The Book in Three Sentences
- There are things over which we have complete control and things over which we have no control at all.
- If you think you can control things over which you have no control, then you will be hindered and disturbed.
- If you desire and avoid only those things that are under your control, then you will not feel victimized by things you dislike.
The Five Big Ideas
- Focus on the things over which you have control.
- Welcome everything that happens in life.
- You have all the resources you need to overcome challenges.
- You cannot lose anything you don’t own, to begin with.
- Always conduct yourself as though you are at a formal dinner.
The Good Life Handbook Summary
To achieve freedom and happiness, you need to understand that some things in life are under your control, and others are not.
What things are under your total control? What you believe, what you desire or hate, and what you are attracted to or avoid.
If you think you can control things over which you have no control, then you will be hindered and disturbed.
If you desire and avoid only those things that are under your control, then you will not feel victimized by things you dislike. But if you resent unavoidable things like illness, misfortune, or death, that are not under your control, you are headed for disappointment.
Select carefully what you want to choose and what you want to refuse. Be disciplined and detached while making the choice.
When you kiss your spouse or child, remind yourself that it is a mortal that you are kissing. Then you won’t be too distraught should they be taken from you.
When you blame others for your negative feelings, you are being ignorant. When you blame yourself for your negative feelings, you are making progress. You are being wise when you stop blaming yourself or others.
Don’t wish for things to happen the way you would like them to. Rather, welcome whatever happens. This is the path to peace, freedom, and happiness.
If you practice attributing the correct source to problems you face, whatever happens, you will soon find that nothing that happens outside of you pertains to you.
Remember that for every challenge you face, you have the resources within you to cope with that challenge.
You cannot really lose anything because you don’t own anything in the first place.
Think of all the things you have as things entrusted to you and you are free to enjoy them for a while.
What you lose is what you pay for your peace of mind.
To make progress, you should be able to accept being seen as ignorant or naïve.
You cannot be in agreement with nature and, at the same time, care about things outside your control.
Always conduct yourself as though you are at a formal dinner.
Like an accomplished actor, you need to perform the role assigned to you in life skillfully.
People with more prestige, power, or some other distinction are not necessarily happier because of what they have.
When someone provokes you, if you respond with anger or some other negative emotion, your mind is tricked into believing you are being harmed. So it is essential not to respond to impressions impulsively. Take some time before reacting. You will see you are in better control.
Whenever you face difficult situations in life, remember the prospect of death and other major tragedies that can and do happen to people. You will see that, compared to death, none of the things you face in life is important enough to worry about.
If you decide to live by lofty principles, be prepared to be laughed at by others.
You compromise your integrity when you seek outside approval.
We need to accept what happens to us in the same spirit as we expect others to accept their lot.
Remember how wisely you understand when others face unfortunate situations. Apply the same wisdom when something unfortunate happens to you. Learn to accept whatever happens.
If your body was turned over to someone else, you would be ashamed and outraged. Should you not be equally ashamed when you turn over your mind to others so they can control it?
When you are about to undertake a project, consider not only what is involved now but what it would involve later.
No one can hurt you unless you let them. You are hurt the moment you believe you are.
The labels good and bad apply only to things under your control. If you consider anything beyond your control as good or bad, you will fail to get what you want and get what you don’t want.
When something looks pleasurable, don’t get carried away by that impression. Take a minute and let it sink in. Then consider its effect at the time you experience pleasure and later. Will you still be happy or will you regret having indulged in something that’s not good for you? Think about how good you would feel if you controlled yourself instead of being swayed by your first impression.
Take extra care to make sure you are not pushed around by the seductiveness of impressions. Think about how much better you will feel if you exercise self-control.
When you decide to do something you believe to be right, don’t let others stop you, even if a majority of people disapprove of it.
Don’t undertake to do things that are beyond your means.
As you are careful not to step on a sharp object or sprain your ankle, so you should take care not to do any injury to your character. If you exercise caution when you act, you are less likely to damage your character.
While you should take care of your body, you should spend most of your time taking care of your mind.
When someone criticizes you, they do so because they believe they are right. They can only go by their views, not yours. If their views are wrong, it is they who will suffer the consequences. Keeping this in mind, treat your critics with compassion. When you are tempted to get back at them, remind yourself, “They did what seemed to them to be the right thing to do.”
Unless you know their reasons for their actions how can you be sure of your negative judgment of them? Not judging others too quickly will save you from misperceiving their actions.
If you have chosen a simple life, don’t make a show of it. If you want to practice simplicity, do so quietly and for yourself, not for others.
Once you undertake to do something, stick with it and treat it as something that should be carried through. Don’t pay attention to what people say. It should not influence you in any way.
Decide that you are an adult, and you are going to devote the rest of your life to making progress. Stick closely to what is best. If you are distracted by pleasure or pain, glory or disrepute, realize that the time is now. The game has started and waiting any further is not an option. Win or lose will be decided today. Use reason to meet every challenge.