1 Big idea to think about

  • Learning to reframe a story and choose what Dr. Chatterjee calls “the happiness perspective” allows you to take control of the situation.

1 way you can apply this

  • Practice the 5-step process of making others the hero of the story.
    1. Notice the friction
    2. Rewrite the story to make the other person the hero
    3. Explore why you became triggered or frustrated
    4. Name the emotion
    5. Resolve the friction 

1 Question to ask

  • Can I reframe this story to make the other person the hero?

Key Moments From The Show 

  • Introducing Dr. Rangan Chatterjee (4:01)
  • Seeking the root cause of our problems (5:24)
  • Creating a healthy relationship with goals and success (8:50)
  • Success does not equal happiness(16:26)
  • Reframing the story to tap into “the happiness perspective” (18:19)
  • Every story has multiple perspectives (22:20)
  • Learning to make every person a hero from Edith Eger (24:46)
  • Choosing a happiness story (29:19)
  • Escaping the victim-villain story (33:55)
  • Finding the gold in frustration and how to create hero stories (36:50)
  • Gain control of your happiness by becoming a black belt in your own emotions (43:40)
  • Evolving to become a hero in your own life (51:38)

Links You’ll Love from the Episode

Learn more about Dr. Rangan Chatterjee

Happy Mind, Happy Life by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee

Learn more about Dr. Edith Eger

Bonds That Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner

Connect with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee

Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | Facebook | Website

Greg McKeown:

Welcome. I’m your host, Greg McKeown. I’m the author of two New York Times bestsellers, Essentialism and Effortless. And this is the newly minted Greg McKeown Podcast. I’m here for this journey to learn how to understand each other. 

Okay, let’s start with some questions. Are there people in your life who create unhealthy friction for you? Are there people who, when you even think about them, it just raises your blood pressure? You know what I’m talking about. If we had to put a word on it, we’d say like the villains in the story of your life. 

Now, what if by the end of this podcast, you could reverse that effect? If you could learn how to invert, in the words of Effortless, the effect that these people have on you. That’s such a serious benefit because the cost is so high. Instead of them causing you unhappiness, they could help you create and trigger a happier life, a more meaningful life. Well, let’s get to it

As always. My ask for you is that you take on the role, not just of listener to today’s episode, but also of teacher. That you commit to teaching somebody else within 24 to 48 hours what you learn on this podcast, because that can be life changing. 

To help with this subject, I have invited the really wonderful Dr. Chatterjee to join us. Now, just some context, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is a medical doctor with over 20 years of experience. He focuses on a 360 approach to health. So it’s food movement, sleep relaxation, and his goal, but he’ll clarify if I’m getting it wrong, is to help you architect your own health because he believes when you are healthier, you are happier, you feel better, you live more. 

He’s also the star of the BBC show Doctor in the House, no small accomplishment. And his new book, Happy Mind, Happy Life is breaking all records in the UK, not a surprise. Now it will be released this week in the U.S. In full disclosure, I endorse the book but take no credit for any of the success he’s seen. My life is better for having Rangan in it, and it’s going to be the same for you. So Rangan, welcome to the podcast.

Rangan Chatterjee:

Greg, it’s such a pleasure to be on your show. Thank you so much for having me.

Greg McKeown:

It’s my pleasure. And for those that are sort of new to the Chatterjee phenomenon could you just give like a Reader’s Digest version of your story so far in life?

Rangan Chatterjee:

Yeah. You know, I’m a medical doctor. I’ve been a medical doctor for almost 21 years. I’m happily married. I’ve got two young children. And I guess, you know, for me, I’m a very curious person. So, I’m incredibly fascinated, not just by what my patients come to see me with. What is their presenting complaint? What is their symptom? What are they, what are they struggling with? I’m also interested as to what is the root cause of that. Why has this person presented today with this particular symptom. What’s been going on in their life over the past few days, few weeks, few months, few years? That means on this given day, they show up with this particular symptom. So trying to find the root cause of my patient’s problems is what has always driven me. And I’ve gotta be honest, I really don’t feel that for many of the problems that I see as a medical doctor, that my training, you know, in, in one of Europe’s most prestigious medical schools in Edinburgh, as good as it was, I don’t think it helped me get to the root course of a lot of what we see these days, because you know, 80 to 90% of what we see these days is in some way related to our collective modern lifestyles.

Now, Greg, I’m not putting blame on people. I do understand that life is tough. Many people are stressed out as you well know. They’re burnt out. They’re living their lives in such a way that means their body and their mind is under pressure, which means that actually a lot of symptoms, whether it be anxiety, depression, migraines, gut problems, low libido, weight gain, type two diabetes. A lot of these have their root cause in our lifestyle. So my quest has been, how can I help empower my patients to understand what’s driving their problems and then take the next step, make some changes, which are gonna have a big impact on how they feel right now and how they feel in the future. And I showcased how powerful this is on the BBC One show, Doctor in the House, which was shown to 5 million people a week in the UK. It’s been shown in 70 countries around the world now. And I showed that whole variety of different conditions, type two diabetes, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, whatever it might be. In the period of six weeks, I managed to either help these families get completely better or significantly better by making small changes to their lifestyle. So that really is what launched me and the sort of ideas I have into the public eye in the UK and in many countries around the world. 

And, you know, since then, I’ve just tried to continue that through my weekly podcast. And you know, the publication of my fifth book now, it’s, I think what’s different about this book compared to the last four, it’s the same theme, which is how can I empower the reader to be the architect of their own health and happiness.

But I think that word happiness is really key because this new book is about it is about happiness but through the lens of a medical doctor, which is what I think is quite interesting. We don’t normally get books on happiness by medical doctors, but there’s a very strong link between happiness and health. Consistently, we see happier people are healthier. And so my goal with this one is to continue what I’ve done throughout my career, which is to empower as many people as I can with simple tools, simple ideas that, when they start applying them, will make a massive difference to how they feel, how healthy they feel and certainly how happy they are as well.

Greg McKeown:

I love everything you just said. I mean, what a great Reader’s Digest version of a life and what a sense of, I hope a sense of accomplishment that you have for how far you’ve come, even though I’d rather suspect with the kind of mission, at least that the stated mission that you have, your mission might be much bigger or different, but your stated mission is to help a hundred million people feel fantastic by restoring them to optimal health. It may be that with that kind of aspiration, you still are conscious of the gap between where you are and where you want to be. How are you feeling about that?

Rangan Chatterjee:

You know, my relationship with that mission, I guess my relationship with success, my relationship with myself, has changed a lot over the past few years. And you know, when I publicly stated that mission a few years ago, I was pretty nervous, Greg, about putting it out there.

Greg McKeown:

I’m sure.

Rangan Chatterjee:

Because I thought, what will people think? Will they think he’s been a bit arrogant? How is he gonna measure that? You know, all this kind of negative self-talk was in my head. I really wasn’t sure it was a good idea to put it out there. But I must be honest, I’m really glad that I did because, in some ways, whether I can measure it or not, to me, it’s actually irrelevant. It just set a direction in my life. It helped me basically decide which opportunities I was gonna say yes to, which ones I was gonna say no to. And really in many ways, that’s all it is. It’s a way to get that big-picture view on my life and my career and go, “Okay, I’ve seen what is possible with a primetime TV show, how many people you can impact.”

I thought if 5 million people watch this a week in the UK, if only 1% of people who are watching that make a change in their life based upon what they’ve seen, that’s 50,000 people. And I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be at least 10%, right? If it was 10%, that’s half a million people, and you think, wow, that’s incredible. Because it’s not just those people. Then when those people show up in a different way in their lives, that impacts the people around them, their partner, their children, and their work colleagues. And so that’s how I thought actually, you can really impact the lives of a lot of people. And so for me, as I say, Greg, I don’t really let that drag me down, or I’m not, you know, I don’t have a dashboard every day that I measure and go, oh man, I’m not getting closer to that.

No, it’s just an aspirational figure that works five years ago. And if I’m honest, Greg, I’ve been questioning recently whether it’s still the right mission. That sits with me because, in some ways, I feel a hundred million sounds limited. Why, why not one hundred and one million? Why not one hundred and two million? And so, therefore, I broaden out even further and go, well, I believe every human being has unlimited potential. Every human being, I think, can, if they are given the right tools, be the architects of their own health and happiness. And therefore, you know, part of me thinks, well, maybe it’s time to change that. But as I say, I haven’t thought about it too much for a little while. I hope that made sense, Greg. I’m just, I’m just to be honest.

Greg McKeown:

No, I love it. Because putting out the intent is one of the most powerful things I think we can do. If you, if a person listening to this, can create an essential intent that is a single objective, at least to some extent measurable, but something way beyond what they currently know how to do, but it’s a statement that produces clarity for them. Then, of course, they’ll start to know what to say yes and no to. Of course, other people will know what to offer in help. You know that other people know how to go about supporting you in your vision and mission. So first of all, I love it for that reason, but I love this idea that really, in a sense, what you just said is that, that now seems somehow limiting to you that you’ve seen enough impact. You’ve seen enough reach that. Now the goal is, well, it is everyone, you know. Why not every person on the planet? Why couldn’t that be the vision? And that speaks to, that does speak to a rising level of impact that you would be rethinking that in that additional 10X way.

Rangan Chatterjee:

Yeah, I think it’s also thought about your relationship to that mission because some people, and that the Rangan of old, would’ve been very guilty of this. I’m sure I’d be so attached to it that my self-worth would be tied up in whether I achieve it or not. Whereas I can see it as quite two separate things now in a way that, for much of my life, I couldn’t. Like for much of my life, I’ve really needed the external validation to feel good about who I was. And it’s great when you get external validation, but when you don’t, you can go to the other extreme and not feel so good at all. Whereas I feel, you know, I’d be very open about a lot of my previous struggles, how I’ve overcome certain struggles and insecurities in the new book. And I really do feel a sense of peace and contentment with myself, with my life these days. 

You know, I’m 44. So I feel good that at this stage in my life, I feel like this and that mission is not like a noose around my neck that drags me down. And if I don’t achieve it, let’s say we could measure it. And at the end of my life, I’ve only helped 24 million people and not 100 million people. Right. Well, I don’t think that’s something to go, “Oh, you failed, man. You’ve had a worthless life. You know, you’re a nobody.” Do you know what I mean? So I think it’s the relationship we have with these things that also determines how helpful or unhelpful they can be for us.

Greg McKeown:

If we’re not careful, then even a very inspiring virtuous mission, if it becomes the very center of our lives, I think it can push all sorts of other important aspects of our life into dangerous territory. I was just talking to a wonderful individual, someone I respect so much, who has a mission like no other. It’s entirely unique. And to him, and even in the pursuit of this, this marvelous contribution that he’s made for decades now and deeply inspired me, it’s also had ramifications for his family that, I mean, has caused quite a bit of pain for him. And as I was listening to him, I wasn’t trying to make a point. It was really restating what I was learning from him, but this was the restate. So he is a man of faith, and it basically summarized into this question: Are you doing this mission for God? Or has this mission become your God? 

And maybe it’s a nice problem to have when, you know, someone feels so full of passion and conviction and clarity, you know, maybe everyone would like to have that problem when sometimes they’re just so uncertain about what they’re supposed to do, but nevertheless, it’s still a risk. I could see that being a risk for, I mean, I can certainly see it for me. I could see it for someone like you, who has so much passion. But what you’re saying is that you’ve already learned I’ve got to be careful about that. I’ve got to make sure that isn’t the center

Rangan Chatterjee:

For sure. And I think many people do this. You know, one of the things I write about at the start of the new book is that many of us confuse success with happiness, and I think they can overlap, but for many of us, they’re two separate things. And if we’re not careful and we’re not intentional about our life, which of course is a huge part of, you know, your first two, but which I truly, truly love and is sitting here in my studio as we speak. You know, because when I spoke to you on my podcast when Effortless came out, the studio’s had a bit of a refurb since then. So it looks very different now, but the quotes we had on the wall, my son has taken it in his bedroom. So as he looks out of his bed, the quote is up there on his wall. You know, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” So you know, your work, Greg, has infused my brain, my soul. It’s also within my family home and my son’s bedroom. So, I say that just to acknowledge what you’ve done. It is having a real impact.

Greg McKeown:

Well, speaking of this new book, and something I’ve learned is that you can’t teach a book. And so sometimes, on podcasts, people will want me to sort of cover everything in a whole book, or I’ve made that mistake myself, and it just can’t be done. So what I’d like to do is take one chapter from your most recent book. And it’s the chapter called Seek Out Friction. And I want to, first of all, just get your quick take on this. My observation is that the moment people get into social friction, which is like just daily, they immediately create two stories, and those two stories are that they are a victim and the other person is a villain. Okay. First of all, do you agree?

Rangan Chatterjee:

Well, I agree with what you said that, actually, if you take a disempowering narrative on whatever’s happened in your life, then yeah, you can often make yourself a victim and make the other person a villain. And you can say, well, what’s wrong with that? Well, what’s wrong with that is I don’t think it’s gonna be particularly helpful for you in the long term. Many of us have these kinds of narratives that we play out in our heads. You know, you get an email from your boss that you don’t like – man, I can’t believe my boss sent me that email. Do they not know that I worked last weekend? I’ve been doing this job for four years. I can’t believe they’re still talking to me like that. 

Whatever narrative you want in your heads, that’s fine, but it’s not gonna help you. Because from a physical health standpoint, we neglect emotional stress, right? So when we take that disempowering narrative, and we are feeling triggered by the actions of someone else, we create emotional stress in our body that emotional stress will need to be neutralized in some way in some form. And usually, we turn to what I call in the book junk happiness habits. Like, you know, we’ve all got a junk habits of choice, whether that be, you know, sugar gambling, scrolling for three hours online, shopping. You know, whatever it might be alcohol, right? You know, something to distract us and numb us from a discomfort that we’re feeling. So that is one problem. 

But the other problem is that if the actions of other people have too much of an impact on how you feel about yourself and the world, then effectively, what you’re saying is my internal well-being and happiness is down to other people. When people around me act in a certain way, I’m going to be happy. And when they don’t, I’m not going to feel so good. Now the problem with that way of thinking, which I have had for much of my life until, I’d say, about five years ago or so, is that you’re not in a very strong position. You’re very vulnerable there because the way you feel is dependent on the people around you acting in a certain way. And you can’t control that. In many ways, you cannot influence that. Certainly, for many people and I maintain, and I’m very pleased you chose chapter five, Greg because this is my favorite chapter of the book. I’m doing my sort of mini UK tour at the moment. And you know, it’s been a long week. A lot of tours, a lot of events, which has been fantastic. But I’ve said a few times, chapter five is my favorite chapter. And it’s what I call. I work out at the social gym every day. Every time I come across social friction, I then challenge myself to tell myself a different story, an empowering story. And I think anybody can learn the skill. It’s just practice. And, you know, can I, if I can go one step further, Greg, I would say this is one of the most important skills you can learn, whether it’s for health, happiness, or for business. Because when you learn to reframe a story and choose what I call the happiness perspective, you are in control of the situation. You are in control of your emotions. You are not allowing your emotional brain to run the roost and actually start to make erratic decisions. Emotional regulation is a key skill for anything you want in life. And learning to reframe situations is, I think, one of the most powerful things you can do. 

So let’s say you get that email from your boss that you don’t like, right? In my book, I write about this idea that find this story that can make that other person the hero. How can you make them a hero? Right? Oh, well, maybe my boss is under pressure from their boss, and they’re taking it out on me. Okay. I kind of understand that. Maybe my boss’s daughter had an earache last night, and they are under slept, and they’re feeling a bit ratty today, and they’re taken out on me. Okay, fine. Maybe my boss is, you know, nervous about losing their job or they’re having relationship problems at the moment. Whatever story you want to create, it doesn’t actually matter. Just choose one that empowers you and doesn’t make you feel a victim because every situation has multiple perspectives. Right.

And I think a really good way of understanding this is, let’s think about a married couple or not even married, right? A romantic couple having a disagreement or an argument. I suspect Greg, most people listening to the podcast may be able to imagine what that feels like if they can’t themselves. Right? What actually happened in that argument? Well, it kind of depends on who you ask. If you ask one party, they will give you a report of what happened. Walk around to the other side of the table and ask the other party what happened. And they are likely to give you a completely different report of the same situation. So what does that teach us? One situation, two different perspectives. Scientists, Greg took football fans and did an experiment. Two sets of, I should say, soccer fans, right? Were shown the same incidents. And they asked them both what happened. Both sets of fans reported seeing different things. It was the same incidents, right? These things teach us that actually every situation has multiple perspectives. And you can train yourself, you absolutely can train yourself to choose what I call the happiness perspective in any given situation. 

Now, one of the phrases I use is make that person a hero. If you know, if that works for you, great. Another phrase that people may find helpful is, “If I was that person, I’d be doing exactly the same as them.”

Greg McKeown:

Let’s just say for a moment on this, make everyone a hero because let me just give context for this. It is absolutely unquestionable to me that the power of story is hard to overstate. The stories that we have that we take on as if they’re fact as if they are real. And then we feel all the emotions, and those emotions are real. And then, of course, our actions follow those emotions. And so the power of story of narrative is immense. There’s just no question in my mind about that. And we can get stuck in those stories. It’s also, as you’ve described in this chapter, you talk about one of the places you learn this idea of making everyone a hero, and it was from Dr. Edith Eger. Can you tell us her story and how you learned to make everyone a hero from that story?

Rangan Chatterjee:

Yeah, for sure. My conversation with Dr. Edith Eger on my podcast about two years ago is probably the most, or one of the most powerful, conversations I’ve ever had in my entire life. I remember walking into my studio, Greg and I had the conversation, and walking out afterward, I wasn’t the same person. I literally knew I am not the same person as I was before I had that. 

When I spoke to Edith, she was 93 years old. When she was 16 years old, growing up in Eastern Europe, her family got a knock on the door. Herself, her sister, and her two parents were put on a train to Auschwitz concentration camp. Within two hours of getting to the concentration camp, both her parents were murdered. And later on that day, she was asked to dance for the senior prison guards. 

Now there’s many things I remember from that conversation. One of the first things I remember is she said to me, “Hey Rangan, listen. When I was dancing, I wasn’t dancing in Auschwitz. In my mind, I was dancing in Budapest Opera House. I had a beautiful dress on, there was a full house audience in front of me. There was an orchestra playing. I was dancing in Budapest Opera House.” 

And she said to me, “I never forgot the final thing my mom said to me.” She said, “Edith, nobody can ever take away from you the contents that you put inside your mind.” Now, I thought that’s absolutely incredible. Then she went on Greg to say, “When I was in Auschwitz, I started to see the prison guards as the prisoners. They weren’t free. They weren’t living the life that they wanted to. In my mind, I was free.” And I thought, okay, that’s pretty incredible in the absolute hell of Auschwitz, you are reframing at the prison guards.

You’re putting them as prisoners, and you think you are free. I thought that was incredible. And then the final word she said, and if I’m brutally honest, Greg, I probably think about these words every single day. She said to me, “Rangan, I have lived in Auschwitz, and I can tell you this, the greatest prison you will ever live inside is the prison you create inside your own mind.” 

This really speaks to what we’re talking about at the moment. This is what so many of us do every single day. This is what I spent much of my life doing. Greg, you create mental turmoil. You create disempowering narratives and stories. You think something’s happening in the world. You put your slant on it that disempowers you, and you put yourself in this mental prison. And then you live your life, looking at things through that mental prison and wonder why you can’t make good decisions, why you can’t make change. Why you need that extra beer in the evening to unwind. And we can go to source and actually reframe situations in the moment. 

So, if I’m ever struggling to reframe something and I’m thinking, no, you can’t reframe this. I think, well, hey, wait a minute, Rangan, Edith reframed the situation in Auschwitz. I’m pretty sure you can reframe this situation in your life. So I use that as an inspiration like any time I’m struggling. I use that to go; no, you can reframe it. 

And the thing is, Greg, you do this regularly, and before you know it, you start to do this automatically. So I’ve been doing this on and off now for maybe, I dunno, four or five years. And you know, these days, I really feel in the moment most of the time, not all the time, most of the time, I’m able to do it.

And just look at that, what I call choose the happiness perspective. You know, another example that might be helpful for people is, you know, think back to March, 2020. You know, across the world, certainly in the U.S. And in America, we were seeing images of supermarket shelves, empty supermarket shelves with no toilet roll, right? A lot of people were getting really, really heads up. And I understand there was a lot of fear and anxiety around at the time, but a lot of people were feeling very, very judgemental. Oh man, I can’t believe who would do that? Who would take all these things? And making themselves try to feel quite good and lower other people because ultimately judgment, really most judgments at its core, comes from a feeling of inadequacy. And from fear, we try to bring people down in order to make us feel good in comparison.

But actually, judgment like that is never that helpful in the long term for our emotional well-being and our ability to make good decisions. So let’s look at that scenario and go, how can you choose a happiness story there? Well, okay. What might have happened? Could it have been that every single shopper who went into that supermarket that day just picked up one extra pack of toilet roll? So by the end of the day, when the news cameras are there, that the shelves are empty. Is that a possibility? Yeah, that’s a possibility. So that could have happened. Okay. What if someone’s going out with a trolley with four eight-packs of toilet roll in it. Okay. Oh, man. I can’t believe they’re doing that. They’re so inconsiderate. Okay. That’s a disempowering narrative. What about this? Could it be that that person has got Crohn’s disease and goes to the toilet 20 times a day and is literally petrified that if they run out a toilet roll, it’s gonna be so embarrassing for them in their personal life and in their professional life?

Is that, you know, could that be real? Yeah. That’s a possibility. What if we see someone going out with 28 packs, and we find out that they’re gonna sell them on eBay? Oh, that’s different now, is it? We can, you know, actually, that’s a really nasty thing to do. We look down on them. Well, you could do that. Or let’s imagine what is their life like. You know, is that someone who’s probably got a happy and content life? Is that someone who’s got a lot of opportunities in their life? Or could it be that that person hasn’t made much money for three years, and this is the best opportunity that they’ve ever come across? Right? And then that’s where that other phrase comes in. If I was that person, I’d be doing exactly the same as them. And it’s a very freeing phrase because what it means, what it really means at its core, is if I was that person with their childhood, with the bullying they’ve had growing up, with the experiences they’ve had in their life with their parents, with the first toxic boss they had, when they were 18 years old, I’d probably see the world and act in exactly the same way as them.

And what this kind of approach does, Greg is that it leads with compassion. You approach the world and other people around you with compassion, and that compassion that extends to compassion towards yourself. It truly is a transformative practice. And I really, really would encourage people to start. I’m not saying you’ll always be able to do it, right? Sometimes you’re gonna find it hard, or you’ll fall into old patents. But one big reason why this is so important. I know a lot of people who listen to your show, Greg, are into productivity and business and how can they make better decisions, right? If you are feeling emotionally triggered by something that’s happened, right? 

Think of your brain in two parts, the logical part of your brain at the front, what we call the prefrontal cortex. That’s what we use to make good quality rational decisions. And then the more primitive part of our brain in the middle, at the back, the emotional brain. Now, if you want to make good decisions, you want your logical brain to be ruling the roost and in control and in charge. When you get emotionally triggered by people, and you are sort of feeling, you know, you’re feeling emotional. You’re like, I can’t believe they did that. I can’t believe they acted like this. Can’t believe my team did this. Whatever it might be. You start to switch off that front part of your brain, the logical part of your brain. So your emotional brain starts to run the roost. Therefore you are not going to make as good of decisions. You’re going to be more reactive in life. You’re going to start sending emails you wish you hadn’t sent afterward, right? There are so many benefits of taking this approach. And I’ll be honest, Greg, this one practice alone, I would say yes, had the biggest impact on my happiness and my physical health than anything else. And it’s something I practice every single day.

Greg McKeown:

Let’s stay on this specific practice. There’s some amazing research that was done by C. Terry Warner. The best version of the content is in a book called Bonds That Make Us Free. And he describes this path to unhappiness. It’s not dissimilar to what we’ve already been describing, but he says as soon as you get into what we are calling a victim-villain story, then what happens is that you are trapped because you start pointing the finger at the other person and basically saying, well, they are a monster. But as soon as you do that, you are trapped because either they are or they aren’t, and then you think, well, if they aren’t, then what kind of monster am I to be calling them a monster? And so then you think, well, maybe it’s me? Maybe I’m a monster? And so it’s this two-monster dilemma.

Well, you keep finding evidence to prove that no, it is them, but then, of course, that increases your sense of, well, maybe I’ve got this story a bit distorted. So I guess I’m the monster. And so it goes. This is part of the conflict cycle. First of all, I believe that I’ve experienced that. And I’ve seen others create that chain that holds them, you know, prisoner. But when I read this chapter in your book, it gave a really concrete solution. I mean, he says the solution is that you just, you wake up to discover there are no monsters. You just come to the truth, and you say, “Well, look, they did behave probably not very kindly towards me. And I’ve probably got some mistakes I’ve made as well.” 

And so you sort of just, as you come to the truth of the situation, you go, “Oh, well, there is no monster. People are trying to do the best they can. I’ve been trying to do the best I can. We’ve made mistakes along the way. That’s a human thing to do.”

And that alleviates the suffering. But this idea that you introduce of not just creating a story, that they are the hero, but I thought maybe what you’re really saying is that you create a story where both of you are the hero. And so there’s a, because otherwise you, it’s not that you say, well, the person who’s hurt me, they’re a hero, but I’m still terrible. And it’s not that you’re saying, well, I’m the hero, and they’re still terrible. The magic is where you say, well, maybe I should just at least open myself up to a story that would allow us both to be heroes. And as soon as you do it, even as I’ve started practicing it since I read your book, I find myself going, my goodness, there are a lot of hidden hero stories out there. You know, that they’re really, it’s not that hard once you just ask the question, well, how is that person a hero? You go, my goodness, they’re doing a lot of things right. And they’re trying awfully hard to get it right in the world. And you start to see evidence that was hidden because of the old narrative. 

So how do we create these hero stories? I want you to take me through it, like piece by piece. What are the steps?

Rangan Chatterjee:

Yeah. It’s kind of what we’ve been saying already. It’s like, look for a moment of social friction in your life, right? You don’t have to look very far. You know, everyone faces this pretty much every day, someone nicking your parking spot, someone cutting you up on the road, someone in the coffee queue going in front of you. You know, an email, whatever it might be.

Greg McKeown:

I’ve got mine. Okay.

Rangan Chatterjee:

This is gold.

Greg McKeown:

This is gold. That’s important. What you’re saying because the story I have in my head, it doesn’t feel like gold to me. I mean, it’s not a huge story, but you know, this morning, I’m frustrated with my children because they’re not where they’re supposed to be studying. They’re just sort of messing around in the kitchen, not getting on with their work. Okay. So there’s my frustration point. I’m happy to admit that, but it doesn’t feel like gold. Why is it gold again?

Rangan Chatterjee:

I’ll tell you why it’s gold. It’s gold because anytime you feel frustrated, you’ve been given an opportunity to learn. There’s something where you cannot be calm and totally unemotionally triggered about it. So, therefore, your frustration is creating a bit of stress in your body. Would you say that’s fair that your frustration with the kids about this has just, I don’t know, there’s a bit of unease or emotional tension because of it?

Greg McKeown:

Easy to admit that. And I still think I live with a lot of frustration. I mean, that’s not hard for me to admit at all. I think I live with more frustration even than I often acknowledge to myself. So, okay. And you are saying all of that’s gold.

Rangan Chatterjee:

I say it’s gold because you have been given an opportunity to learn about yourself. You’ve been, you know, life is presenting to you a situation where you’re going, oh, cool. I didn’t know. I thought I was cool with stuff, but actually, what’s the story here with the kids? You can learn something about yourself because, ultimately, what has happened, right? The kids are just being kids, right? The kids are just doing what kids do. Of course, I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but you’ve created that emotional stress in your body. They technically haven’t actually done it. They’ve just done something. And because of the way you view it, compared to what you would ideally like to have happened, you are actually creating that stress. So, and I say that with compassion, Greg, I do this as well. I’m not having a go at you.

Greg McKeown:

No, no. I don’t feel judged. I accept what you’re saying. Of course, I’m processing it a certain way. And let me just accept for a moment that it’s gold, right? Because you’re saying, it’s the raw materials from which I have the opportunity to improve myself and also an opportunity to build a relationship with, in this case, my children rather than to have it be a moment that is a withdrawal from the relationship. So I can see that there’s an opportunity there.

Rangan Chatterjee:

And that word withdraw is so key, right? That just stood out to me as you said that. Often when we feel this emotional tension and stress because of someone else, we do withdraw; we don’t wanna face it. We move away. Whether that be we move away from that relationship. We don’t want to tackle it. We get frustrated. We go to our junk happiness habits, whatever. That stuff will lead to other behaviors in some way later, later that day. And it can also affect our relationships when we don’t know how to tackle it. So seeing these opportunities as friction as gold, I absolutely stand by because I think here you are. You know, it’s a bit cliched. You know, this is the university of life. 

This is real life, showing you where you are not truly free and at peace with something. So there’s an opportunity twofold. There. One is okay; how can I reframe it? How can I make my kids the hero here? Which I’m sure as a father is probably, you know, it’s a lot easier to make your kids a hero than it might be to someone you don’t know on the freeway who has suddenly, you know, pulled in front of your car. It’s a lot easier to do it. Or maybe it’s harder in some situations.

Greg McKeown:

I want to push on that because I do think there’s the advantage where it’s somebody that you know, is that you have more information to construct a hero story. But I think that sometimes it’s the people that are closest to us. It’s family, it’s friends, it’s the people that we are closer to, that we have more evidence to build a monster story, a villain story, a victim story. So I think that there’s sort of, you know, a range on both sides. So you’re saying number two is literally just saying, “Okay, how are they a hero? How in this case, my children, how are they the hero this morning?”

Rangan Chatterjee:

Yeah. And find a way, find a story to make them a hero without knowing the ins and outs. It’s not that easy to come up with what that solution is for you right? In that moment.

Greg McKeown:

But I can do it now. I’ll do it. So you’re just coaching me through this. So, I could say, well, first of all, I mean, we do home education still. They are required to self-manage in a way that’s probably 10 or 20 times the level that I was at their age. I mean, I’m just going to a traditional school, lots of teachers, sit in rows, do what I’m told when I’m told to do it. I mean, the amount of autonomy is so low, or at least that’s how it felt at that time. And they have to self-manage all the time. I mean, they are being positive with each other. They were laughing together. They’re enjoying each other. They’re close as siblings. I mean, it’s not that hard once I ask the question. How are they the hero?

Rangan Chatterjee:

Exactly. So that’s the second step. But then I would say, even if people struggle with that one, I mean, give it a go. I think it gets easy with practice, but even if you’re struggling at step two, you couldn’t move to step three here. And in this particular scenario, Greg, I would say, why I would say this is gold. For you, the question I would say is, well, why are you frustrated? Like, what is the reason why you’re frustrated? Your kids are probably just being kids, right? So why is it cranking your frustration in you? Is it to do with the fact that you have this podcast to do? And therefore, it’s frustrating that they were meant to be doing something so you can concentrate on work. You know, I’m not saying it is that, but what is that? Because that…

Greg McKeown:

Sure. Let’s say that is what it is. So you are saying step three would be the diagnosis. Like get more honest, get more self-reflective. What’s really going on here? It’s not just them. It’s me and my own heart, my own impatience with my own life, with my own agenda for today. I feel overwhelmed with the number of things I’ve signed up for You’re you’re saying that should be the next place for exploration.

Rangan Chatterjee:

Yeah. Because look, just broadening this out for a moment to a 30,000-foot view, right? My view on happiness, the happiness that I think we all want in our lives, is not maybe the common view that a lot of people think happiness is where you are just, you know, bumbling through life with a smile on your face and everything’s right. And everyone’s treating you the right way. And the world is going the way that you want it to go. That is never going to happen. Right? If we are waiting for that in order for us to be happy, we’re gonna be waiting a long time. 

My lens, where I look at happiness, is this core happiness tool. There are three components to that alignment, contentment, and control, right? So when we work on these three things individually, and I help people do that in the book, you’re going to find that the side effect of that says you are gonna feel happier more often.

So where does this fit in? Why do I say this situation where we’re getting social friction feels like gold? Because when you feel triggered by someone else that control leg of the core, happiness stool weakens, right? You don’t feel in control. Your sense of control over your life. And your day starts to go down through factors outside of your control, right? 

So your kids doing whatever they’re doing by virtue of the fact that’s frustrating you, that’s impacting your day. You probably feel slightly more out of control because you can’t necessarily influence that. So when you learn to reframe these situations, either make them a hero or not instead of, and look at yourself as to go, well, why did I get triggered here? Why? What is really going on here? You’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to learn something about yourself and had this not happen today. You would not have had that opportunity.

So this is very empowering because it means every day we go into the world and we come across these moments of friction. And, of course, some days will be harder than others. And some days, we won’t have time, but once you start to train yourself to take this perspective, you basically become a black belt in your own life, in your own emotions. Oh, in this situation, I start to get triggered. Oh, actually, it’s not about them. It’s actually because I feel quite insecure here. So actually, the fact that this has come up now and triggered me it’s just reflecting my own insecurity. It’s not about the other person it’s actually about me. And it really helps you strengthen that control leg of the core, happiness stool. So that’s why I’m at the stage, Greg. And I’m not perfect, mate. I really am not. But compared to five years ago, I, you know, I’m 44 years old. I’ve never felt this good, mate. Like I’ve never felt this inner sense of contentment and well-being where I know that my emotions and my responsibility, the way I feel, actually is down to me. And actually, there can be lots of frustrations or obstacles going on in my life. And I feel that I just don’t let them bother me like they used to. Do they some days? Yeah, sure. But by and large, I can still maintain an inner sense of calm and well-being in spite of things around me not going the way I might ideally choose. And I think that is a superpower. And when you can train yourself, and I believe everyone can train this, I really do. And I’m trying to walk us through simple things, simple ideas that we can take. 

And I honestly, Greg, I would challenge anyone listening to the podcast right now. I’d say, listen, if you do not believe me, try this every day for seven days. Choose a moment of social friction from your day. Maybe not in the moment, if you can’t, maybe that evening as you’re unwinding, think about, oh, you know what? I got a bit annoyed at 11 o’clock, didn’t I? I sent an email to my team. I was a bit frustrated. Okay, just work on that. Just ask yourself what really happened there. You know, was I reasonable? How can I make that other person a hero? What story can I write there? Why did I get triggered? Why did I react like that, man? Oh, you know what? I’ve got a level of distrust with that team member. And it just reinforced my belief that they’re not up to the job, which is why I reacted, whatever it might be. You have been given an opportunity to learn something about yourself. And had you not been triggered, you would not have had the opportunity to learn. That’s why I call these situations gold, but you have to train yourself to see the gold in them.

Greg McKeown:

So we’ve had three steps. There’s notice the friction. There’s try to work out how they rewrite a story where they’re a hero. Three, it’s self-explore, reflect. What’s really going on here behind the triggering moment what’s going on inside of yourself so you can understand it. What’s step four?

Rangan Chatterjee:

Well, really, those are the key steps, right? Because it sort of depends on what you’ve learned in step three of self-exploration. Let’s say, for example, okay. Maybe a practical example here is being criticized. Okay. So a lot of us don’t like to be criticized, right? So when we get criticized by someone else, we can feel quite triggered. That’s a bit of social friction. I can’t believe they said that. Right? So, I have this kind of step-by-step process, which I think relates to this here, which is okay. First of all, ask yourself, how are you feeling about this criticism? Okay. What emotions is it bringing up? You know, are you feeling calm about it, or are you feeling upset? Resentful? Frustrated? Angry? Doesn’t really matter. But just try and be honest with yourself. How you’re really feeling?

Greg McKeown:

Name, the emotion.

Rangan Chatterjee:

Name, the emotion, right? Exactly. Then you can ask yourself, you know, is this true? Is it true? Is this criticism true? Is there any truth to it? Like for example, I dunno. I’m pretty active on social media with the sort of things I try and say. If someone criticizes a post that I’ve said or said, oh, you should have put this in it or whatever, but I ask, is this true? Is there any truth to this? Sometimes it’s yes. It’s like, yeah. You know what? There’s a good point there. You know, next time I post about this topic, I actually could caveat it. Amazing. This is gold again because I’ve been given an opportunity to learn. 

Here’s the problem. When we’re getting emotionally triggered, we lose the ability sometimes to learn something. We think the problem is out there where usually the problem is within us. Right. So it’s like, okay, cool. Next time I post about this topic, I’m going to caveat it. Wonderful. If I think there’s no truth to it, Greg, right? No truth. I think, no, I don’t agree with that. Then it’s like, ah, okay, well, how can I rewrite this? Is this really about them? Are they taking out their bad day on me? Okay. You know what, if I was them, I’d probably be doing the same thing, you know? And it’s about reframing in those situations. So you can use these as opportunities to learn. So yes, step forward would be to name it. You self-explore, right? Which is step three, ask yourself what’s really going on. Then maybe write it down, and name it. I’m feeling insecure about this particular thing. That’s why this has bothered me. Or I have an idea that in my head today was going to go that my kids were gonna sit attentively at their laptops, do their homeschooling, as they’ve been told. Right. And I know I’ve got two hours to do my work, and you know, everyone’s gonna be in their rooms doing their thing without any bother. What is it? Be honest because often we are not honest with ourselves, and we pretend that our friction and our trouble in life is about someone else when really it’s about us. So I would say yes, a good step forward is to name it. And then I guess you really wanna finish off by, you know, moving on from it, by once you’ve sort of understood what’s going on, once you’ve named it, then it’s like, well, you know, it really depends on the situation, what you are going to do. But, I think you end up really with this whole piece of compassion, compassion for the other person, and compassion for yourself.

Greg McKeown:

Well, that’s what I want to get to right there because I think there is a step four here. But I don’t know quite how to do this, but it has to do with them saying, well, how is there a role for creating that we are also a hero? I mean, that sounds so strange because, of course, that could just create sort of, I mean, there’s a risk that that’s just egotism, you know, being built up. But is there, not a step here once you’ve been honest about it, you’re looking at it to also see that. Honestly, you are also trying to do the best that you can, that your motives are X, and so on. Like, do you see that as part of this process, or do you not…

Rangan Chatterjee:

A hundred percent and that’s the beautiful final step, is self-compassion, right? It’s actually making someone else a hero is compassion for them. It’s like understanding that, you know, what they are doing the best they can with all their stuff that’s going on in their life with all their experiences that they, you know if I was that person, I’d be doing the same thing. But once you can be more compassionate to other people and you can create that hero narrative, you create the same thing for yourself, your compassion for yourself, man. Yeah. You know what, the reason I’m feeling like this is because I didn’t sleep well last night, I’m really stressed over these deadlines that I’ve got. I’m sort of taken out on other people, but you know what, that’s okay. Now that I’m aware, I’m not going to do that next time. 

Or let’s say we have reacted. Let’s say we have actually reacted to that and said something that we wish we hadn’t said; well, once you’ve gone through this process and taken the sting out of it, you can then go and resolve it and say, you know, maybe it’s to an employee, or maybe it’s to our kids or to our partner. Hey, you know what, before, when I got a bit worked up when you wouldn’t just stay at your table. You know what, guys, that was actually about me, I just got a really, really busy workday, and I was just finding it quite frustrating. So I’m really sorry I reacted like that. Or however, you want to close it. I think that’s almost maybe after that fifth self-compassion step, it’s resolution. What do you need to do to maybe correct what you might or I wouldn’t say correctly evolve, right? Change what has happened. So you can move on because I guess as we’re going through this in a step-by-step fashion, this is something I have done with my kids. Like if I’ve ever snapped at them, because actually I’ve got a lot of work on, and then they’re not fitting the narrative I had in my head that, oh, this is gonna go smoothly. I feel that practicing using social friction as a teacher, it has helped me much more quickly apologize and resolve, I say resolve, like make peace with the situation. Like be honest with my kids and say, “Hey guys, you know, earlier today daddy was, you know, a bit short. I’m really sorry. You know that wasn’t you guys; you weren’t doing anything wrong. That was all me. Right? I was just juggling a lot. So I’m really, really sorry I did that. I’ll try not to next time.” 

And it’s just a beautiful way of completing the loop. So you’ve made them a hero. You’ve learned something about yourself. You’ve been compassionate to other people, you’ve been compassionate to yourself, and then you’ve apologized and moved on where that is necessary.

Greg McKeown:

Yes. I agree with that whole cycle. I think that what you’ve just said, and I think we’ve sort of somehow got to a sort of five-step process, and I think it’s hard to improve upon it because, because that self-compassion of, let’s say, kind of creating a hero story for yourself, even in the struggle allows you, I think then to have the confidence to go and be a hero, go put it right. You know, you don’t have to waste your time in self-adulation, beating yourself up unhelpfully about all of it. And then, of course, you feel more defensive and so on and wrestling and trapped and all of that. You can see how you’re trying to be a hero in your life. You can see how you’re in the arena getting it wrong, of course, making mistakes but trying to do what’s right. And I think out of that identity, sort of restoring your identity, you’re able to then go and be that best version of yourself. Go be that hero. What would the hero do? Go make it right.

Rangan Chatterjee:

And I think Greg if someone’s going, “Why should I do this? Why can’t I just take that narrative that I had in my head and be annoyed with someone else?” 

Well, of course, you can, right? There’s no one stopping people from doing that. In fact, I would say most people are doing that. Most of the time,, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself. That is the key, honestly. What is so powerful about this, yes, it’s about making someone else a hero, extending compassion to people around you, understanding that if you were them, you’d be acting in exactly the same way. But ultimately, one of the biggest things this gives you is a real heightened awareness of yourself, you know, what are these little parts of yourself hidden away that you’re not aware of, that you are going around in life, getting triggered and frustrated all the time. Like this is where the gold is. You learn about parts of yourself that are buried down inside that you don’t allow to come up. And it’s certainly by shining a light on it that you can actually process it and move on. And yes, as I said before, this practice, it helps us individually. It helps our relationships. It helps our work. It helps us make better decisions. And, you know, as I say, I really just want to encourage people, give it a go, try it, suck it, and see,

Greg McKeown:

Give it a go. I love that. And everybody should give it a go with this marvelous new book, Happy Mind, Happy Life

Let me just come back to the questions we started with at the beginning. Are there people in your life who create unhealthy friction for you? Are there people who raise your blood pressure when you just think of them when you have an interaction with them? Are there villains in the story of your life? In this podcast, we have covered now a five-step process for inverting it, for helping those moments of friction of conflict; instead of causing unhappiness for you in perpetuity, they can actually be the raw materials for creating the happiness in your life. And my guest has been Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, the hero of my story in so many ways. It’s been great to have you on the podcast. Thank you.

Rangan Chatterjee:

Yeah, thanks for having me, Greg. Appreciate the support.

Greg McKeown:

It’s been a marvelous opportunity to be with the doctor in the house today. Wherever you are right now. I know you’re out there running, walking along. Maybe you are tidying up somewhere. You’re on a drive. We see you in our mind’s eye, and we thank you for joining The Greg McKeown Podcast. If you found this episode to be useful in your life, if it’s a value to you, is the invitation is to teach this to somebody else within the next 24 to 48 hours. And also, for the first five people who write a review of this episode on Apple Podcasts, I will get you a copy of this marvelous new book from Rangan. And we’ll get that off to you shortly. So until next time, thank you for joining.