Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) – Chade-Meng Tan

Here are my comments on the book:

 How do you become happier, reduce stress, and become more mindful? Chade-Meng Tan, former software engineer at Google, states that happiness is found within through various exercises. Prior to writing this book, Tan founded the Search Inside Yourself program at Google with the allocated 20% creative use time allowed by Google where he helped his colleagues increase their happiness level and decrease their stress. That program then lead to the creation of this book where he outlines the various methods and techniques on ways to increase your happiness and lower stress through simple things as meditation, setting an intention, breathing, and being more present. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. Learn to become more present in what you’re doing. Nowadays with so many distractions and obligations, it’s challenging to just stay focused on a single thing at a time which can lead to a feeling of overwhelm and chaos. Learning to become more present will increase your emotional awareness, control, and ability to focus. You can start doing this by brining your attention and focusing on your breathing. In my classes, after explaining some of the theory and brain science behind mindfulness, I offer two ways to experience a taste of mindfulness: the Easy Way and the Easier Way. The creatively named Easy Way is to simply bring gentle and consistent attention to your breath for two minutes. That’s it. Start by becoming aware that you are breathing, and then pay attention to the process of breathing. Every time your attention wanders away, just bring it back very gently. The Easier Way is, as its name may subtly suggest, even easier. All you have to do is sit without agenda for two minutes. Life really cannot get much simpler than that. The idea here is to shift from ‘doing’ to ‘being,’ whatever that means to you, for just two minutes. Just be. To make it even easier, you’re free to switch between the Easy Way and the Easier Way anytime during these two minutes. Any time you feel like you want to bring awareness to breathing, just switch to Easy. Any time you decide you’d rather just sit without agenda, just switch to Easier. No questions asked. This simple exercise is mindfulness practice. If practiced often enough, it deepens the inherent calmness and clarity in the mind. It opens up the possibility of fully appreciating each moment in life, every one of which is precious. It is for many people, including myself, a life-changing practice. Imagine – something as simple as learning to just be can change your life.


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2. Incorporate some sort of meditation in your life. Not only does meditation reduce stress levels, but it also helps you to sleep better. I watched a video of Shawn Stevenson talk about ways to get better sleep and in the video one of the points was to include some form of meditation in your morning ritual. His findings is that those who meditated in the mornings were better able to sleep at night. Not sure where to begin? Find some videos on YouTube. The implication of this insight is that there is no such thing as a bad meditation. For many of us, when we meditate, we find our attention wanders away from our breath a lot, and we keep having to bring it back, and then we think we’re doing it all wrong. In fact, this is a good exercise because every time we bring a wandering attention back, we are giving our muscles of attention an opportunity for growth. A second similarity between exercise and meditation is they can both change the quality of your life. If you never exercise and put yourself on a regular exercise regime, a few weeks or months later, you may find many significant changes in yourself. You will have more energy, you can get more stuff done, you get sick less often, you look better in the mirror, and you just feel great about yourself. The same is true for meditation. After a few weeks or months of starting a regular meditation regime, you have more energy; your mind becomes calmer, clearer, and more joyful; you get sick less; you smile more; your social life improves (because you smile more); and you feel great about yourself. And you don’t even need to sweat.


3. Those who feel that they have locus of control tend to be happier than those who don’t. Find ways to take back control in your life. The more in control you are of things, the less stress you will have. In your daily life I’m quite positive you encounter certain situations or there are circumstances where you may feel like you don’t have control over it. That’s not entirely true as YOU have full control over your emotions and no one has control over that. “Autonomy is the perception of exerting control over one’s environment. According to Steve Mair, ‘the degree of control that organisms can exert over something that creates stress determines whether the stressor alters the organism’s functioning. In other words, it’s not the stress itself that gets to you; it’s the feeling of helplessness in the face of that stress. One study, for example, shows that low-level British civil servants have more stress-related health problems than senior executives, even though the latter are known to be under a lot more stress.


4. Do you ever feel like you can’t learn something because you’re “too old” or because you’re not good at certain things. That’s not necessarily true as science has proven that our brains are like plastic in the sense that they can be molded (make new neuro-connections). There used to be a notion that your brain stops learning after a certain age, however, our brains continuously create new connections as long as you’re learning. No one should ever make the excuse that you can’t learn something because it’s been scientifically proven that’s not the case. Emotional intelligence is trainable, even in adults. This claim is based on a fairly new branch of science known as ‘neuroplasticity.’ The ideas is that what we think, do, and pay attention to changes the structure and function of our brains. A very interesting example of this comes from drivers of traditional black cabs in London. To get a license to drive that cabs, you need to navigate the twenty-five thousand streets of London and all its points of interest in your head. This is a difficult test that can take two to four years of intense training to prepare for. Research has shown that the part of the brain associated with memory and spacial navigation, the hippocampus, is bigger and more active in London cabbies than in the average person. More interestingly, the longer someone has been driving a cab in London, the larger and more active her hippocampus. One very important implication of neuroplasticity is that we can intentionally change our brains with training.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


My rating:
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Check out the book here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK


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1 Comment

  1. […] a source of happiness; extract more feelings from the task that you’re doing. In the book Search Inside Yourself by Chade Meng-Tan, he talks about how true happiness can be found within and staying focused in […]


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