Author : Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Amy Newmark
Genre : Self-help
Chicken Soup for the Soul came into existence when Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, both motivational speakers and writers, decided to put together inspirational true stories, most of which came from their audience. The book was rejected many times from major publishers in New York, finally to be accepted by a small, self-help publisher. It became an instant hit among the readers, becoming the Top 3 bestselling books in the USA in mid-nineties. A series started (Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, for example) selling perhaps 500 million copies, with translations in 43 different languages.
Storytelling has always played a huge part in creating societies across the globe as it helped to pass on knowledge and wisdom from one generation to another. Chicken Soup for the Soul does just that but in an organized and thoughtful way. In 1993, when the first Chicken soup for the soul was published, the self-help genre was just starting to get momentum. The book changed the way people looked at inspirational stories, as they were written through first person’s account making them more personal and easier to accept.
The book is essentially divided into seven chapters, each dealing with different aspects and challenges in our life.
Following are the key takeaways from those chapters:
“If you are looking to become a complete soulmate or looking for a soul mate, may this inspire the hope that it is fully possible to do so. First, you have to become exactly what you are looking for.” The authors introduce us to the concept of Twin Flame Relationship, where the relationship between the qualities of two individuals complement and complete the circle of love, which is unlike the relationship of competition or degradation.
“The most valuable thing you can bring into any relationship is your spiritual potential. This is what you have to offer when you begin to live your love story at the deepest level.” When people accept the spiritual dimension to love, they restore their unbounded ability to love, inadvertently giving up on the idea of their own limited self.
“Like the tiny spark of fire that consumes a forest, the spark of love is all you need to experience love in its full power and glory, in all its aspects, earthly and divine.” Love is compared to spirit and any experience with that spirit holds the energy of a divine wooing.
“We must learn to accept the temporary nature of romance and disregard the ‘projected fantasy’ that we might be as immortal and invulnerable as passionate lovers feel.” As it is rightly said in the Poem ‘When Love Arrives’, “Love arrives exactly when Love is supposed to and Love leaves exactly when Love must.”
“I knew in my bones that the love we give and receive is all that matters and all that is remembered. Suffering disappears; love remains.”
“If your soul and mine could recognize each other, we wouldn’t be enemies. We couldn’t have hate or envy or fear.” We spend the whole of our lives building layers to protect ourselves, our dignity, our titles, our needs to be seen in certain ways which only distance us from others and prevent us from having a true connection with others.
“I needed to learn to open my heart and give love without requiring anything in return.” It hurts when our love is not reciprocated but the source of that pain is not being able to give love.
“The world has led us to believe that our wellbeing is dependent on other people loving us. But this is the kind of upside-down thinking that has caused many of our problems. The truth is that our wellbeing is dependent on our giving love. It is not about what comes back; it is about what goes out!”
Learning to Love Yourself
“We all have something in our lives that we wish we could change. And we each get to decide whether or not we will allow that something to let us down.” We all suffer from bad days, bad decisions, and wrong choices, but our only hope lies in learning from those painful mistakes and treat them as opportunities. Suffering is inevitable but how you deal with it makes all the difference.
“The fear that something is wrong with you is your greatest block to joy. In truth, there is no other block. For as long as you feel there is something wrong, your life will reflect this belief. It will look as though heavens are punishing you, but in fact, it is you who are condemning yourself and sabotaging all that is good.”
“Life always gets better when you treat yourself better. And the final act of healing is to accept that there is nothing wrong with you.”
“Growth is a process of trial and error: Experimentation. The ‘failed’ experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately ‘works’”. Constantly review yourself, discard the parts you don’t like and seem unfitting, and keep what suits you, engineer yourself the way you want to.
“People often see their childhood or difficulties of their past as wounds they need to heal from. Instead, I discovered that adversities are your advantage.” Everyone has their very own package of struggles and hardships. What we learn from them is what makes us different and possibly more capable than ordinary people.
“Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught to them.”
“Life is too short to hide affection.”
“Imagine exactly how you would greet each new day knowing that you are what you seek. Imagine how much love and healing you would experience if you changed the purpose of your relationships from finding happiness to sharing happiness.” At the end of the day, we all want to be happy. The author ponders that the happiness we are searching for outside is actually inside. If we accept this, we will no longer need the world to make us happy.
“All the drama in your personal life is the result of believing in lies. And the first lie you believe is ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m not perfect’.” The power of our faith is such that we become what we believe in. With this mindset, we keep on searching for that image of perfection which we can never become.
“Every time we judge ourselves, find ourselves guilty and punish ourselves, it’s because we believe in lies. You don’t enjoy your life, it’s because the voice in your head won’t allow you to enjoy it.” Truth survives our skepticism but lies only survive if we believe them.
“Learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.”
Live your dream
“You control your self-worth – and it’s up to you to project what you want others to see. It’s not about job title or place of employment. It’s about me and all that I’m capable of doing, giving, and achieving.”
“Many people fail before they even begin because they fail to ask for what they want.” The fear of rejection is so apparent in our minds that we reject our dreams long before they even get a chance to survive.
“It takes courage to ask for what you want. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s doing what it takes despite one’s fear.”
“You don’t need to be great to get started, but you need to get started to be great.”
“Don’t worry about failures. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”
“You can’t do everything – it’s better to concentrate on what you can do.”
“It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.”
“When you learn to change your focus, it helps you feel gratitude for what you already have – and that is truly the key to happiness.”
“The quality of your life is not the quality of your events, it is the meaning you attach to your events.”
“Take time to look around and really see what is going on in front of you right now, you will realize that this moment is all there is; more importantly, this moment is all that you have to make a difference in life.”
Why should you read this book: In this dynamic world, we all need a stable place to return to. To answer our everyday existential questions, “Am I going in the right direction?”, “Am I taking correct decisions in my life?”, “Will this bring happiness in my life?” and many more complicated and tough questions. This book feels like a resting point, not necessarily because it provides answers to those question but because it helps us navigate through these questions. The feeling of relatability, that you are not alone with your dilemmas and everyday struggles, will make you feel comforted.
Goodreads Link: Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield | Goodreads
[Summary submitted by Arpita Phatak, MBA candidate, Weschool, Wellingkar, Mumbai]