There’s a common misconception that you have to be a jerk in order to succeed. In fact, science shows that compassionate people are healthier, happier, more popular and more successful.
But… ew, what is “loving-kindness?” Sounds supremely syrupy and annoying, according to bestselling author, anchorman, and skeptic Dan Harris . When he first heard the term “loving-kindness” he thought it was so touchy-feely, ooey-gooey, and squishy, that it made him feel uncomfortable. “It felt like something we’d get lectured about in kindergarten and that I’d ignore anyway,” says Harris.
What turned it around for him was the science.
The research on loving-kindness meditation shows that qualities like loving-kindness and compassion actually make us happier, which means we’re more resilient and capable.
To explore this further, he created a new course on the 10% Happier app where he sits down with Sharon Salzberg, who is perhaps the most prominent proponent of loving-kindness meditation in the West, to explore why loving-kindness is actually a “no strings attached” gift to yourself and others.
Qualities like loving-kindness and compassion actually make us happier, which means we’re more resilient and capable.
Sharon outlines the basic loving-kindness practice in the course. It looks like this:
Basic Loving Kindness Meditation
- Sit comfortably, eyes open or closed,
- Chose a phrase, something like: “May I be safe, May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I live with ease.”
- Begin repeat the phrase silently over and over again, while breathing naturally.
- Offer this sentiment to yourself, your close friends and family, and to others who you don’t know.
This is how we train our compassion muscles, says Salzberg.
“If you’re interested in being a high achiever in any way, this stuff, as ooey-gooey as it may seem on the surface, is actually really important,” says Harris.
The bottom line: You can be brilliant and courageous, and kind and generous—In fact, you’re more likely to succeed if you practice compassion.