The Courage to be Disliked

I’ve learned from research that as social beings, connection and feelings of belonging are strong drivers for our happiness. So when a friend introduced me to the book The Courage to be Disliked, which claims to change our life and show us how to achieve real happiness, I was intrigued.

I dove into the book and it did not disappoint. The book is a work of art, woven of psychology and philosophy and primarily based on Alfred Adler’s teachings. Adler was a psychotherapist and a core member of a group led by Freud. However, his ideas weren’t aligned with Freud’s so he split from the group. His theories offer simple and straightforward answers to the question: How can one be happy?

His teachings line up with six elements of the happiness formula from Good Morning, Life!

Over wine one night, my friends and I explored the simple yet fascinating perspectives that can help us be happy. We now use some of the terminologies from the book to help us navigate challenging interpersonal situations. I’m going to share a couple of key life-changing perspectives.

Life’s tasks and my lane

The book posits that all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. Many of our complaints are about other people or situations that others have caused or put us in. The book offers up a brilliant solution to these problems. Amazingly, we can rid ourselves of these interpersonal problems way easier than we might think.

The solution?

It’s simply to keep in our lane. Identify our life’s tasks, separate them from other people’s life tasks and then just focus on our own tasks. When we focus on our tasks alone, it simplifies our life immensely.

My tasks

Individually, we all have core life tasks that we are responsible for. They relate to work, friendship and love. It is our job to focus on these things. If I want to get a job, it is my responsibility to go to school, study and do what I need to in order to accomplish that goal. It is not my parent’s responsibility or anyone else.

In terms of friendship and love, it is my responsibility to treat my friends and loved ones with care, believe in them, and trust them. I am not responsible for how they treat me, I am only responsible for how I treat them. I cannot control their actions or behaviour. Of course, if I’m not happy with how they are treating me, I can choose not to spend (as much) time with them.

Importantly, I think it’s our task to love and respect ourselves. This includes setting boundaries, honouring and acting in line with our values. We don’t have to look to others to do this for us. When we love ourselves, we are complete and are not searching for others to make us whole. If someone else’s task is to love us then they can choose to do that and we can choose to accept that love. But our happiness is not dependent on whether they do their task or do it well.

What are not my tasks?

We are not responsible for other people’s opinions of us. This is where the courage to be disliked comes in. If it was our job to make other people like us or to meet others’ expectations, where would that job end? There are billions of people in the world. Everyone has different preferences, experiences, and perceptions. Obviously, we aren’t trying to make everyone like us, that would be impossible. But even if we are trying to make a handful of people like us, that’s still something we ultimately don’t control. It is not our task to control other people’s emotions or actions.

Let that sink in.

Other peoples’ judgements and opinions are not our tasks. We don’t need to worry about them or spend energy on them. An example in the book was a case where a boss is treating you unfairly and is unreasonable. It’s not your task to make your boss like you. If your boss is not recognizing you, it’s not your problem (there is a chapter that talks about the problem with the desire for recognition and how it makes us unfree). If you remain focused on your work tasks and do them well, they will speak for themself. I’m sure there could be a long conversation around this – I’ll leave that to my next book where the focus will be on finding happiness at work.

As parents, we have to be careful not to complete our children’s tasks for them. If we intervene too much, our kids won’t learn what they need to, including the ability to confront life’s challenges. They have their own life tasks.

Discarding tasks

It bears repeating that it’s not our responsibility whether other people are completing their tasks effectively. That is not our concern. Think Let Go from the Good Morning, Life! happiness formula. If we simply focus on our tasks, life becomes simple. And interpersonal relationships do too. We can choose who we spend our time with and we don’t try to change how others do their tasks. We stay in our lane and focus our energy on our own tasks. This helps us become more effective at doing our tasks. We can focus on our Purpose and act with Intention.

“If you are leading a life of worry and suffering – which stems from interpersonal relationships- learn the boundary of “From here on, that is not my task”. And discard other people’s tasks.” (p128, The Courage to be Disliked)

In addition to the idea of separating life tasks, how we view others is another key perspective shift the book introduces, which can substantially decrease our interpersonal issues and increase our happiness.

Are others your comrades or competition?

There are two lenses from which we may see the world. Either as if everyone is a friend/comrade or an enemy/competition. When our view is that we are competing with everyone in the world, everyone becomes our enemy. Their success means our failure, making it hard to celebrate their success. There is always a winner and a loser. You are constantly trying not to lose and trying to get ahead. Even when you’re winning you’re not happy, because of the stress of trying to maintain the position.

“When you are able to truly feel that ‘people are my comrades’, your way of looking at the world will change utterly. No longer will you think of the world as a perilous place, or be plagued by needless doubts; the world will appear before you as a safe and pleasant place. And your interpersonal relationship problems will decrease dramatically.” (p 80 The Courage to be Disliked)

There are a few ways I’ve seen this shift show up in my personal life. One minor way is with my neighbours. My husband and I are minimalists in terms of our outdoor landscaping. We have some evergreen trees in addition to a small garden area along with some hardscaping. Whereas my neighbour has beautiful gardens surrounding their home. I used to have a tendency to compare and feel pressure to up our garden game. Now, I happily enjoy their garden, appreciating the beauty that their hard work contributes to our neighbourhood. They are my comrades and not my competition.

A happier world

Similarly, with other authors that write books about finding happiness. Rather than see them as competition, I see them as my allies contributing to the same goal – a happier (more productive) world.

On that note, The Courage to be Disliked offers some great perspectives that can help all of us live harmoniously with each other. Interpersonal relationships are a core part of life and a key to our happiness. I’ve shared a couple of key perspectives here, but there are other themes that align with the happiness formula from Good Morning, Life!, including Presence, Purpose, Intention, Balance, Let Go, and Love.

Check out both books and find a more harmonious life and contribute to a happier world!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

An unexpected lesson on sustainability

My 14-year-old woke his Gen-Xer mom to her unhealthy consumer mindset.

After school one day last week, my son announced he was interested in improving his wardrobe. He wanted me to take him shopping for new clothes. This was music to my ears. “Wow”, I thought, “he cares about how he looks and doesn’t want to keep wearing those jogging pants and sweatshirts he wears every day”. It turns out I was only partly right. When he showed me images on the internet of the clothes he had in mind, I couldn’t tell the difference between them and his current clothes. But alas, at least he cares!

Anyway, to his request I immediately replied, “Yes, of course. I’ll take you to the mall this weekend.” He was happy and said sure. He then paused and suggested, “Or we could go to a thrift store.”

He stopped me and my mind in my tracks.

I thought of myself as a responsible parent who instills values in my kids and models good behaviour. I teach them values including caring for each other and our environment. Why didn’t I think of a thrift store as a first option?

Don’t I talk about global warming and the threat of climate change? I’m the one that warns not to run the water too long or leave lights on in rooms.

My son made me realize that I still have things to learn and unlearn. Again, he proves to be one of my greatest teachers, as I shared in Good Morning, Life!

The Aha Moment

This was a real ‘aha’ moment for me as I realize that I still have work to do to shift my ingrained consumer mindset. Rather than feeling guilty or beating myself up over my shortcomings, I will use my mindful awareness to learn how to shift my mindset.

It’s natural to go through a transition when for years my generation became accustomed to a certain way of living. This Story of Stuff video is a great watch that explains how we adopted consumer mindsets over time.

We followed fashion trends. Every season or two a new fashion would come along and we’d get rid of our pinned skinny jeans and run to the mall for the latest trendy clothes. We became accustomed to eating a variety of foods, whatever is tasty and convenient, without thinking much about how it got to our tables. Other conveniences and luxuries, such as vacations and home renovations may be enjoyed without huge consideration for their impacts on the environment and the resources expended in the process.

Let’s consider the dilemma.

The Problem

Climate change and the risk it poses to our economy and financial services sector is a big focus for my organization. While I was working and reading through climate analysis, the below chart caught my attention.


The chart shows that the world’s CO2 emissions have been rising steadily, until . . .

The pandemic.

As you can see, in 2020 there was a sharp decrease in CO2 emissions. Then there is a sharp increase as things started going back to “normal”. My optimistic self reads this graph with hope. It shows me that we can reduce our carbon emissions. It tells me we just need to rethink what we consider “normal”. Our new normal can’t be our pre-pandemic normal because, as the chart shows us, that is leading us to big trouble. I’ll spare you the depressing graphs showing the scientific predictions if we don’t change our ways and keep going back to our old “normal” ways.

The Solution

The solution starts with awareness. Awareness of the issue and, more importantly, the knowledge that we all have a role to play. From my role at work, I know many governments, corporations and financial service companies are starting to take action but still have lots of work to do. But it will take everyone and there is a role for consumers to play as well. Households consume 29 percent of global energy and consequently contribute to 21 percent of resultant CO2 emissions.

At the individual level, as my son taught me, it can start with my mindset. I need to consider my actions and lifestyle with a new perspective. I need to think about the impact of my old habits on the environment. Below is a list of things each of us can do as a starting point to being part of the change to sustainable life on Earth. You will note that mindfulness is key. That’s because without being mindful we slip into old behaviour patterns and automatic pilot. We know that our old patterns aren’t working for us, so new behaviours are needed.

Actions for sustainable change:

  1. Be mindful about every purchase. Being mindful about everything we purchase will make a difference. We can always start by asking ourselves: Do I need this? If I need it, can I borrow it or purchase it used? How long will I use it for and what will happen to it when I’m done with it? In the case of my son’s shopping trip, we ended up going to two thrift shops in our area and he found some great “new” outfits. It feels good knowing he’s not adding anything new to our landfill sites.
  2. Be mindful about what we eat. Here are 5 basic tips for sustainable meal choices: prioritize plants, minimize meat (especially beef), select sustainably caught seafood, look local and eat mindfully. The food sector accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and accounts for around 22 percent of total Greenhouse Gas emissions. We should also limit the amount of food we waste.
  3. Be environmentally conscious with travel plansAccording to studies, motor vehicles are the leading cause of air pollution in the United States, though other modes of travel, such as planes and cruise ships, create greater emissions per trip per person. Globally, transportation accounts for between 15 and 20 percent of emissions each year. Therefore, being mindful about vacation and travel plans can make a big difference. In this article, the WWF has some good vacation suggestions including choosing where to go and how to get there. Using public or shared transportation and choosing destinations closer to home are better options.
  4. Educate ourselves. We need to continue to educate ourselves. There are a lot of informative studies that show what we can do as consumers. Throughout this blog, I’ve linked to articles with lots of information and helpful suggestions as a starting point.
  5. Advocate and influence for action. Pressure from consumers and voters will help ensure that our governments and corporations take necessary and fast action that is needed to make changes. Look for ways to be a positive influence in your workplace too. Where there are opportunities to make changes to old ways of doing things, step in with more environmentally friendly ideas (e.g. less work-related travel).

The New Horizon

Here we are on the precipice of a time that matters most for the future of our planet. The pandemic has given us a wake-up call and a chance to change our ways for a sustainable future. We all have a role to play.

Will we answer the call? Will we ‘Look Up‘?

Now is our chance. And we have a pretty narrow opportunity before it’s too late, as the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report suggests. The UN reports that it’s now or never to take action before the world becomes uninhabitable.

Time to change our mindset and our future!

Presence. Intention. Do Your Best.

How I learned to tame my anxious energy

I realized that I have an anxious energy problem during my first coaching experience. It came early in my career when my company had a Life Coach, Joshua Zuchter, come in to deliver a wellness session. He was engaging, insightful and full of optimism, hope and positivity. When he offered a complimentary one-on-one coaching session, I took him up on it. At our agreed upon time I called him up. He asked what I wanted to talk about. It didn’t take long before I was rambling on telling him about my dilemma. I was stressing about whether I should write a professional exam, after a previous unsuccessful attempt.

Awareness is the first step

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Mindful media: Is social media friend or foe?

Social media is like our mind and mindfulness is the key to making it a friend

My family and I recently spent a beautiful summer evening on the lakefront in a nearby town. We had a picnic and took a stroll along the water, enjoying the warm weather and lovely sunset. I took some social media worthy shots. They depicted a happy family along with colourful scenic views. But they didn’t show the whole picture.

What they didn’t show was the unhappiness that came towards the end of the evening as the boys were getting tired and their mom was trying to eke out every last bit of relaxation and enjoyment on the last few days of her summer vacation. I love walks, nature and quiet evenings, however my thirteen and eleven year old boys don’t appreciate it quite as much. They’d much rather be playing video games with their friends or working on YouTube projects. While I don’t want to detract from the family bonding time and good parts of the day, the reality is there were tears, frustration and unhappiness towards the end of the evening as our interests and energy levels were at odds.

I’m fairly sure we are a typical family, going through natural challenges as we navigate our different interests and try to find balance. Oftentimes we don’t get the balance just right. In this case, we stayed up too late. I’ve learned over the years that tiredness is a big culprit of negative emotions that are hard to control.

My pictures didn’t capture this part of the evening.

Continue reading “Mindful media: Is social media friend or foe?”