Criticized for his progressive ideas, but also praised by thousands of clients who managed to better themselves through his techniques, Albert Ellis is one of the ‘founding fathers’ of self-development.
The most amazing thing about his lessons is that they apply for those who struggle with emotional issues, as well as for people who seek to better themselves and improve what they already have.
With titles such as A Guide to Rational Living and How To Stubbornly Refuse To Make Yourself Miserable About Anything-yes, Anything, this guy was among the few brilliant and generous psychologists who wanted to put his knowledge in the hands of normal people like you and me.
The main conclusions Ellis reached were:
- We can keep our emotions in check and put them to good use.
- We can train our mind to focus on the positive side of things.
- His philosophy can be helpful for literally anyone interested in self-development.
Here are the three life lessons that made Albert Ellis memorable:
Lesson #1: Rejection can be surprisingly beneficial
During adolescence, Albert Ellis was a shy kid (especially around girls).
To overcome his shyness, he occasionally went to the park where he asked one hundred girls for their phone number. Picture a man doing this in the 70s, when people were far less likely to be open to strangers. What’s your excuse?
Although back then research was miles away from discovering the ‘mechanism’ of shyness, Ellis understood the benefits of putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Nowadays, putting ourselves in situations where we might get rejected is a well-documented technique that can help us become more resilient. For example, a study aimed at revealing the pros of exposure therapy concluded that this trick has
“a powerful real-life impact and its effects are long-term.”
Another huge advantage is that this trick can be easily tailored to our needs. For instance, instead of asking 100 (or whatever number you see fit) girls/boys out, we can go to 100 job interviews or sing at a karaoke bar 100 times.
Lesson #2: Life is easier without “musts.”
The reason why we disturb ourselves so quickly is that we insist on clinging to rigid beliefs. I must do well. You must do well. The whole world must… Do any of these sound familiar?
Ellis used the term musterbation to describe our ‘fixed’ beliefs. This all-or-nothing kind of thinking is what stands between us and a calmer version of ourselves.
Let’s hear it from Ellis:
“If you didn’t musterbate, then you wouldn’t awfulize, terribilize, catastrophize, say ‘I can’t stand it,’ and put yourself down. If you only stuck with, ‘I’d like very much to do well, but I never have to,’ you wouldn’t then disturb yourself.”
Right from the start, Ellis gives us a simple tip on how to make our life easier. The mere act of replacing our musts, shoulds, and oughts, with ‘I would like very much to…’ can make a huge difference.
As Ellis says, this mental trick prevents us from disturbing ourselves, thus helping us keep a balanced perspective on life.
Lesson #3: We are the masters of our emotions
“As a result of my philosophy, I wasn’t even upset about Hitler. I was willing to go to war to knock him off, but I didn’t hate him. I hated what he was doing.” – Albert Ellis
What Ellis is saying is that we should distinguish between a person and his or her actions. This way we can easily replace childish grudges with acceptance, understanding, and even forgiveness.
Next time you feel tension between you and a friend or coworker, instead of rejecting him or her altogether, try to pinpoint the exact attitude or action that created this tension. By doing so, you can then find ways to restore and improve your relationship.
Whether it’s a romantic or professional relationship, this lesson works just as well in both cases.
To sum up:
- Build resilience through rejection.
- Replace your ‘musts’ with ‘I’d like to.’
- Focus on the action, instead of the person.