (usually keeps them “safe”).
What your life looks like to other people. Not because you should value this more than you value your own feelings, but because perspective is important.
How you can help other people, even just by sitting down to speak with an old friend, buying someone dinner, sharing an article or a quote that resonated with you
The years of practice it takes to learn to play each instrument in your favorite song. The power and creativity it takes to simply come up with a melody, forget a piece of music that moves you to your core.
What your big objective is. If you don’t know what you generally want to do with your precious, limited time here, you’re not going to do much of anything at all.
The fact that it is hard to do everything: It’s hard to be in a relationship, it’s hard not to be in one. It’s hard to have to perform at a job you love and are emotionally invested in, it’s hard not to be living your dreams by a certain age. Everything is hard; it’s just a matter of what you think is worth the effort
Your stories. The strange and simple and beautiful things you’ve experienced and how you can better share them with other people.
What you can do with your minutes, as opposed to your hours, or days.
The fact that the way to change your life is to change the way you think, and the way to change the way you think is to change what you read.
What qualities you admire most in other people. (This is what you most like about yourself.
How complicated the questions are; how simple the answers turn out to be.
How many people go to bed at night crying, wishing they had what you have — the job, the love, the apartment, the education, the friends, and so on.
What you can do to more consistently remind yourself of this.
You’re at the beginning of your life. Some of you reading this will not make it through your 20s. Others won’t make it past midlife, or even past this year. Keep a skull on your desk if you must — nobody assumes they’ll die young, but that doesn’t mean they
You’re at the beginning of your life. Some of you reading this will not make it through your 20s. Others won’t make it past midlife, or even past this year. Keep a skull on your desk if you must — nobody assumes they’ll die young, but that doesn’t mean they don’t.
This is because when we think other people love us, we give ourselves permission to feel love. It’s a mind game, one in which we rely on everyone but ourselves to allow us to feel what’s already inside us. (If you think love is something that exists anywhere but within your own mind and heart, you will never have it.)
Breakups are meant to be. Job losses and hurt feelings and disappointments are, too. How do we know this? Because they happen often, they are the most pivotal redirects. Forget the final picture you want your life to amount to. It will never exist the way you think it should, and in the meantime, it will only ensure that you waste what you do have in the moment. There’s only one final destination here — the only thing you’re rushing toward is the end of your life.
You can control how you treat people, but you cannot actually control what they think. The idea that behaving a certain way will elicit a certain response is a delusion that will keep you puppeteering through your life
The point of hard work is to recognize the person it makes you, not what it “gets” you (the former you can control; the latter, you can’t).
Changing how other people think and treat you is not a matter of how outraged you get, but how willing you are to explain, teach, and share. Defensiveness never precedes growth, it stunts it.
People postpone their happiness to keep themselves safe. They dig for another problem to have to solve, another obstacle to overcome, another passageway until they can feel the happiness they know is in their lives. You cannot save up your happiness; you can either feel it in the moment, or you miss it. It’s that simple
You owe nothing to your younger self. You are not responsible for being the person you once thought you’d be. But you do owe something to the adult you are today.
Do you know why you don’t have the things you once thought you wanted? Do you know why you’re not the person you once thought you’d be? Because you don’t want those things anymore. Not badly enough. If you did, you’d have and be them
If you’re wondering “what you should do with your life,” it’s likely that you’re in the limbo between realizing you don’t want what you once did, and giving yourself permission to want what you want now
Listening to it is saying: What do I want now?
in fearing that happiness won’t last forever, we lose it — in fearing that grief will last forever, we create it
It’s actually because we only have the capacity to be selectively attentive, and we perceive negative news to be more important and profound, therefore, what our attention should go to first. Part of the reason for this is an essence of mysteriousness (when we don’t know the purpose of negativity in an existential sense, we become fascinated by it).
something more only because we believed it first. In other words, it’s an apprehension toward accepting new information, even if that information is more accurate or useful.
When you consciously “choose” something, you tend to see that thing more positively, and actively disregard its flaws, more often than you would of a thing you did not choose for yourself. This is why the idea that we are autonomous in deciding what’s right for us is so crucial — it dictates how we’ll relate to that thing forever.
They do not believe every feeling they have means something. They don’t assign value to everything they feel. They know that conviction doesn’t make something true.
They aren’t threatened by not being right. They understand that having a misinformed belief or incorrect idea does not invalidate them as a person.
They do not need to prove their power. Rather than embody an inflated image of their invincibility, their disposition is predominantly peaceful and at ease, which is the mark of a truly secure person.
They do not avoid pain, even if they are afraid of it. They cope with discomfort in favor of breaking an old habit. They trace the root of a relationship issue rather than deflect from the symptoms
recognize that the discomfort is in avoiding the pain, not the pain itself.
They do not seek out other people’s flaws in an effort to diminish their strengths. They do not respond to someone’s successes with observations about their failures
They don’t complain (too much). When people complain, it’s because they want others to recognize and validate their pain; even if it’s not the real problem, it’s still a form of affirmation
They do not consider themselves a judge of what’s right or wrong. Especially when it comes to offering friends advice, they don’t assume their ideal response to a situation is the solution everyone needs.