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Renewal: how to pull yourself out of a valley when you need to

David Brooks was in dire need of renewal in 2013.

His marriage was falling apart. He was in the throws of workaholism. His friendships had become shallow and weak.

He’d given in to the common lies that society tells us about personal and professional success creating status and happiness. He valued time over people. He valued productivity over relationships. He found himself alone and in a valley.

He knew he needed renewal and recommitment in his life.

So Brooks spent five years studying those who had suffered losses, fallen into valleys, and found ways to move beyond them, and he put those learnings into his book “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.”

First, Brooks discovered it’s useful to distinguish between happiness and joy. Happiness is an expansion of self – a victory, a promotion, more money. It’s “first mountain” stuff like graduating, getting a good job, and gaining recognition and wealth.

But joy is when the self disappears. This is the so-called “second mountain” of meaning, purpose and service to others. Joy is more valuable.

Next, he makes the point that in a world of hyper-individualism and one-upmanship, we need to recommit to choices and relationships that really matter. Relationships and commitments are difficult sometimes, but they are what keep us engaged, provide strength – and create joy in our lives.

The way we get out of valleys, fix brokenness, and foster joy is by recommitting to these four fundamentals:

Family – a spouse, partner, kids, and close friends
Vocation – a job, not just to make money, but to find and impart purpose, serve others, and share talents
Faith or philosophy – beliefs that promote moral character, and that we each have a soul that gives us infinite value and dignity
Community – a thick system of helpful and supportive relationships

A committed life has its fair share of pain and struggles, but it’s also the most powerful inoculation against fear, despair and loneliness.

Brooks ends the book with a Declaration of Interdependence. He says a good society is a dense jungle of relationships, and a joyful person is enmeshed in that jungle.

“When relationships are tender, when commitments are strong, when communication is pure, when the wounds of life have been absorbed, and the wrongs forgiven, people bend toward each other, entertwine with one another, and some mystical combustion happens. Love emerges between people out of nothing, as a pure flame.”

Happy Easter.

Have a great week.

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