This excerpt from the Preface to the Third Edition of my book addresses the question, “what is the best approach to make tangible progress toward freedom, wealth and happiness?” The psycho-babble contingent wants you to ruminate and theorize in your head. I recommend you get on with things by taking step-by-step material action in the real world. Get control of daily events and the happiness part will follow naturally.
“In a broad sense, there are two psychological approaches to finding a way to lead a full, positive existence. The first holds that the events of the past and the mindset we formed as a result of those events determine today’s happiness. In this view, we are victims of unpleasant circumstance and have a chance at peace only if we face and then disarm the psychic monsters planted in our minds long ago. That’s the Freudian stance.
“The second approach, the cognitive, maintains that the thoughts we feed ourselves today are what matter most, and the events of the past are just that—in the past—and gone forever unless we insist on swirling them back into the present moment.
“The cognitive approach is more practical than the Freudian because it’s simple and clean, enabling one to steer the thought process rather than wallow helplessly in mental negativity from years gone by. I believe that what we do today will determine tomorrow, and blaming the past or the world or someone else is a debilitating way to travel through this precious one-time event called life.
“Blue-blood, old-school psychologists who see endless dour complexity in the human condition will sniff at the simplicity of the Work the System message. Things are more complicated than that, they’ll say. I thank them in advance for the oblique compliment. This is an elementary, dispassionate, drop-the-load dispatch that describes lives as they really are: simple cause-and-effect mechanisms that can be logical, predictable, and satisfying.
“No PhD necessary.”
Photo: San Juan Island, Washington State. Sam Carpenter