Pursue What Matters
Episode 117: Book Review – Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakeable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Okay, it’s another month, which means another great book review. Now all of us need this book after the last year we’ve experienced. So join me for a great book review.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:16
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Okay, summer is on, I hope you’re doing well, I hope you are relaxing, enjoying a little more downtime. That seems to be a rule of summer, right? But too many of us are too busy. And we’re not slowing down. But I have a great book review for you today. That will help you to slow down. And also to become more aware. So I’m really excited about this book. I read it a few months ago, it has not been out that long. But I have found myself returning to this book again and again, because it’s just got such great information. And it’s very, very practical, which we always like we’re always a fan of practical applications.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:30
Okay, so what is the book, this is the title of the book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm Strength and Happiness, and boy who couldn’t use that. So there’s been a lot of talk about resilience in the last year, with the pandemic, with people’s responses to the pandemic, with social and cultural upheavals. And this is the best book to really wrap your hands around resilience. It is well based in research, but I promise you, it’s not stuffy. It’s very practical, lots of great, specific applications to help you. So the book again, is resilient, how to grow an unshakable core of calm strength and happiness. And it is by Rick Hansen, PhD with Forrest Hansen. And this is kind of fun, because Rick Hansen, who is a very well known psychologist, in the positive psychology movement, has written several books, several best selling books, he’s very well known and recognized as an authority on these issues. And with this book, he wrote it with his son, who it sounds like is doing some of this type of work as well. So it’s kind of fun and conversational in that way. And so I’m going to share with you some of the main points of this book, but let me just tell you, this is a book you want to hold on to that you want to reference. It had the ways organized is really great. And it’s got summaries at the end of each chapter. But the topics, the topics are divine, they are obviously so important for cultivating resilience. But he makes a really good case for the how, how we do that, and then specific applications.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:27
So, of course, every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead I do that in one of three areas. So leading with clarity, leading with curiosity, and leading and building a community. And so primarily today, our podcast is focused on leading with curiosity. And when we’re thinking about curiosity, we’re thinking about self awareness. We’re thinking about self leadership. And so the way that I think about curiosity, and certainly resilience is how can you bring an inner calm to your life, to your work to your leadership, that that is a function of curiosity, that is a function of self awareness. And when we can get curious and get quiet, we can develop more awareness about our needs, about our gifts, and we can be grateful, right? And all of these are building blocks of resilience. And so with this book review today, and with the podcast, we’re really working on helping each of us cultivate more curiosity, because what’s true is the world we live in is, is geared against curiosity. It’s geared towards criticism, it’s geared towards mindlessness. It’s geared towards doing rather than being and if we’re not careful, we’re going to lose ourselves. If we’re not careful. We are going to be disconnected from what matters most in life, and we lose our sense of purpose, we lose our sense of connection. And you know, ultimately we’re not able to fulfill our potential, we’re not able to contribute our great get our best gifts to others. And that’s, that’s a loss. It’s not only a loss for ourselves, but it’s a loss for everyone who could have benefited from our gifts. So it’s important, it’s important work to pay attention to.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:27
So let’s first start by sharing a little bit about the author’s. So as I mentioned, Rick Hansen, PhD is pretty well known if you have come across any positive psychology readings. He is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the greater good science center at UC Berkeley and a New York Times bestselling author. So his books are really very, very popular. So some of his books include Hardwiring Happiness, it’s really really good all about neuroplasticity, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture. So those are some of his books, his his knockout hit is Hardwiring Happiness, it’s so good. And you know, he is a researcher he works with resilience, and other principles associated with resilience every day. But he, you know, when I listened to him, when I read him, I just, I think he really practices what he preaches. And I really so much, so appreciate that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:38
And then Forrest Hansen is a writer and business consultant. He edits Eusophi website dedicated to sharing high quality content from experts in the fields of happiness, health, wealth, and wisdom. And he is a UC Berkeley graduate and lives in the Bay Area. And so that’s a little bit about these two.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:59
So if you listen to this book, it is in the voice of Rick Hanson. But he says, you know, there’s lots of influence from forests on every page, I have read this book, I’ve also listened to this book, I recommend both. So I think listening to it is a really great entry point into this conversation and this topic. But if you’re like me, and you might not be, I really wanted my own copy. And now I’m reading the hard copy and making detailed notes. Because these are this, the concepts taught here are things that we always want to be working on. So it’s not like one and done. It’s all like you figure out resilience. And then you’re done. Right. And there’s not that there’s no such thing as resilient people versus those who are not resilient. That what’s true is we practice resilience. And Rick Hansen really talks about the specific practices that help us to be resilient. Because maybe you’ve had people in your own life where you’ve seen them as strong or resilient, and then something big happens, and right, like, they become totally broken. And so we’ve got to always pay attention to context when it comes to resilience and what’s happening internally. And that’s really what Rick Hansen is talking about, and that we can be proactive in cultivating resilience so that regardless of what life throws at us, we can be grounded we can be okay, we can be resilient. And you know, on the cover of the book he has they have a photo or an image art of a tree being blown in the wind. And I think that is a such a perfect metaphor for resilience. Because it’s not that life storms won’t blow against you, right? Like for sure that will always be true life will always be challenging. I am fond of saying that. But when we can build a firm foundation, a deep roots of resilience, we’re gonna be okay. It’s not that we’re protected from the storms because we certainly are not. But that we can be flexible and that we can be deeply rooted in resilience to help us maintain well being to help us to not only survive, but thrive in life and in life’s challenges which can feel like a big ask right but totally possible.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:41
So let’s hear what others are saying about the book. So from Tara Brock, PhD, She is the author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge. She does a lot on mindfulness and meditation. She said, “Rick Hansen is a brilliant and masterful guide. cultivating the traits that underlie a happy, fulfilled, life. Resilient will give you exactly what you need for positive transformation.” This is what it gives you, according to Tara Brock, “accessible and powerful strategies that awaken your natural intelligence, confidence, and heart.” And I agree with her. I think what I most appreciate about this book, or one of the things I most appreciate, is it’s very practical. There are things you can start doing today. And then let’s hear from Peter Levine. Anyone who’s familiar with psychology knows Tara Brock and also Peter Levine, and of course, Rick Hansen. So Peter Levine is a clinician and researcher, he’s the author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, and then In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. And he’s a very highly regarded trauma clinician and researcher. And what he said is, “in this landmark book, Rick Hansen guides the reader with clear practical steps to build and fortify the critical resource of resilience, in clear terms, large with research and wisdom, while short on jargon and platitudes. Hansen shows us how we can all grow an unshakable core of calm, strength, and happiness.” So think about that tree, think about deep roots, an unshakable core of calm strength and happiness. Levine continues, “a most important book, equally valuable for professional and lay seekers on the path to vibrancy and wholeness.” And the book has done quite well, I think that sadly, some of these self development books that are really well written and very well grounded in research, don’t get as much attention, as do some of the pop psychology books, and I think we’re worse for it. And so, you know, I always are the podcast and trying to direct you to really high quality books and readings, based in solid research. And this is one of those books.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:04
So let’s jump in and learn a little bit more about what is the purpose of this book. Okay, so Hanson starts with, with this promise, right? That there is a fundamental idea in both psychology and in medicine, that the path your life takes depends on just three causes. So listen up. The path your life takes, depends on just three causes. Number one, how you manage your challenges, to how you protect your vulnerabilities, and three, how you increase your resources, okay? And so think about that, that the path your life takes depends on just three causes, how you manage your challenges, how you protect your vulnerabilities, and how you increase your resources, I want you to think about that for a minute. That can that in and of itself can be a very profound teaching, right? Life can feel very complicated. But if you can crystallize, and distill down some core principles about your life journey, boy, it can, it can clarify things, it can make things much more straightforward. And so he in this book is going with that premise, that there are three causes to you know, how our lives unfold. And right when we think about these causes, they’re located in three places, right? So we have three causes for how our life unfolds. And the causes are located in three places. Number one, your world number two, your body. And number three, your mind.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:58
Okay, so we can have external events that happened to us say the world, right? So let’s think about a global pandemic, right? That happened to all of us, the second places in your body, right, you can have things happen in your body. So whether that is a cancer diagnosis, whether that is a significant injury, whether that is an autoimmune illness. That is right, that that happens in your body, and third in your mind, right. So we think about the conversations we have with ourselves, we think about, what are we saying what’s happening with this inner monologue, we’re always having conversations with ourselves. And the conversations that we have with ourselves can make or break our life experience. And think about that, think about someone you know who’s just negative, they’re just negative all the time. And they may have a great life and they might have, you know, right, like, if you were to look at their life, objectively, it’s like, hey, they’ve got it all. They have a lot to be grateful for. But they’re miserable, right? And that’s all a function of the mind. One of the things I’m fond of saying is stop storytelling. And that’s what I’m talking about, like, what are we doing in our mind, that really shifts our mindset that really, you know, moves us towards hopelessness instead of hope and confidence. And so that’s the third place.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:22
And so with that, right, what he says is when you combine the causes and the places, right, so the three causes and the three places, there are nine ways to make your life better, okay. And so what he does with this book is he’s really focusing on what you can do to make your life better relative to your mind, right? So he doesn’t really take on the world, because right, like, who knows what challenges will come up, and he doesn’t really take on the body, but he’s really focusing on the mind. And this is his reason for that. So he says, of all of these are important, but growing resources, so right, we want to have more resources to help us face life’s challenges. So he says, but growing resources in the mind has a unique power, it offers the greatest opportunity sense, you usually have more influence over your mind than over your body or world, right. And think about that, even if you feel like no, I’ve got control over my body, you can be hit with a devastating illness or diagnosis. And that belief that you have control of your body over your body is gone in an instant. And that and that happens to people sadly, every day. And so he really is drawing our attention to let’s build, let’s build inner strength resources using your mind because this is the greatest opportunity. He also says that the mind offers the greatest impact. Because obviously, we take our mind with us, everywhere we go. He says you can’t always count on the world, you can’t always count on other people. And you can’t even always count on your own body, right? We know that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:07
But this is his argument, you can count on durable inner strengths, hardwired into your nervous system. And this book is about growing them. So this is the mental game. This is the mental work that he’s really focusing on. And the cool thing about focusing on the mind is that it facilitates everything else, it helps you to be present and connected to your body, it helps you to be present and connected to the world. So that you can face life’s challenges, whether in your body or whether coming from external sources, with that grounded, rooted, calm and strength and happiness. So pretty powerful. And so you know, when he is talking about these mental resources, right, so working with the mind, so we think about mental resources like self, it’s like determination, self worth, and kindness, these mental resources that he’s going to be teaching us about, they are the foundation for helping us to be resilient. Right. And so when we think about resilience, we think about the ability to cope with adversity and push through challenges in the pursuit of opportunities. And I always like to think about it in pursuit of purpose, right, that we can have a Purpose Driven Life, despite the challenges that we may face. And so of course, resilience helps us to recover from loss and trauma is a big factor in that. But his argument is that resilience offers much more than that, and that’s a lot right. But what he says that is that true resilience, foster’s well being, an underlying sense of happiness, love, and peace. “So remarkably,” this is from the book, “as you internalize experiences of well being that builds inner strength, which in turn make you more resilient and so well being and resilience promote each other in an upward spiral.” Right. So just think about these roots are continually being strengthened.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:15
So most of us have had access to some of these mental resources in times at times in our lives, right. So we think about gratitude, we think about determination, think about a time where you really needed to have a lot of grit. Think about being the recipient of kindness, think about having compassion for others, right, these. So he, what he says is that, you know, the key and what really makes a difference for establishing and cultivating resilience is knowing how to turn passing experiences with some of these mental resources in to lasting inner resources built into your brain. Right. So, like I said, many of us have had passing experiences with gratitude and kindness and come Passion. But how do we bridge that over and really get that built into our brain? So this is where we think about neuroplasticity, right? And neuroplasticity is the flexibility of the brain it is and not physical flexibility, right? But it is the ability of the brain to learn and to grow, and to internalize and integrate learning over time, neuroplasticity is your friend, right? And so if we think about the all of the neural circuitry in your brain, right, I like to think of that as roads, right as trails as Super highways. And so whatever you are focusing on in your mind, right, that’s going to create a stronger neural circuitry in your brain. So if you are very critical, if you are judgmental, if you are hard on yourself, if you are right, if you are full of stories in your head about how you’re not good enough, and how you know, no one will love you. And you’ll never get that promotion. That creates circuitry in your brain that is a superhighway of negativity. It is a superhighway of criticism and judgment. And right that becomes the road you are stuck on. Whereas, you know, some of the mental resources that help to cultivate resilience, right? We think about kindness, we think about compassion, we think about generosity, right? Because you haven’t been focusing on those, those resources, those mental resources are small cow trails in your brain, right? Like, you can’t even see that there’s a trail there. Because what is true is that neurons that fire together, wire together. Now this comes from Donald Hebb. Who was a neuro psychologist. And basically what he’s talking about are these neural pathways, right, and how these neural pathways in the brain are formed and reinforced through repetition, right. And so if what’s happening in your mind is a steady stream of negativity, pessimism, self criticism, judgment, those neurons that fire together wire together. So what happens is, you get super highways of negativity in your brain because you’re continually repeating the firing of those neurons. And then, of course, you’re not firing neurons related to resilience, and to wellbeing, okay, and that’s a big problem, because then making changes in your life becomes very challenging, it becomes very difficult to see the bright side of things. And so his his point about this, neuroplasticity, and changing the brain, is that we have to there’s two steps that are critically important, right? It’s not enough just to have a positive experience, right? But you have to have the second part, which is converting these passing experiences into a lasting change in the nervous system.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:42
Okay, and so we really are talking about changing your brain, we’re really talking about neuroplasticity. And so what he says is we develop mental resources in two stages. First, we need to experience what we want to grow, such as feeling grateful, loved, or confident, right. So we, the first part is, is having these positive experiences. And then second, and critically important, that’s what the whole book is focused on, we must convert that passing experience into a lasting change in the nervous system. Okay, and what he says and I think he’s spot on with this. He says, “This is the central weakness in much positive psychology, human resources training, coaching, and psychotherapy, most of the beneficial experiences that people have are wasted on their brains.”
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:36
So let’s think about this. You do a great human resources training. Everyone has this awesome experience, right? They’re feeling gratitude, they’re feeling confidence, they’re feeling grit, whatever it may be, and then they leave the training, and there’s absolutely no follow up on it. So that passing experience just becomes a pleasant memory, rather than actually helping to change your brain. And so we really so right, if we think about that application to leadership trainings, human resource trainings, you have got to have follow up, you have got to have repetition, you have got to have accountability. Otherwise, it’s going to be wasted on your brain, right? Like you, you’ll still get something from that. But as far as facilitating effective change the the chances are very low that that will happen. Same thing is true with therapy, right? Or in coaching, like you have this powerful experience or this insight, in a coaching call or in a therapy session. And that is important, that’s very beneficial. But if you aren’t converting that passing experience into a lasting change in the nervous system, then you won’t actually change, right to be able to say, Okay, how am I? How am I relating to this experience differently. And so, what Hanson says is, it doesn’t take much effort to convert these passing experiences into effective brain change. In the end, he said, Actually, the most one of the most effective ways is just to do it in the flow of everyday life. And so he has lots of strategies to help you with this. And he, he encourages you to think about the way you must work your brain right to convert this convert this change and to build these mental resources is the same way you would work a muscle to change it for good. It’s lots of little efforts that add up over time. And you can write like when you make consistent efforts to challenge your thinking, to challenge self criticism, those sorts of things that over time, right, we’re rewiring your brain. And we’re we’re moving away from the superhighway of negativity. And we are starting to build a highway around resilience, which is what it’s all about.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:10
So for the structure of the book, I’m just going to share a couple more ideas. And this really gives you the umbrella for understanding the book and the concepts. And so you know, first of all, the The first thing to understand is resilience cultivates well being and well being cultivates resilience, right like these two work hand in hand. And throughout the book, Hanson talks about humans having three basic needs right now, this is well established in research. So the three basic needs of safety, satisfaction, and connection, right, that there’s so much evidence for these three basic needs, and that we move through our life trying to meet these basic needs. And so he talks about the fact that there are four major ways that we attempt to meet these three basic needs. So the first one is recognizing what’s true, which is awesome. I love that because one of the, you know, when I talk to people in clinical work, I say, I have one goal, and that is to help you live in your reality, right to stop denying it, to stop hiding from it, to stop running from it, but to live in your reality. And I think that that’s really what part of what Hansen means when he says recognizing what is true. The second major way we meet our needs is by resourcing ourselves. So what he means by that is by building these skills, right, that’s what he means by resourcing ourselves. Third is regulating thoughts, feelings and actions, right? keeping ourselves off that darn emotional roller coaster we have, right? If you think about the difference between a child and an adult, hopefully, is that adults have learned how to regulate their thoughts, feelings and actions. Think about a toddler, right? Like there’s very little emotional regulation happening for toddlers and think about adults, you know, who are not regulated, right? Like they’re always on an emotional roller coaster, or, you know, they’re a jerk to be around or they are always anxious, right? It’s because they have difficulty regulating their thoughts, feelings and actions. And that creates a domino effect of pain and of suffering, both for them and for those that they are in relationship with.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:41
So those are the first three recognizing what’s true, resourcing ourselves, regulating thoughts, feelings and actions, and for relating skillfully to others and the wider world, right, like we got to learn how to play nice in the sandbox. And this is all about relationships, right? Like How do we connect? How do we communicate? How do we listen? How do we show up for others. And so think about the three needs, and the four ways that we meet them. So what he says is that when we apply these four ways to meet our needs, to the three needs that we all have, that suggests 12, primary inner strengths. And so this gives you the structure of the book, The 12 primary strengths, each have their own chapter. And they’re focused on how do you meet your needs in these three areas. And so I’m just going to share with you the 12 primary inner strengths. So you know, and this can be a great book where you say, you know, what I’m going to spend one month on this chapter, I’m going to really work on cultivating this mental resource of, for example, grit. So there are so many great ways to use this book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:00
So let’s hear what those 12 primary inner strengths are compassion. So first of all, under recognizing, we have compassion, mindfulness and learning. Under resourcing, we have grit, gratitude, and confidence. Under regulating, we have calm motivation, and intimacy. And under relating, we have courage, aspiration, and generosity. So those are the 12 primary inner strengths. And again, each of them have their own chapters. And he speaks specifically about how those help you to meet your needs. This is a great book, I love this book, there’s so much rich material. And, you know, if I were to recommend this book to someone, right, so a coaching client, or even a clinical client, I would recommend that you read through the introduction, and then just pick one of those inner strengths that you want to strengthen and focus on that because 12 is a lot, and it can be overwhelming, but just focus in on one. So maybe it’s gratitude, and think about how you can strengthen that neural pathway related to gratitude. And as you do that, right, then you move on to another one, and cultivate that. And here’s the thing as you strengthen your neural pathways around these mental resources related to resilience, they build upon one another. So there’s an exponential growth over time. So it becomes a virtuous cycle, which is really great towards greater resilience and well being which is what we are after, right so we can live to purpose, and face life’s challenges.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:59
So I hope you will head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode. I’ll include a link to Rick Hansen’s website. I’ll include a link to the book, definitely check it out. It’s really great. He’s got wonderful, wonderful information for us and you can find all of that at www.drmelissasmith.com/resilientbook One more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/resilientbook. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai