The Courage to Be Disliked

“No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences–the so-called trauma–but instead we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.”

This quote from psychologist Alfred Adler is, I think, the key point in Ichiro Kishimi’s “The Courage to Be Disliked” and something I’ve been trying to get my head around since I first read it last year.

The following strikes me as a pretty radical chain of ideas:

  1. While we can’t control everything that happens to us, we do have complete control over how we react to those events.
  2. How we choose to react to events can have a much greater impact on our future happiness than the initial events themselves.
  3. We assign meaning and react to events based on our deepest personal goals and needs, but we are often unaware what those goals are.
  4. Our job is to see ourselves as we really are (something akin to achieving enlightenment in the Buddhist sense), so that we can intentionally respond to situations in line with our true goals.

Trying to understand myself and the world through this lens is an interesting exercise. It often produces more questions than answers, but it’s a good challenge.

Written by Mark Allen, who lives in Toronto and is currently open to a new product management role in Toronto or with a distributed team. Say hello on Twitter.

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