We’ve all been around them at one point or another: those people who are so miserable that they infect everyone else with their own toxic outlook on life. It might not be the most charitable thought, but many of us look at those people and wonder, “Do they have any friends? Is there anyone who can stand being around them?” Now, as unpleasant as that thought sounds, let’s imagine that the tables are turned. Let’s imagine that that dreadful person is you. Now, it probably isn’t! Chances are, you’re a perfectly nice person who is loved by a great many friends, family members, and acquaintances. But have you ever paused to think about your impact on the world? Have you ever wondered how you’ll be remembered? If you want to be remembered for more than simply being “a nice guy” or “a good neighbor,” this book is your guide to cultivating a lasting positive impact on everyone you meet. And over the course of this summary, we’ll take a look at a few of the most important qualities you should cultivate if you want to live a meaningful life and be remembered well.
Chapter 1: Cultivate a Positive Outlook
This might sound like the most cliche advice in the world, but it might actually be the most helpful! That’s because we should never underestimate the power of life’s small, beautiful moments. Finding joy in the little things is immensely helpful because it allows you to reduce stress. And if you’re like most people, you know that life abounds with stress that wears us down and causes us to become frantic, nervous, and worried. But because it’s impossible to rid our lives of all stress, it’s vitally important that we find positive ways to counteract the stress we do encounter. And that’s why our lives need to be filled with frequent bursts of little, happy things. The author’s research affirms that small bursts of happiness significantly reduce our stress levels and the great news is that these small moments of happiness aren’t hard to come by!
It can be something as simple as sharing a funny meme with a friend. Or maybe you look forward to picking up a pumpkin spice latte on your workevery morning. Maybe you just really love petting your cat. These small moments of joy can be anything and they will be different for every person. But no matter what brings you joy, the important thing is that you cultivate those moments. Because those moments are going to reduce your stress and re-set the short fuse that many of us accumulate during the stressful workday. They can also help you to focus on the positive, which is crucial for mitigating stress. Because — let’s face it — it’s highly unlikely that anyone loves every single aspect of their job or life. There’s going to be something we hate doing, some task that feels mindless and unnecessary. As a result, we may often find it difficult to concentrate on that task (i.e. to stay present in the moment), to stay motivated, or to avoid procrastination. But if we can focus on the positive aspects of our lives as much as possible, we can improve our overall outlook.
For example, maybe you just really hate a certain part of your job. Maybe there’s nothing positive about it and you’re just always going to hate it. But maybe that task is just a stepping stone on your path to something better. Maybe once you master that skill, you can move on to the job you really want. Or maybe it’s simply paying the bills and you can be grateful for that. Altering your perspective in these small ways might not sound like much, but they can result in a substantial difference. In fact, if your outlook on life gets even slightly more positive, it can reduce your stress and improve your mental and physical health! So, take some time to truly stop and smell the roses. Tell your friend a joke. Treat yourself to a cupcake. And as you fall asleep each night, try to make a mental list of all the things you’re grateful for.
These small positive things might sound cliche, but remember that our brains are basically computers. We have the power to program them with a vast array of information, so it’s up to us to choose whether we want our brains to focus on the positive or the negative. Even simple things — like the thoughts we dwell on and the attitudes with which we approach our days — go a long way towards programming our brains. So, if you want to put your life on the happiness track, start by programming your brain to look on the bright side!
Chapter 2: Be Present in Each Moment and Structure Your Priorities
Has anyone ever told you to try and “be where you are?” If so, it might have sounded like a bit of a non-sequitur; after all, it’s physically impossible to be present in two places at the same time! But we all know that it’s very possible to be physically present in one place while your mind is engaged with something else. In fact, you can be so lost in your own head that you might feel as though you’re a million miles away. Indeed, this is a very common phenomenon, especially in our busy modern age. While technology provides us with the helpful opportunity to always stay connected, that opportunity can sometimes be a double-edged sword. That’s because our phones can be a portal to another, stressful headspace — one where family drama and relationship debacles can plague us at work and vice versa. And as a result, it can feel impossible to stay fully present in any given moment. In fact, it can often feel as though you’re being pulled in a million different directions with every ping of a new notification!
This mental sensation is actually very similar to a medieval torture practice known simply as stretching. This practice was typically used to get information from someone who refused to give it up, so the victim was tied to a device called “the rack.” Their arms would be spread apart and tied at one end of the rack while their legs would be stretched and tied on another end. The torturer could then turn a wheel that would twist the rack farther and farther apart, stretching and elongating it. Eventually, the victim’s arms and legs would be stretched so far that their limbs would be dislocated or even ripped from their body. Granted, this is a pretty graphic and unpleasant example, but sadly, it’s also a very apropos analogy. Because when we find ourselves stretched between work, family, friends, and other commitments-- with no time allotted to focus on our mental health — it’s easy to feel as though we are being mentally torn apart or tortured. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this feeling increases our stress and decreases our happiness!
And that’s why the author believes that being present in each moment is vital for developing a happy and meaningful life. In fact, if you want tocultivate genuine happiness, then you have to kick the multitasking habit. And you can start by staying present in the moment. Of course, that’s often more easily said than done! Because we’re taught that multitasking equals productivity and that productivity equals success, many people don’t know how to slow down and focus on only one thing at a time. And sadly, it’s not something we can fix with a pill or a magic word. (Although it would certainly be great if we could!) No, much like exercise or healthy eating habits, being present is a skill we have to cultivate. And just like the previously mentioned examples, developing this skill can be pretty hard work. But it’s definitely worth it in the long run!
So, start by simplifying your workspace and your mind. For example, if you often find yourself checking Facebook messages during work or checking work emails when you’re meant to be focusing on your family, it’s a great idea to employ a site blocker that can help. (BlockSite is an awesome tool!) You can use Chrome extensions like BlockSite to restrict your access to certain sites for a specific period of time. And if there are some that you need to block permanently, you can do that too! Eliminating these pop-up distractions from your life is a great place to start because it allows you to declutter your mind and focus only on one thing at a time. And if you can continue this practice for at least twenty-one days (the length of time it takes to cultivate a habit) then you’ve already made this a part of your daily routine! That means that it will eventually become instinctive and require less effort to focus on only one thing at a time.
You might also find that it helps to set deadlines for yourself. Some projects might have deadlines of their own, but some things are pretty open-ended. And when that happens, it’s easy to procrastinate or forget about it. Then you’re overwhelmed and rushing to meet the deadline before you know it! That’s why it may help to self-incentivize. For example, tell yourself that you only have one hour in which to do something and then work to get it done in that hour! You might find that you can complete your work at a faster pace than you ever imagined and that you have the power to free up your day. So, start applying these habits to your daily routine and see how they help you to stay present in the moment!
Chapter 3: Embrace Your Creative Side
Do you keep a journal? Many adult professionals don’t because they think it sounds like a silly or childish thing to do. But in fact, a number of highly successful and creative people — Che Guevarra, Andy Warhol, and Virginia Woolf, to name a few — have recognized the benefits of keeping a diary! Why? Because in addition to its creative benefits, a journal can be an excellent opportunity for you to serve as your own sounding board. A sounding board is a person or a group of people that will let you bounce your ideas off of them and provide you with honest feedback in return. Your sounding board can help you determine when your ideas need improvement or when you might be in the wrong and you can use their perspective to grow. So, if you don’t have access to a group of people who can provide this for you or if you’d simply like to improve your self-awareness, journaling can be a great way for you to become your own sounding board.
You can start by capturing all of your ideas — or even your daily thoughts and reflections — in the pages of a journal. If you have an idea that sounds promising or that you want to flesh out later, write it down! But in order for a journal to work like a sounding board, you can’t just toss a thought on paper and never visit it again. If you want to properly develop your ideas in the future, you’ll need to return to your journal on a regular basis. By revisiting your thoughts and mulling over them with new eyes, you’ll find that what once seemed insignificant has a spark of brilliance. Likewise, that idea which seemed so perfect — the one you were ready to sink your life savings into — might seem impractical in the light of day.
You might find that consistency will help you reap more benefits of journaling; that’s why the author recommends that you set a regular time to write and find a peaceful place to write in. By giving yourself a bit of structure — along with a space which allows your ideas to flow — you can help normalize the activity for yourself. And if you write even a little bit every day for a week, you’ll soon develop a habit that brings you a sense of structure and consistency!
Chapter 4: Connect With Yourself and With Nature
If your work requires you to sit and stare at a computer screen for long periods of time each day and you find yourself feeling lousy all the time, there’s no mystery about the cause! Hands down, a lack of physical activity is the most dangerous threat to your health. And exercise is actually just as important for your mind as it is for your body! That’s because exercise releases positive endorphins that almost function as a morphine drip for your body. It can even increase your body’s production of hormones like serotonin and dopamine, keeping you happy, healthy, and relaxed.
However, because it can often be unpleasant to start exercising if you’re not used to it, many people make the mistake of assuming that exercising has to be a pain. But nothing could be further from the truth! You also don’t have to follow any prescriptive type or pattern of exercise; rather, the best form of exercise is an activity you’ll enjoy and actually do. So, whether that’s swimming, running, taking Zumba classes, or going kayaking, the possibilities are endless! Just get outside and find a new activity that connects with you. But it’s also important that, in your quest to be more active, you don’t forget to check in with yourself from time to time. Periods of inner reflection are just as important as exercise and this can do wonders for your mental health.
One of the best ways to disconnect from the pressures of your daily life and reconnect with your inner self is to spend time alone in nature. The combination of natural light and engaging with your surroundings has been proven to boost creativity, self-esteem, and mental acuity, in addition to reducing anxiety and mental fatigue. So, take time for a long walk through a forest or a stroll through a field of flowers and — literally — stop and smell the roses! What we’ve often dismissed as nonproductive can actually be crucial for your mental health. And as you try to engage with the real you, the one that gets trapped under the competing pressures of every day, it’s also important that you remember to stop and breathe. Even something as simple as a few moments of deep breathing in which you concentrate on eachinhalation and exhalation can help you to strengthen your self-awareness and calm down.
Chapter 5: Final Summary
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. And sadly, when we do so, we often lose sight of two critical things: our identity and our relationship with others. In order to cultivate a meaningful and memorable life, we need to take a step back and prioritize the qualities that will nurture our souls and make us pleasant to be around. The author’s research indicates that being present in the moment, embracing your creative side, spending time in nature, and finding joy in the little things are the qualities that are most likely to make us happy. So, if you cultivate these qualities in your life, you’ll be happier and other people will be happy when they’re around you! And when your time on earth draws to an end, people will remember you for the positive impact you had on their lives.