Customer Reviews: The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self
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on November 9, 2012
I rarely see the point in giving something a three-star review. It basically tells readers that the book, CD or movie is "average," so what's the point?
However, this book has a lot of plusses, as well as some "not-so-plusses," so I figured that a review might be of use to people to decide whether they would find the book to be of value or not.
On the "not so plus" side, the book is basically "Self-Help 101." In other words, if you are new to self-help books, then most of what is in this book will be new to you. However, if you are a "veteran" of such books, you will find very little new information or insights in this book. In fact, the author cites hundreds of journal studies. This isn't necessary a bad thing. The only problem is that, if you've read many self-help books before, you will recognize dozens of these studies. They are the exact same ones that hundreds of authors have cited before in hundreds of other books. (You probably have a lot of these studies memorized.)
On the plus side, there are a few new and interesting insights, most of which are contained in the first couple of chapters. After that, though, in the remaining chapters, it's pretty much "more of the same" that you've read in every other self-help book over the years.
Where the book really shines, though, is in the compassion that literally exudes from every page. It is obvious that this author is genuinely a caring and loving individual, with a great deal of compassion for his patients in specific, and people in general. As a result, by the time you are finished reading the book, you may not have learned anything intellectually, but you do end up with a really warm feeling - a true emotional high.
So, if you're new to self-help books, this book "clicks" on all counts.
If you are a veteran of self-help books, you may not learn much new information (no need to keep a pen and pad of paper handy), but you WILL feel really good by the end of the book.
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We all grew up listening to fairy tales. For the most part, the story plot provided a dilemma, a solution and usually ended with "and they all lived happily ever after." I think we came to believe that after reaching certain points in life, after completing school, getting married, establishing a career, we would enjoy the fairy tale of living happily ever after.

For most of us, it did not take too long to realize that was not the way life is. While our innate drive is to seek to maximize happiness, for the most part we are not given very good directions. For a time we were led to believe that achieving certain materialistic goals would bring the happiness we longed for. But we soon learned that no matter what material goals we achieve, we soon habituate to them - the new wears off and their ability to satisfy us diminishes.

Clearly we need a better approach to life and its ups and downs if we are going to lead a happy, productive life. Dr. Alex Lickerman, the author of The Undefeated Mind has provided us an exceptionally well written book which gives us the tools necessary for a better approach.

The first lesson we need to understand and accept is that we need to "... stop hoping for easy lives and instead to focus on cultivating the inner strength we need to enjoy the difficult lives we all have."

We have grown up thinking that things will bring us happiness. But the more things we acquire and the more attached we become to these things, the more vulnerable we become. Our attachment to things increases the possibility we will experience suffering.

According to Dr. Lickerman, what we need is the wisdom to deal with life the way life is. "Wisdom is so powerful, in fact, that it can even put a halt to suffering without changing the circumstances that cause it." If we learn to "turn poison into medicine" we can find a way to benefit from the suffering.

In the book Dr. Lickerman deals with ten different topics which will help us develop an undefeated mind. "An undefeated mind is not one which never feels discouraged or despairing; it's one that continues on in spite of it. An undefeated mind does not fill itself with false hope, but with hopes to find real solutions, even solutions it many not want or like. An undefeated mind is itself what grants us access to the creativity, strength, and courage necessary to find those real solutions."

The topics covered give us a blueprint for dealing with life's problems. The book is extremely well written and therefore easy to read and understand. There are plenty of examples from Dr. Lickerman's own life as well as his interaction with patients. There are also so lots of summaries or conclusions from psychological studies. All the theories and studies are extensively referenced. If you choose to follow the references, you will greatly expand your knowledge of human behavior.

One of the more insightful discussions concerned dealing with the past. Most people spend a lot of time focusing on past events - reliving them, hoping somehow to change the past. We all know that changing the past is not possible -that we cannot change the facts of what happened. Yet we still live a lot of our lives going over past events. A better way to deal with this is to change the meaning of the event. If we change the meaning we give to the event, we in effect change the past. Dr. Lickerman tells us how he changed his past by changing the meaning of the event. He further tells us how we can do the same.

Dr. Lickerman makes frequent reference to Nichiren Buddhism throughout the book. However he is not in anyway advocating that one needs to understand or adopt the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. The references are to provide the reader a better perspective for viewing problems and solutions. I found the references insightful.

This book is not one you will be able to read once and gain all the insights available. In my opinion, the best approach is to read through the book and then go back and read it more slowly, digesting and allowing the teachings to sink in. You will gain some real insights from this book.

There are valuable insights on being fully committed to your goals. Taking full responsibility for the accomplishment of your goals - that is not depending on others for too much help, thus diffusing your own effort. There are excellent discussions on letting go, accepting pain, developing gratitude and overcoming fear.

An excellent book but will require time and work to gain all the good it contains.

I was provided a review copy of this book.
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VINE VOICEon November 10, 2012
Many years ago, the renowned humorist and columnist Erma Bombeck wrote a book called, "If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?" And while humor can be a great salve for life's challenges, when we are in the midst of adversities such as a physical illness or addiction, or the pain of losing a dear one, or facing financial devastation, it can feel like the "pits"-- far from being a laughing matter.

But when we experience powerlessness and defeat, things are only as bleak as they seem, says author Alex Lickerman, M.D. While the circumstances may be out of our control, the wisdom extracted from adverse experience can impart "an inner life state" of undefeated strength. More than just a good theory, he illuminates nine core principles that assuage suffering, interweaving them into actual dialogues with his patients, and reinforcing their efficacy through examples of scientific studies and tenets of Nichiren Buddhism. An undefeated mind is when the goal for achieving something is to is to keep trying--rather than achieving the goal itself: "Never giving up isn't just necessary for victory, it is victory."

The author turns some cherished notions on their head - such as embracing the pain rather than resisting it, or that resilience is the capacity to endure the pain that adversity causes, or that distraction is superior to willpower for delaying gratification. Seamlessly blending dialogue, narrative, science, and faith, he convincingly demonstrates how one can achieve an inner life state of undefeated inner strength in any circumstance.
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on May 25, 2013
I don't believe in God. I'm not subscribed to any religion or spiritual practice. And since I haven't really missed said things, I felt that I needed something to deal with the struggles of daily life.
After being victim of an assault and being more or less unable to deal with all the bad feelings, I decided I would give this book a try.

Well, it was exactly what I needed, what I wanted to hear, what I was striving for, what I could tolerate. The fact that the sources and references were of peer-reviewed articles, yet with a clear explanation of every concept was really great, because as it turns out, I'm also a really skeptical and rational person.

I don't give it 5 stars because of the misconceptions on obesity (read The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health by Paul Campos and you will understand) and because sometimes it's a bit confusing and it felt really long.

But I learned a lot of very, very useful beliefs and concepts that I have started to implement into my life with the best results.

I'm really grateful I found this book.
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on July 6, 2014
I have recommended this book to several people, and even put it on my son's Kindle so that it is there if I can ever persuade him to read it. Funny how sometime people not as close to you are more open to your opinions. Anywho, this book has been extremely useful to me. I don't chant, I am not Buddhist, and I really wish they had chosen a different cover, because I think many people, see the cover, don't look inside. But it is well worth reading. The basic premise - that life will have painful parts, is not really part of our Western philosophy. Our cultures veiw point is more that happiness exists as a result of the absence of pain. The more Eastern based ideas in this book are about developing strengths that allow for happiness even in the presense of pain, or at least developing the resilience to believe that happiness will be possible again even if the pain or the scars don't go away. It is a much more realistic view point, to my mind, and much more in line with my experience. I have dealt with depression most of my adult life, and to some extent the idea that if I could just achieve the right "happy, no problems here" mindset all my problems would go away, has not been at all helpful. Instead I am working to develop the sort of resilience proposed in this book.

So that's my opinion. Read it and develop your own. But don't cheat. Actually read the WHOLE thing first.
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on July 3, 2013
Willpower is limited.
Determine your purpose before u determine ur goals.
Victory is consistently pursuing your goal.
Identify obstacles that r discouraging u.
Regain confidence by throwing yourself in.
Creativity is a reward of productivity.
Willpower is weakend by sleepiness, hunger, thirst, physically uncomfortable, sexual arousal.
Success means comittment and failure means insufficient progress.
Pursuit of desires is what increases our resilience.
Stop a habit by being aware you're doing it.
We're all hypocrites.
We don't have control over our lives but we do have influence.
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on April 3, 2013
I was expecting a book on meditation, mindfulness and so on. Instead I found a well researched , thoughtful treatise on how to leverage science and intellectual rigour combined with self awareness to build a more rewarding life. A very well written and researched book. I downloaded the kindle version and have now ordered hard copies for my family. Well done.
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on April 9, 2013
An engagingly written and insightful read that seems to cut straight to the heart of about 20 different books. Drawing us in with examples from his own medical practice and personal life, Lickerman incorporates the best of contemporary thinking on psychology, cognitive science, spirituality and "happiness" research into an absorbing read. Consume it cover to cover, or contemplate one chapter at a time... it works well either way. It's easy to see yourself, your colleagues, your loved ones, strangers... all wrapped compassionately into the pages of this work. I will definitely revisit this one.
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Buddhism doesn't really teach you about God but seems to have some practical clues about how to alleviate life's sufferings and how to be happy. I found this quote in the book to be useful: "the quantity and quality of value we create for others is what contributes to our happiness the most."

This book also explains how helping others increases our self-esteem. I thought the idea of being a bodhisattva was interesting. To be a person who dedicates himself to the happiness of others seems like a worthwhile goal. I will say this does work in real life as I've tried it and life is much more satisfying when you are making others happy. For contrast realize how treating others badly makes you feel.

On the other hand, this book does not adequately describe sin and the description is only half true. The author also seems to have a great fear of death. He has a very honest, beautiful soul that wants to help people but can't tell them what will happen when they die. The fear of death can be alleviated by a belief in Jesus who promises that if you believe in him you will never die as a soul. You will live eternally in bliss.

What I did appreciate about this doctor was how he helped his patients overcome various problems and how he tended to look on the bright side. He believes in Nichiren Buddhism so all his beliefs are channeled through that perception. This is not a book for those unsure of their own faith. It is more a look at how a Buddhist doctor solves problems.

~The Rebecca Review
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on October 13, 2014
I'm not new to the material or ideas in this book. However, I did find it well written, and worth the time, money, and effort to read. I liked it so much I plan to read it again. He gives lots of practical examples, and advice in stories that are relatable. I didn't find his writing style redundant or repetitive like some authors in the self-help genre.
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