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

Purpose – Part 2: Aligning purpose and happiness for success

With a clear purpose and vision, our life and business can soar and happiness can be at the core.

In Part 1 I shared my personal vision statement as we dove into the importance of being clear on our purpose and its relation to happiness and success in life.

Just like individuals, a company’s success is rooted in a clearly-defined purpose and values. It helps ensure employees are working toward the same end game. A clearly defined purpose can give a company its North Star. When a company defines a higher purpose beyond short-term financial goals and puts employee happiness at its core, it’s a tremendous win-win.

Let’s start by looking at how purpose can be defined.

Defined purpose and core values

Companies should set a vision statement and define their purpose. Without a clear purpose, organizations can fall into patterns of reactivity and short-term thinking. They can lose their path to long-term, sustainable success. Thinking only of current year profits is a dangerous approach for a business, especially in today’s ever-changing environment.

When defining a company purpose, the same process can be followed as for individual’s defining our core purpose, as outlined in Part 1 of this blog series. Companies can ask these key questions:

  1. What are our company’s core values?
  2. What character traits do we want our company and employees to be known for?
  3. What differentiates our company from others?
  4. What is one thing we do better than anyone else?
  5. What impact would we like to have on the world?
  6. What are our most fundamental beliefs?
  7. What is the greatest thing we want to achieve?

These questions can force a company to think longer term about where it wants to go and who it wants to be.

With a clearly defined purpose it will be easier to attract and retain employees that have compatible values and goals. When working towards a common purpose, the business succeeds through the successes of its employees. It can be a beautiful symbiotic, mutualistic relationship that benefits both the company and the employee.

Now more than ever, customers and employees are interested in understanding companies’ core values. They want to work with ethical, environmentally and socially aware companies. Therefore, when developing a corporate purpose, it’s wise to think bigger picture and go for a higher purpose. What can the company offer to employees and society beyond the basic product(s) or service(s) it provides? A higher purpose is one beyond just profits and immediate business results.

Higher purpose and culture

Zappos is an intriguing example of a successful company that discovered the power of defining its higher purpose. At the center of Zappos’ higher purpose is its culture, which is defined by happy, growing, creative, empowered employees. Zappos’ employees define/capture the company culture through the creation of an annual Zappos culture book.

Due to Zappos’ culture of growth and innovation, the vision of the company has evolved. At Zappos’ inception in 1999 its brand promise was having the “largest selection of shoes”, but it slowly evolved to “delivering happiness” in 2009.

“Delivering happiness” is a good example of a higher purpose for an online shoe company.

Having a robust company culture means living by those values and that mission each day and encouraging your teammates to do the same. A strong culture produces employees with a well-tuned sense of direction and helps create common definitions of success, so your company can grow as a team.

William Craig, 8 Ways Company Culture Drives Performance, Aug 2017

Zappos not only defined a higher purpose, but in the process it discovered the win-win of happy engaged employees with business performance and success. This leads me to another key link to a truly successful company – happy employees.

Alignment – happy people and business performance

As I was going through the process of defining my purpose, one of my fundamental beliefs surfaced – happy people and high performance go hand-in-hand. Therefore, it’s a huge win-win for companies and their employees when those employees are happy!

This belief has taken shape over the course of my career. From business school to more than twenty years working with banks and insurance companies, I see the impact people have on a company’s results. Financial services companies’ biggest asset and cost is their people. If employees are performing at their best, the company has a great chance of success.

As discussed in Part 1, peoples’ end game is happiness and studies show that happiness leads to success. Therefore, making happiness part of a company’s purpose and culture is a powerful win-win. When considering some of the key things that make people happy, and thus engaged (e.g. purpose, balance, connection, growth) it’s easy to see how workplaces can actually contribute to an individual’s happiness. Unfortunately, old corporate paradigms don’t always seem to naturally align work with happiness. These outdated perceptions can and should change though. Which is why a key message in my corporate speaking engagements is that the workplace is a great place to cultivate happiness.

For companies, it’s not only smart to pay attention to employees’ happiness, but there’s a high cost to ignoring it.

The cost of ignoring happiness and culture

In Part 1, we discussed “the great resignation”. There are numerous studies that have put a cost to employee disengagement resulting from poor cultures. One study found that 53% of Americans feel disengaged at work. Another study found that unhappy workers cost the North American economy $350 billion in lost productivity per year.

Happy employees tend to be engaged and stay with their company. Unhappy employees cost organizations in a number of ways, including:

In addition to the costs above, there are immeasurable costs from the negative ripple effects when unhappy employees go home to their families and communities.

Therefore, when considering your company’s purpose, think about its higher purpose and also how employee happiness can fit into the equation. It will be a win-win for employees and for business success.

Go for the win-win

If you’re an employee or a leader, consider your company’s higher purpose. Is it clearly defined? Does it resonate and inspire you? What role does happiness play in the purpose and culture?

Consider the studies of how happiness leads to success and how you can use the science of happiness to benefit not only your own life, but also your business.

If happiness is everyone’s ultimate goal, wouldn’t it be great if we could change the world and get everyone and every business thinking in that context and that framework?

Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness

What can you do to better align purpose, values, culture and happiness to benefit you, your company, and the broader community? We all have a role to play. Perhaps the starting point is simply sharing this article.

The positive ripple effects are overwhelmingly worth going for the ultimate win-win of people and performance.


Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Purpose – Part 1: What’s your end game?

With a clear purpose and vision our life and business can soar, and happiness can be at the core.

I just finished reading the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the late CEO of Zappos is a successful company (purchased by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion) known for its workplace culture, where happiness is at its core. The last chapter titled “End Game” really struck a chord with me for a number of reasons. Notably, the message lines up with Purpose from the happiness formula in Good Morning, Life!

Interestingly, I’ve also recently been reading lots of articles on what’s been coined “the great resignation”. In 2021 a record number of Americans quit their job. While there are a number of factors contributing to this high rate, a common theme is that workers are reevaluating their life priorities, prioritizing work passion over financial security and want to work for companies that align with their values.

It really emphasizes the importance of a clear end game or purpose for both people and businesses. This will be a two-part blog post: this first part focuses on the end game for us as people, while Part 2 will focus on companies and the link between the two.

What’s my end game?

To get people thinking about their end game, Tony Hsieh would ask them, “What’s your goal in life?” He typically got lots of different answers. Some said they wanted to start a company, some wanted to find a spouse, and others wanted to be healthy. Whatever their goal, he would follow up with “why?” He would ask why again and again after each ensuing response. Eventually the final answer inevitably came down to the same ultimate pursuit: happiness.

At our core, we all want to lead happy lives. Happiness is generally our desired end game.

While we may take different paths, our ultimate goal is the same. Instead of blindly following old behaviour patterns, we can consciously choose actions that help meet our end goal. Without being mindful about our true desired end game it’s easy to veer off our path.

How do I figure out my end game/purpose?

I recently had a speaking engagement where I walked through the happiness formula in our work context. After the session, an attendee told me that in his group’s Zoom breakout room they got into a philosophical discussion about the concept of Purpose. So I thought it’d be helpful to write this post about how we can define our Purpose in a practical way.

Creating a personal vision statement is what helped me define my purpose. I started with a list of questions. Grab a pencil and jot down notes as you ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are my dream character traits? Choose your top 3 personal character traits that are important to you. You can Google to find a list of character traits from the internet, such as this list.
  2. What energizes me?
  3. What did I enjoy doing as a child?
  4. What differentiates me from others?
  5. What is one thing I do better than anyone?
  6. What impact would I like to have on the world?
  7. What are my most fundamental beliefs?
  8. What is the greatest thing I want to achieve?

Based on your answers, create a short overarching personal vision statement (1-2 sentences). It should be present tense and action oriented.

Personal vision statement

If it helps to see an example, here is my personal vision statement:

Bring compassion and joy to the world by being authentic, doing my best, and inspiring others to be their best.

Personal vision statements can be easily referred to and mine helps me stay grounded in my purpose when faced with the many daily demands on my energy and time. My vision statement is my North Star, creating alignment between my daily actions and my end game.

My personal vision statement is about how I choose to live. I also have a core purpose statement that focuses more on what I focus my attention on. The what may change over time, so it’s always good to revisit and check in.

If life is a journey, then purpose is a compass that helps us stay
the course. And if you veer off the path, don’t be discouraged.
Replot your course and refocus on what matters most to you.

Deloitte – Defining Your Purpose Info Graphic

What’s your purpose?

What’s your purpose/end-game?

By reading or listening to Good Morning, Life!, you’ll discover the secret that happiness is not actually a future end game, it’s for today! Putting off happiness for another day is a dangerous plan. We risk getting to the end of our life and realizing that we ran out of time. Instead of spending our days being happy, we spend our days waiting to be happy.

It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.

Eckhart Tolle

Now that we’ve had a chance to dive into what brings meaning to our lives, stay tuned for Part 2. We’ll explore how purpose and happiness can come together in a symbiotic relationship for people and companies resulting in strong business performance.


Purpose and vision for happiness
Photo by Valentin Antonucci from Pexels

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

Continue reading “How I learned to tame my anxious energy”

You are the CEO of Your Life: Perspective is everything

Do you ever feel like you have little control over things in your life?

In a previous blog post, I share how the current pandemic has taught me that I don’t have control over many things in life outside of myself. Happily, I’ve realized that there’s something I control. In fact, I have a very important role. I’m the CEO of my life! I control my actions, set intentions, express my values, needs and talents and set boundaries. It doesn’t matter if I’m working for a company, looking for a job, homeschooling my kids – whatever my situation, I’m the CEO of my life. I gained this impactful perspective about two years ago as a result of a talent management exercise at work.

Continue reading “You are the CEO of Your Life: Perspective is everything”

The Good Place – a show that gives perspective to life

We found a fun, family show that addresses my favourite topic – happiness. We are always trying to find great TV shows that we can watch together as a family. With two boys (13 and 10 yrs old), along with my husband and I, it is always a challenge to find something we all enjoy. My husband would prefer something sci fi, I like dramas, and the boys favour superheroes. While together my husband and I might choose shows like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, these just aren’t appropriate for the kids.

Invariably we land on a comedy series. Throughout the pandemic we have been thoroughly entertained by The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Kim’s Convenience, and most recently, The Good Place.

Continue reading “The Good Place – a show that gives perspective to life”