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The Courage to be Happy

True contentment is within your power

By Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
15-minute read
Audio available
The Courage to be Happy by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

The Courage to be Happy (2019) takes the educational philosophies and childhood development theories of early 20th-century psychologist Alfred Adler and applies them to contemporary life and learning. Authors Kishimi and Koga show that Adler’s progressive teachings are just as relevant today as they were at the turn of the last century.

  • Teachers tearing their hair out over problem students
  • Educators who sometimes wonder what the point of their work is
  • Parents who want to raise resilient, self-reliant children

Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga are the Japanese writing duo who authored The Courage to be Disliked and its follow-up The Courage to be Happy. Both books have sold over a million copies. The pair initially bonded over their shared admiration of the early 20th-century Viennese psychologist Alfred Adler. In their best-selling books, they seamlessly translate Adler’s philosophies of life and learning to a contemporary audience.

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The Courage to be Happy

True contentment is within your power

By Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Courage to be Happy by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
Synopsis

The Courage to be Happy (2019) takes the educational philosophies and childhood development theories of early 20th-century psychologist Alfred Adler and applies them to contemporary life and learning. Authors Kishimi and Koga show that Adler’s progressive teachings are just as relevant today as they were at the turn of the last century.

Key idea 1 of 9

The purpose of education is to teach self-reliance. 

What is the purpose of educating a child?

Is it to teach her how to read and write? How to work out differential equations, name the world’s capital cities, or recite pi to the 20th decimal place?

According to psychologist Alfred Adler, it’s more profound than that. 

The key message here is: The purpose of education is to teach self-reliance. 

Adlerian psychology proposes two fundamental concepts to do with self-reliance.

First, that humans are conditioned to strive for improvement and independence. Think about it: even as babies we desire to overcome our helplessness. It's what drives us to crawl, walk, and speak. We are naturally driven to become self-reliant.

Second, that this self-reliance means satisfying our individual expectations and only our individual expectations. In fact, Adler proposes two categories of “tasks”. Our own – which we are responsible for – and other people’s – which they are responsible for. We should only carry out our tasks. 

So if, for example, my boss doesn’t like me, I shouldn’t try to change her mind. Whether she likes me or not is her task, not mine. And it’s in fulfilling our own tasks without intervening in others’ that we become self-reliant.

Adler believed that we reach true happiness by achieving full self-reliance. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this means withdrawing. For Adler, the truly self-reliant individual is harmoniously integrated into society, while simultaneously also meeting her own needs. 

So … how does education fit into all this? 

At first glance, Adlerian psychology doesn’t really fit in an educational context. After all, isn’t the idea of teaching self-reliance a bit counter-intuitive? And, following Adler’s logic, surely learning is a child’s task – it’s not one for a teacher or parent to share. Is it?

Actually, Adler saw education as essential for self-reliance. Remember how connected it is to community? Adler believed that children learn self-reliance and how to be a part of their communities by sharing human knowledge – things like how to interact with people, or knowing what a green light at a crosswalk means. In other words, education.

In the next blinks, we’ll talk more about how Adler’s ideas around education can be put into practice to help educators and parents alike raise self-reliant, not to mention happy, children.

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