The Courage To Be Disliked: How to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness
by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga
You, dear reader, have the capacity to be happy - starting right now!
This book discusses the philosophy/psychology of Alfred Adler in the form of a dialogue. Many of the ideas in How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (books I highly recommend) come from Adler’s ideas as well. In fact, Adler’s Wikipedia page didecates a whole section to “Use of Adler’s work without attribution”, including this quote from psychohistorian Henri F. Ellenberger: “It would not be easy to find another author from which so much has been borrowed on all sides without acknowledgement than Alfred Adler.”
The key insight is that your past does not determine your future. This is an important difference between Adler’s philosophy and Sigmund Freud’s ideas and western psychology in general. In Adler’s view, our past does not matter. Freudian aetiology denies our free will and treats humans like machines.
The significance of the past comes in the meaning that we attach to it. But that meaning isn’t fixed - we can change it any time. An event that at some time may have haunted us can become a source of resolve and strength - all we need to do is change the meaning that we assign it.
What defines us is not our personality. Rather, what people see as personality is just “lifestyle” - and lifestyle is something that we can at will. We all have the capacity to change - right now: “The lifestyle you have now is like driving your old, familiar car. It might rattle a bit, but you can take that into account and maneuver easily. But if you choose a new lifestyle, it will be hard to see ahead to the future, and life will be filled with anxiety. A more painful and unhappy life might lie ahead. It’s easier and more secure to stay broken the way you are.”
They key to changing is courage - the courage to be a new person, the courage to not worry about what other people think, the courage to be unconventional, the courage to be conventional.
All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.
It’s important to focus one’s energy on areas within one’s control - within your sphere of influence, as Stephen Covey might say. One key aspect of that is to discard other people’s tasks.
If someone doesn’t like you, so what? That is their task - not yours. You cannot change other people’s behavior or attitude, so don’t try. What you can change is your own outlook, so that is where you should concentrate your energy.
For that reason, it’s also important to give up the desire for recognition. If you live in a way to impress other people - whether by getting the top score on a test, having a high-paying job with a big title, or driving a nice car - you live your life to their standards. Your decisions are based on someone else’s standards, and not yours. To be free, you must give up the desire for recognition, and to do that, you must have the courage to be disliked.
The first step towards contentment is acceptance of the self. Accept yourself as you are - that is just a decision. From there, understand that you can go anywhere you want. You will get meaning from a sense of belonging to a community and by contributing to the greater good - to the community. This contribution need not be recognized by others.
Life is a series of moments. Meaning and happiness is in those moments. Life is about the journey, not the destination.
Whatever meaning life has must be assigned to it by the individual. That is the price you pay for your freedom - you must decide the meaning of your life for yourself.
There is no reason of any sort that you should not live your life as you please.
I hope you found these rough, barely-edited notes helpful.