Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sample chapter - The Beginner’s Guide to Life: The Scientific and Spiritual Guide to a Profoundly Happy and Purposeful Life

Here is a little piece of my new book, "The Beginner’s Guide to Life: The Scientific and Spiritual Guide to a Profoundly Happy and Purposeful Life." If you've been reading this blog, or listening to the radio show (Guide To Self on KDIA 1640 AM Monday through Friday at 5 pm), I am certain you'll enjoy it. If you'd like to view the whole complimentary 70 page sample introduction and chapter, simply click here to download it.

Here it is...

Throughout the world, there is a movement underfoot. It is a movement of millions of people, each of whom seeks meaning in their life. People are searching for a profound happiness which blends science with spirituality. The very purpose, the primary goal, of our life is to move towards happiness.

Yet, in my doctoral program in psychology at U.C. Berkeley, I was taught that the best we could hope for was to help clients move from neurotic suffering to normal surviving. Most of us are consumed with merely addressing our weaknesses and the causes. When mental health workers talk about mental health, wellness or well-being, they are merely speaking of the absence of symptoms, disease or distress. For years, it seems as if the goal for which we've been told to strive is simply remaining free of negative symptoms.

Only recently have we started to focus on what is right with us, what our strengths are, and how we can systematically go about developing those strengths in order to build a happy and meaningful life. This book is intended to lay out the steps necessary to create a life of profound and purposeful happiness.

The latest research published in 2004 and 2005 shows that all of us can move from surviving to thriving. In fact, it is becoming clear that there are six areas of life that must be mastered for a life of true happiness and meaning. Research done in the past five years make a compelling case for the notion that these key areas include a powerful spiritual life, management of emotions, positive thinking, physical fitness, clear values, and supportive relationships.

This book lays out the six areas that serve as the foundation for a truly happy and meaningful life as proven by research and numerous counseling sessions. “The Beginner’s Guide” walks the reader through a straightforward approach to spirituality, physical health, mental well-being, values and healthy relationships. “The Beginner’s Guide” lays out a six stage approach to living life in a purposeful and peaceful way.

This approach has been proven to be highly successful with counseling clients as well as coaching clients on the Guide To Self radio show, including one gentleman who lost every item he owned in Hurricane Katrina. The approach replaces emptiness, exhaustion and depression with purpose, pride and contentment.

The six areas which the book explains in detail are:

1. Emotional– manage destructive feelings; cultivate positive feelings
2. Mental– positive thoughts lead to positive emotions; challenge your negative, Gremlin thinking
3. Relational – identify and handle life leeches; improve boundaries and communication
4. Physical – guidelines for physical health, the foundation of all energy
5. Ethical – identify top seven values so reader can behave in accordance with them
6. Spiritual – believe in and have a personal, daily relationship with a higher power.

As readers learn to hone and balance each of these six areas, they will enjoy an increasingly positive outlook and a purposeful life.

Similar to Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, which spells out the basics of the new positive psychology, “The Beginner’s Guide” will show readers step-by-step how to manage their thoughts and feelings to realize their potential. In addition, “The Beginner’s Guide” takes a holistic approach to life, incorporating the physical, spiritual, and relational into the framework as well as the mental and emotional.

The author, John Schinnerer, Ph.D., is a renowned psychologist out of U.C. Berkeley whose experience with thousands of counseling and coaching clients has taught him that there is much more to counseling than mere thoughts and emotions.

It is Dr. Schinnerer’s goal in this book to show readers how to become exceptional human beings, inspiring them to take charge of their own feelings, thoughts and actions, ultimately resulting in more happiness. The goal is to do all this while being entertaining and humorous.

While seeming to be revolutionary, Dr. Schinnerer’s message is clear: You are far more powerful than you ever dared to dream. You can have a profound impact on your happiness.

The following is an excerpt from the introduction...

At the age of 27, while working towards my Ph.D. I found myself as an intern in charge of the psychological needs of a school of 600. At that time, I was still attending classes. I was testing and diagnosing children as fast as I could work. As part of my job, I ran a number of counseling groups for troubled students.

At every school, I was given the boys with the worst behavior problems in the school. One middle school group was made up of eight boys each of whom was roughly 12 years old. I saw them once a week and chatted with them about things they liked to talk about. I created a connection with them. We had a rapport.

Middle school is interesting because the social hierarchy is so clearly delineated by the age of 11. There is a pecking order. There are the cool kids, the geeks, the outcasts, the skaters and so on. And even within this group of 8 boys, there was a pecking order.

Now the student at the bottom of the pecking order, let’s call him Todd, was the most impulsive of the lot. Todd couldn’t stay in his chair, couldn’t keep his whole body still for more than 5 seconds to save his life. He lacked social skills. He was always getting in fights with other kids because his mouth would go in motion before his mind caught up. He’d insult a bigger, older student and wind up getting the snot beat out of him every week. The other students teased him mercilessly causing a gradual build up of anger within him.

One day, I was running the group as usual and the boys were more stirred up than usual. When I run a group, I try to give the students a different view of adults than what they typically get – disgust, contempt, and punishment. So I try to be relaxed, calm, and caring with them. On this day, Todd was wound up more tightly than normal. Towards the end of the session, Todd sprung out of his chair, hopped a table and ran towards me. As he closed on me, he made a fist and took a swing at my face. I did not make any attempt to stop him. Todd’s fist stopped an inch from my nose.

Apparently, he had some self-control after all.

So I had a choice. Do I send him to the vice-principal’s office for discipline or do I take a risk and treat him differently than every other adult in his life? Rather than send him to the vice-principal for discipline, I told him to take his seat or return to his class. He chose to take his seat.
I turned to the group and asked them, “Okay, now what just happened?” The students were stunned. It took a few minutes to get them to talk about it. Eventually, they said they saw Todd take a swing at me and I did nothing to respond. They said they had never seen anything like it. In their world, anger was always met with anger. It was inconceivable to respond any other way, until that moment.

Over the next two years, I received calls from nearly every one of those boys’ mothers to inquire about private individual counseling. That day had an impact on how those boys viewed the world around them.

Despite my ability to stifle my own emotions in stressful situations, despite my psychological training, I struggled to stay on an even emotional keel day-to-day. It took me several years to find ways to train my thoughts, and release harmful emotions.

After studying the latest in research on the mind-body connection, positive psychology, spirituality, physical health, and relationships, I found tools and attitudes to help enable me to remain calm amidst the emotional hurricanes brought on by my clients and my children.

Within the past five years, my family became easy to love. This was in stark contrast to the frustration and irritability that my wife and three children used to cause me years ago. So what changed? I did. I changed my outlook from pessimistic to optimistic. I improved my physical health. I learned how to get rid of unwanted anger, sadness and fear. I discovered how to relax and enjoy life. I stopped my negative, self-defeating, punitive thoughts and replaced them with nurturing and supportive ones. I reduced my contact with life leeches, the people who constantly suck you dry of energy. I began speaking to God more frequently. I slowed my pace down. And I learned to smile more easily.

Despite having everything, I used to be irritable and somewhat moody. When I became sad, I would stay down for days or even weeks at a time. When something made me angry, I could not shake the anger. Fear gripped me much of the time. People scared me. My muscles were always tense. I never took a deep breath. It was like my emotional gas tank was filled to the brim with negative energy.

From the outside, everything looked fine. On the inside, I was drowning. I tried everything to escape from my perfect façade of a life – drinking, counseling, overachieving, medication, meditation, education – and none of it worked. These did not work because none of them addressed my life as a whole. They were a shotgun approach to a complex problem – the problem of human existence.

Now, things are different. My patience has grown. I find joy in life’s little nuances. I live in the present. I am more authentic in the sense that my outer appearance is an accurate reflection of my inner state. I am passionate yet peaceful in my own skin.

Most importantly, there are proven ways in which you too can build up your inner reservoir of energy to become more resilient, more balanced, and more content.

You can read the whole 70 page complimentary intro and chapter by clicking here.

Copyright Guide To Self 2005. All rights reserved.


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