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101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think

Brianna Wiest • Rating: 9 / 10
101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think

I don’t remember how I found this book, but I expected it to be a collection of real life stories, where each one leads to some sort of key realization or logical conclusion to teach me something.

This book isn’t that. It’s better.

It’s an encyclopedia of human’s thoughts and a guide on how to decipher them. It walks you through various experiences we run into daily and offers an alternative view on what they actually mean. Whether it’s love, relationships, anxieties, work, success or failure - this book has it covered.

”100 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think” is like a dictionary of emotions. I can feel or think about something, find the relevant chapter and dive into a treasure trove of insights to understand myself better.

I enjoyed reading Brianna’s creation thoroughly and can certainly recommend you to pick up a copy. The reason I gave it a 9 is because it’s so freaking packed with interesting information, I had to constantly stop reading and capture quotes from almost every page! Good thing I saved them all here, otherwise I’d never be able to remember everything this book was trying to teach me.

My notes

When things don’t work out the way you want them to, you think you’ve failed only because you didn’t re-create something you perceived as desirable, In reality, you likely created something better, but foreign, and your brain misinterpreted it as “bad” because of that.

You extrapolate the present moment because you believe that success is somewhere you “arrive,” so you are constantly trying to take a snapshot of your life and see if you can be happy yet.

You must learn to let your conscious decisions dictate your day—not your fears or impulses. An untamed mind is a minefield. With no regulation, focus, base or self-control, anything can persuade you into thinking you want something that you don’t actually.

You feel content because routine consistently reaffirms a decision you already made. If said decision is that you want to write a book—and you commit to doing three pages each night for however long it takes to complete it—you affirm not only your choice to begin, but your ability to do it. It’s honestly the healthiest way to feel validated.

The fastest way to sound unintelligent is to say, “This idea is wrong.” (That idea may be wrong for you, but it exists because it is right to someone else.) Intelligent people say, “I don’t personally understand this idea or agree with it.”

Have you ever felt joy for more than a few minutes? What about anger? No? How about tension, depression, and sadness? Those have lasted longer, haven’t they? Weeks and months and years at a time, right? That’s because those aren’t feelings. They are symptoms.

Because your numbness isn’t feeling nothing, it’s feeling everything, and never having learned to process anything at all. Numbness is not nothing, neutral is nothing. Numbness is everything at once.

Trying to change how you feel is like finding a road sign that points in the opposite direction of where you had intended to go and getting out to try to turn the sign, rather than your course of action.

When you choose to value having other people’s accep. tance over your own, you accept a fate of battling your instincts to assimilate to the needs of other people’s egos. In the meantime, a world and lifetime of listening, leaning, allowing, following, perceiving, feeling, and experiencing…constantly eludes you. Sadness will not kill you. Depression won’t, either. But fighting it will. Ignoring it will. Trying to escape it rather than confront it will. Denying it will. Suffocating it will. Allowing it no place to go other than your deep subconscious to embed and control you will. Not that you’ll take your life or destroy everything “good” you do receive (though you might). But it will kill you in that it will rob you of every bit of life you do have: You either let yourself feel everything or numb yourself into feeling nothing. You cannot select emotions. You are either in accord with their flow or in resistance to their nature. In the end, the choice is yours.

Most people don’t want to be happy, which is why they aren’t. They just don’t realize this is the case.

Nobody wants to believe happiness is a choice, because that puts responsibility in their hands. It’s the same reason people self-pity: to delay action, to make an outcry to the universe, as though the more they state how bad things are, the more likely it is that someone else will change them.

Eric Greitens says that there are three primary forms of happiness: the happiness of pleasure, the happiness of grace, and the happiness of excellence. He compares them to the primary colors, the basis on which the entire spectrum is created.

Just as removing one of the primary colors would make many others impossible (without yellow, you could not have any shade of green) without any one of these happinesses, it is almost impossible to thrive. One cannot replace another. They are all necessary. But we try anyway.

You convince yourself that any given moment is representative of your life as a whole. Because we’re wired to believe that success is somewhere we get to —when goals are accomplished and things are completed.

To drink in excess, for example the happiness of pleasure is common when the happiness of excellence isn’t being pursued. But it is not, and will never be, the solution. “Lots and lots of red will never make blue. Pleasures will never make you whole.”

Moving yourself past resistance is a matter of shifting your perception of comfort. It’s about considering the alternative. It’s altering your mindset to focus on the discomfort you will face if you don’t do the thing in front of you, as opposed to the discomfort you will face if you do.

If left unchecked, the knowing-doing gap will leave you a shell of the person you intended to be. It will wreck your most intimate, passionate relationships, keep you from the kind of daily productivity required to achieve any goal worth working toward. It will keep you in a manic state of indecision (do I, or don’t I? Which feeling do I let guide me?). You have to take control for yourself, and you can do so by considering the big picture. The alternative. The way your life will be if you don’t do this thing.

How will you quantifiably measure this year? What will you have done? How many hours will you have wasted? If you had to live today —or any average day—on repeat for the rest of your life, where would you end up? What would you accomplish? How happy would you be? What relationships will you have fostered? Will you be looking back knowing you likely damn well missed out on what could have been the love of your life because you weren’t “ready?” What about the hours you could have been playing music or writing or painting or whatever-ing? Where will those have gone? You will never be ready for the things that matter, and waiting to feel ready before you start acting is how the knowing-doing gap widens. It’s uncomfortable to work, to stretch the capacity of your tolerance, to be vulnerable with someone you care deeply about, but it is never more comfortable than going your whole life without the things you really want.

Anxiety builds in our idle hours. Fear and resistance thrive when we’re avoiding the work. Most things aren’t as hard or as trying as we chalk them up to be. They’re ultimately fun and rewarding and expressions of who we really are. That’s why we want them. Taking small steps will remind you that this is true. It will soothe you in a way that just thinking about taking action never will. It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking rather than think your way into a new way of acting, so do one little thing today and let the momentum build. And thank whatever force within you that knows there’s something bigger for you—the one that’s pushing you to be comfortable with less.

The real question is what work are you willing to do even if nobody claps? What will be worthwhile if it goes unacknowledged? How will you feel loved by a few people if you aren’t recognized by many? Finding the exceptional in the ordinary is the real extraordinary.

If you work on yourself enough, you’ll understand what the struggle is for.

You will not be ready when the love of your life comes along. You also probably won’t be ready when you see the listing for your dream job, or to buy a house or maybe have a kid or maybe quit that job and try to write the book you keep thinking about or get sick or lose a relative or die yourself. If you wait on the feeling of “readiness,” you’ll be waiting forever, and worse, you’ll miss the best of what’s in front of you.

People postpone their happiness to keep themselves safe. They dig for another problem to have to solve, another obstacle to overcome, another passageway until they can feel the happiness they know is in their lives. You cannot save up your happiness; you can either feel it in the moment, or you miss it. It’s that simple. It’s temporary regardless. The only variable is whether or not you ever felt it in the first place.

If you’re wondering “what you should do with your life,” it’s likely that you’re in the limbo between realizing you don’t want what you once did, and giving yourself permission to want what you want now.

There is nowhere to “arrive” to. The only thing you’re rushing toward is death. Accomplishing goals is not success. How much you expand in the process is.

Thinking you know what you’re “doing with your lite quells your hunger. It soothes your mind with the illusion that your path is laid out before you, and that you no longer have to choose, which is another way to say, you’re no longer responsible for becoming the person you want and need to be.

So fuck knowing what you’re “going to do with your life.” What are you doing today? Who do you love? What intrigues you? What would you do today if you could be anyone you wanted? If social media didn’t exist? What do you want to do this weekend?

We take past emotions and project them onto situations that are in our current lives. This is to say, unless we heal what happened in the past, we’re always going to be controlled by it. Furthermore, our irrational fears and most severe day-today anxieties can be traced back to a cause, which needs to be addressed to effectively stop the effect.

You’ll most want to try to make changes to your life when you’re consumed by emotion, but that’s the worst time to do so. Do not make decisions when you’re upset. Let yourself come back down to neutral first.

You’ll most want to try to make changes to your life when you’re consumed by emotion, but that’s the worst time to do so. Do not make decisions when you’re upset. Let yourself come back down to neutral first.

Do not live in the grey area when answers are available.

When you ask other people for advice on whatever you’re worrying about, first ask yourself what you hope they’ll say. That’s what you want to tell yourself.

Recognize that when you’re lost, you’re also free. When you have to start over, you get to pick better. If you don’t like yourself, you have a chance to fall in love with yourself. Don’t stand in front of the road sign forever; map a new path.

Fucking try. Honestly, seriously, try. Put your everything into the work you have. Be kind to people when they don’t deserve it. You’ll have a lot less energy to worry with when you’re funneling it into things that are really worthwhile.

The single most powerful, liberating thing any one of us can do is choose to believe that everything is here to help us.

You either see yourself as a victim of what happens to you, or as someone given opportunity to change, grow, see differently, and expand. You either see uncomfortable feelings as suffering you have to deal with or signals you have to learn from. You either see the world as something makes you feel, or you see your interpretation of the world as a projection of your feelings.

You’ve accomplished things you thought would make you happy and immediately shifted them from “goals” to “notches on the belt.” Once you achieved something, you immediately started to think of it as “another thing done” rather than “another thing in my life to enjoy.”

Bad feelings should not always be interpreted as deterrents. They are also indicators that you are doing something frightening and worthwhile. Not wanting to do something would make you feel indifferent about it. Fear = interest.

“For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit…If you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Getting unstuck is realizing that you were never stuck in the first place; you only stopped to ask yourself, “Is this what I’m here for?”

If you were to tell your younger self what your life is like now, they’d be in disbelief. You seriously could not have imagined that your life would turn out as well as it did-that the worst things became turning points, not endless black holes of emotion.

People who never get anything done wait to feel inspired. Motivation and inspiration are not sustaining forces. They crop up once in a while, and they’re nice while they’re present, but you can’t expect to be able to summon them any given hour of the day. You must learn to work without them, to gather your strength from purpose, not passion.

Anger is a good emotion; that is, when you finally figure out that you’re not mad at the world —you’re mad at yourself. This is usually what happens right before change is going to be made.

Anger’s younger siblings—dissatisfaction, resentment, irritation, self-pity, etc. —are unpleasant but not disturbing enough to make you act. Anger makes you act. It burns through you and delivers you somewhere new.

You’re giving up on the things you need to give up on. Tou’re not giving up on your dreams. You’re not giving up on your relationship. You are simply giving up on the idea that these things will be something more than what they are. You are giving up on what’s not right for you. You’re learning that “giving up” is such a negative term for something that’s really healthy when necessary.

Think about what makes you feel the most jealous. The things that make us the most jealous and envious are usually the things that we feel we’re not living up to within ourselves.

Were jealous of the successful writer not because we also want to be lauded, but because we know we’re not doing the work to get there.

Being truly at peace requires realizing that everything is for the best. Everything in your life does one of three things: shows you to yourself, heals a part of yourself, or lets you enjoy a part of yourself. If you adopt that perspective, there’s nothing left to fear.

The only way you grow is by stepping into the unknown. It’s why so many people have “breakdown before breakthrough” moments. Often, their lives are leading them to better possibilities than they thought possible; they just didn’t know it was “good” at the time.

You needlessly create problems and crises in your life because you’re afraid of actually living it. The pattern of unnecessarily creating crises in your life is actually an avoidance technique. It distracts you from actually having to be vulnerable or held accountable for whatever it is you’re afraid of. You’re never upset for the reason you think you are: At the core of your desire to create a problem is simply the fear of being who you are and living the life you want.

Most people don’t change until not changing is the less comfortable option. But there’s usually a long period of time of increasing discomfort before “not changing” is the worst-case scenario. The universe whispers until it screams, and happy people listen while the call is still quiet.

Anxiety is usually bred out of inaction. We were born to actualize our potential, not just analyze it. Binge thinking is what happens when introspection becomes a means of avoiding a problem. Critically evaluating your life is supposed to facilitate living it, not the other way around.

Passion is the spark that lights the fire; purpose is the kindling that keeps it burning all night.

Nobody ever got anything from wanting it badly enough.

Take $150K in loans to study something you “love” for 5+ years, but not be able to move out/travel/get married/have kids/work a job you actually like because you’re drowning in debt for the next 30. That’s what passion does.

Or rather, that’s what passion does when it’s not married to logic. That’s what unbridled feelings will do when they aren’t stopped by thought and understanding. That’s what happens when you believe your emotions rather than questioning their origins.

Passion is the easy way, the cut corner, the half-assed route to the life you want to live. As with all things passion is born of, it can only sustain an idea, not a reality.

What is worth suffering for? Everything is hard in some way. It’s hard to be in the wrong relationship. It’s hard to be in the right one. It’s hard to be broke and miserable, it’s hard to achieve your dreams. It’s hard to be stuck in the middle, not really feeling anything at all. Everything is hard, but you choose your hard. You choose what’s worth it. You don’t choose whether or not you’ll suffer, but you do choose what you want to suffer for.

The number of relationships you’ve had the courage to end. The easy way out is to stay. The comforting idea is to settle. The liberation is how many times you reach for something more even though you can’t conceive of what that could be. That unnamable feeling is the mark of a good life.

A good life is not measured by what you do, it’s about what you are. Not how many people you loved, but how much. It has nothing to do with how well things turn out or how seamlessly the plan is followed. It’s about the bits of magic you stumble upon when you dive off path. It’s not about the things that didn’t work out; it’s about what you learn when they don’t. Those bits and pieces, awakenings and knowledge, are what build and make you able to perceive things greater than you can currently imagine. A good life is not how it adds up in the end, but what you’re counting along the way.

So many people get caught up in allowing the past to define them or haunt them simply because they have not evolved to the place of seeing how the past did not prevent them from achieving the life they want, it facilitated it.

If you are making a choice that you can only feel good about when you back up with a list of “because,” you’re not really listening to what you want.

I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a god so worshipped and adored as a dollar bill.

I often look around at older people and wonder how we’ve confused “respecting your elders” with allowing them to believe it’s okay to stop learning after age 23 and let them sit and fester in the prejudices of the generation in which they were raised.

You lose a thing, you replace it with something else, it’s better than what you lost, you’re happy. You lose a thing, it doesn’t disappear when it’s replaced, not having it becomes as much of a presence as having it was.

I think most people could objectively look at their lives and see how frequently the problems they had were of their own making, their suffering self-inflicted. We absolutely love to make problems for ourselves, and we do it all the time.

And we do it because we love it. There’s something…fun… in making problems for ourselves. There is something we keep returning to. Whether it be because we feel we deserve it, that it gives our lives meaning, that it gives us human credibility for having been through something anything—we want to create our own problems. Because when we are the ones who make them, we are the ones who can overcome them. It seems we almost stage accomplishments in our minds.

A sad but important thing to know about humans is that they don’t change until not changing is the less comfortable option.

Learn to live your life more than you’re inclined to sit around wondering about it. You can’t reflect your way into a new existence, but you can think yourself into paralysis.

“Fat is not a thing you are, it is a thing you have, and even if that weren’t the case…ven it I were fat, who gives a fuck?”

The universe whispers until it screams. Your body whispers until it screams. “Bad” feelings are not meant to be staved off. They are not meant to be inconveniencing. They are you, or something greater than you, telling yourself: Something is not right.

The way to measure a good life is by how much you still want to change it, which is proportionate to how much you inherently know it can be better.

The things you love about others are the things you love about yourself. The things you hate about others are the things you cannot see in yourself.

The number of things that you lost and learned how to not attach to anymore. The number of moments in which you were almost at the end of your capacity, only to find that there was another ocean’s worth once you were pushed beyond the surface.

If you do anything compulsively, ask yourself why. Stop trying to curb your spending or change your diet or avoid that one person or lash out at innocent people you love. Look for the cause of the feeling (not just the feeling itself), and you’ll fix the problem for good.

Nobody ever got anything from just wanting it badly enough. You have to want it badly enough to sacrifice, and to work hard, become qualified, keep your head up through tons of rejection and doubt, and then rinse/repeat for as long as it takes.

Being busy is what happens when people are ill equipped to manage their stress. People who actually have a lot to do focus on getting it done simply because they don’t have another choice.

Adulthood is “hard.” There are lots of things that are challenging and heartbreaking and trying in life, but learning how to perform basic functions is not one of them.

Your purpose is just to be here and to do whatever job you find yourself doing. You don’t have to be consciously changing the world to fulfill it.

You can accept your circumstances (acknowledge they are real) while still disliking them strongly: You don’t have to like everything, but if you want to preserve your sanity, you have to accept whatever comes into your life before you can change it.

“People are ruminating on the embarrassing stuff you did five years ago.” They’re busy ruminating on their own stuff the same way you are. (Are you thinking about things other people did over the years to any significant degree? It’s unlikely.)

Leave if you have to leave. There is rarely an excuse to remain with people who don’t love or accept you. There are ways to survive. There are second jobs and extra hours and rooms that kind people are willing to rent or share. But these things are reserved for the people who place their mental well-being over immediate convenience. These are reserved for the people who deserve them and who know they deserve a space or room or home or apartment in which they decide what is and is not acceptable for their lives.

Unfortunately, nothing and nobody can hand you your happiness. Fortunately, nothing and nobody can take it away. You’d want to write that one off as the oldest mind trick in the book, and yet. But still. We’re still seeking, even though we know better.

Whatever you want your day-to-day life to consist of doesn’t matter, the point is that you decide and then stick to it. In short, routine is important because habitualness creates mood, and mood creates the “nurture” aspect of your personality, not to mention that letting yourself be jerked around by impulsiveness is a breeding ground for everything you essentially do not want.

Ir you knes time in your life was lite was on their way, and that this time in your life was only temporary, what would you do with the nights you have alone? What would you invest your efforts in? Writing your book or scrolling through Facebook? Developing relationships with friends or envying people who have love? Learning to meditate or taking a swig of wine every time you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable?

Byron Katie speaks to this beautifully: “Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.” She is referring, of course, to our minds, and the fact that we don’t realize to turn inward until we dig ourselves deep enough into a dark hole of trying to change what’s outward. Your mind is the lens through which you perceive the world. You must adjust its focus to change your life, not the opposite way around.

There is no traumatic experience that is ever a completely singular event. There is no heartbreak that is ever just the cause of one thing. It’s the pattern. I’s what the loss compounds on. It’s the final hit that breaks us open, the moment when we realize that we knew what was true all along, though something prevented us from heeding the calls early on. That is what we break through when we break open. How beautiful, to live in a body and world that allows you to explore the darkness, but pains you when it’s time to come back. How wild that nobody tells us about this until we’re in it, or already almost too far gone.

There’s so much more in a life than just feeling content all the time. The most important things you’ll experience will have little to do with your happiness. They’ll be about suffering, and heartbreak, and joy, and panic, and fear, and love, and what you come out as having been through those things. You will not remember the days when you were just “okay” and “happy.” You will remember the moments of joy, and the pangs of ache, and the things that were defining and changing and miraculous and incredible and made you feel alive. Stop numbing your life because you’re afraid of yourself. The only beast there is to tame is the one who doesn’t want to really live.

You probably can’t be whatever you want, but if you’re really lucky and you work really hard, you can be exactly who you are. …Which is all most people ever want, anyway. Grandiose visions of being something spectacular—and spectacularly removed from someone’s skill set and personality, etc.—can be measured in proportion to how much they feel they are lacking. The funny reality is that people who accomplish incredible things never think of them as incredible; they think of them as normal. It’s that integration into “normalcy” that makes it a pattern, which makes it a routine, which makes it a habit, which ultimately makes it a product. That drive and consistency is born of one thing and one thing only: doing something in alignment with who you truly are. It is a privi lege, albeit an extraordinary challenge, to awaken to yourself Even more so is to have someone who loves that person, job that utilizes that person, and a life that fully realizes tha person, even if you denied them along the way.

There is no way you will be able to predict or plan what will be happening in 5 years from now. If you can predict and plan for that, dream bigger. Try harder.

If you want to change your life, stop thinking about how you feel lost and start coming up with actions you can take that move you in a direction— any direction-that’s positive. It’s a lot harder to think your way into a new way of acting than it is to act your way into a new way of thinking.

At any given time, you’re mostly just concerned with how one or (maybe two) people perceive you. Those people also tend to be the ones who we feel unaccepted by in one way or another. We’re trying to prove something. Were worried about who will see us in an unflattering way and report it back to them. They’re usually the almost-relationships, slightly disapproving parents, certain someones who we’ve dreamt of impressing for years on end. Were incapable of having our lives revolve around more than a few people at a time, even if it seems like we’re worried about “people” as a whole. Try to put a face to that worry every time one crops up and you’ll find that the faceless crowd of people is really just one or two who are very, very familiar to you.

There is no such thing as letting go; there’s just accepting what’s already gone. There’s losing ourselves in the labyrinth of the illusion of control and finding joy in the chaos, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s not forever. It only remains as long as we hold on. As long as we fight. As long as we control. As long as we don’t accept what’s already gone.

The most important thing is that you do what makes you happy-and that you understand that your happiness is your choice and your responsibility alone. It is not a day or a job or a relationship or a change away, it’s right now. The only work to do is to remove the blocks that prevent you from living it out. The only change that has to happen is to you.

Your habits create your mood, and your mood is a filter through which you experience your life.

it’s not one thought that throws us into a tizzy: It’s the pattern of continually experiencing that thought that compounds its effect and makes it seem valid.

Our inner demons strike us at our sore spots. They recite to us all the things that we fear people will interpret us to be.

The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection. The same is true for anxiety. Anxiety is being disconnect ed from the present moment, other people, or yourself. Usually all three. You must reconnect with your life.

If you can’t figure out what you really want, look straight at your deepest fears. What’s on the other side of them? That’s what you want.

You can change how you feel. This is something you must remember. It’s as simple as: “I want to feel differently about this, so I am going to focus on a different aspect of it.”

Don’t trust all of your feelings. Conventional wisdom says to, but that’s insane considering how many of those feelings stem from irrational thoughts and past experiences and so on. If you blindly trust all of your feelings, you will be thrown around by them constantly. Decide which ones mean something and which don’t.

Utilize the most powerful growing tool of all: “future-self work.” If you’re on the fence about kids, imagine your life at 75. Do you want your own family around you, or are you okay on your own? Imagine your life in three years from now. Will you be happy you didn’t try harder in that relationship, or that you didn’t save any money, or that you wasted your time watching Netflix when you could have been writing the book or starting the business or playing music like you really want to? Imagine your life from the perspective of the person you hope to be. It will place many things back into alignment.