Book summary and John Izzo’s fascinating account on the pursuit of happiness

Book summary: Five Thieves of Happiness, John Izzo

We are in the relentless pursuit of happiness. Happiness is our natural state, for each of us and humanity as a whole.

In this book, Dr. John Izzo  argues that happiness is being stolen by insidious mental patterns that he depicts as thieves.

This inspiring book describes the disguises these thieves wear, the tools they use to break into our hearts, and how to lock them out once and for all.  Here are the five thieves of Happiness:

Thief 1: Control

  • Happiness is knowing what we can control and accepting what we cannot control.
  • Intention without tension: We are happiest when we are simply fully present in each moment expressing through  our focus but unattached to the outcome as the source of our happiness.
  • The twins of regret and worry are first cousins of Control. We must remember we cannot control the past and the future.
  • The 3 steps to fighting this thief of control are: Notice. Stop. Replace

Five Thieves of Happiness, John Izzo: Book summary

Thief 2: Conceit / Ego

  • Narcissus complex. Narcissus was a Greek hunter known for his beauty. He was so focused on himself that he rejected all suitors. He was taught a lesson when one day he stopped by a pool for a drink only to see his own image in the water. So entranced was he that he fell in love with it. He remained in the pool trying to capture the image. He eventually became so filled with sorrow in his failed attempt that he took his life.
  • Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s idealized self-image and attributes. This includes self-flattery, perfectionism, and arrogance.
  • The ironic thing about happiness is that when you are seeking it for yourself it eludes you but when you look up and serve something bigger than yourself, happiness finds you.
  • We are happiest when we get lost in something outside ourselves.

Five Thieves of Happiness, John Izzo: Book summary

Thief 3: Coveting

  • Covert is to desire with envy something for yourself that you do not have.

Thief 4: Consumption

  • Consumption is the thief that tells us that there is something outside ourselves that we need to achieve happiness.
  • The idea that happiness is a choice that we can make at any moment is so simple and radical that we often resist it. We have been conditioned to think that happiness is a by-product of something else.
  • Sunshine is pleasurable but the choice to be happy and content even when it rains is my choice.
  • We can be deceived into thinking that the source of happiness is to consume love, that we will be happy if we get others to love us. Ironically it is those who are most focused on being loved (consuming love) and seeking others’ approval  rather than give love, end up being the least lovable.
  • Sadness, grief, and sorrow are valuable human emotions. A fully human life is one in which those unhappy emotions are embraced.
  • The good life lies within our minds and starts with a positive internal construct. The good life is not about getting outside ourselves.

Thief 5: Comfort

  • From a neuroscientist perspective, our brains are predisposed to habit. The vast majority of our decisions are made by our subconscious brain. This is very efficient and saves energy for novel and big decisions which are made by our conscious brain. We are hardwired to just keep doing what we have been doing.
  • Although we are wired for routine we are excited by change. Every time we have a new experience or learn something new we get an infusion of happy chemicals.
  • Because our brains are excited by change, much of our happiness comes from having new experiences.
  • In romantic relationships, routine and comfort can kill the romance. Romance comes from the unexpected. Novelty and happiness seem to go together.
  • The more we get out of our normal routines and engage our brains, the more cell growth and activity are increased
  • Whether personally or as entire societies, we must be aware of mindsets that bind us to ways of thinking and acting that simply don’t work. New realities call for new solutions.

Final thoughts on learning to catch the thief

  • Our  internal mind is like the house. Because the inner mind is the home of our happiness, our main task is to determine who comes into that house. The mind is the temple of our happiness.
  • Know the knower- the self within the self. The Knower is the part of your life that is able to observe yourself even while you are living your life.
  • The good news is that the chief reformer already lives within you. The bad news is that most of us live our lives by instinct, ignoring the Knower. We must let the Knower gradually take charge of the instincts. Start listening more attentively to that part of you that recognizes the thieves, slowly allowing the inner voice to become dominant. It is the Knower who is true to us.
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Spend a few minutes every day asking did any of the five thieves show up today? Allow the Knower to see the pattern so that it can catch it next time. Knowing that you will ask yourself this question at the end of the day means you will catch yourself when the thief shows up.
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