The subtitle of this book is Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective, and that sums it up nicely. Author Richard Carlson, Ph.D., is most famous for Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, but this early work is a simple masterpiece of how-to-live-in-bliss fundamentals.
Right up front he states his premise: “We are the producers of our own thinking…. What we think determines what we are—even though it often seems the other way around.” Still, the book is not so much about controlling your thoughts as understanding the process so that good thoughts can flow naturally. That will lead to a happier you.
So this isn’t a “positive-thinking” book, per se. As Carlson says, “While it’s true that thinking positive thoughts will make us feel better than thinking negative ones, positive thinking is an erroneous concept.” It’s more about understanding where your thoughts come from and that they’re interpretations of your reality.
That may sound deep, but Carlson explains it with a number of examples and shows you how to make positive thoughts flow. He also discusses how to interpret your moods and what to do about low ones. One tip is to never try to solve your problems when you’re in a low mood, as that will almost always take you down the wrong road.
In essence, Carlson explains, it’s our thinking, not our circumstances, that determines how we feel. He therefore recommends living your life in the present moment as much as possible. “Regardless of what happened early this morning, last week or last year—or what may happen later this evening, tomorrow or three years from now—now is where happiness lies. Happy people understand that life is really nothing more than a series of present moments to experience.” In other words, the past is history, and the future a mystery, so live in the now.
After thorough discussion of the five principles—thought, moods, separate realities, feelings and present moment—he delves into how to use them to help with relationships, relieve stress, solve problems and even break bad habits and addictions.
There are so many great quotes, ideas and applications that I about wore out my yellow highlighter. Toward the end of the book Carlson quotes Abe Lincoln: “People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” It’s more about letting go of unhappiness than striving for happiness—and this book will help you understand how to do just that.