Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly (Book Summary)


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There is no price tag for happiness. The best things that happen in life comes free. However, it does not mean that you do not have to work to find the best things.

Thus where should one start looking?

Fortunately, the best-selling author Matthew Kelly has a helpful guideline on how to live a contented and meaningful life. By turns practical and philosophical, these blinks asserted that for you to live a meaningful life, you first have to overcome resistance.



Once you are able to overcome the doubts and fears that affect you in attending to things that are important, then you can begin to find out who you are and your mission in life.


1 – When you defeat resistance you can get more done and lead a better spiritual life.


What is resistance? Use an everyday example. Your alarm rings in the morning and while sleeping you pressed the snooze button. That is how resistance works. Therefore, you just lost the first fight of the day.

So, it is that accustomed and unfavorable feeling that allows you forfeit things you are meant to do.

When it comes to long-term projects, resistance is a key problem.

For instance, people that need to start writing books never end up finishing the book. This is because laziness, lack of confidence or self –sabotage get in their way.

This is a thing the author knows about very well. As an author, he is constantly asked for advice on how to print books. However, most people that ask him for help have not actually finished writing their own books!

Kelly then replies to them by telling them to come back to him once they have finished writing their books and 95% of the people never come back. This shows that these people have clearly lost their battles against resistance. Procrastination or laziness won out.



So, how have these promising authors achieved full bloom?

Actually, one way to resist resistance is to become aware of the obstacle. Once you are aware of the obstacle you are been faced with, it is very easy for you to find a solution on how to overcome it.

Another option is prayer.

Let’s use Kelly as an example. He is usually busy and mostly on the road. One can become distracted since Kelly was frequently faced with new sights and sounds. This is why Kelly got used to the habit of devoting 10 minutes of his time to pray each day.


Kelly thinks about four questions when he prays. Who am I? What’s my life’s purpose? What’s most important? What’s the least important?

By answering those questions, he gives himself clarity. This gives him a sense of purpose and it reaffirms his passion. This is a good basis for making better life decisions.

The extra bonus was that this helped him to become more spiritually fulfilled.


2 – Embracing the inevitability of death and understanding that life is a struggle for everyone can assist you in realizing your full potential.


Happiness can be hard to pin down. A lot of people think that if they can afford to have a nice car, expensive home or marry the love of their life, they will be contented. However, this is not the case with reality. Conventional ideas and material things do not guarantee long-lasting happiness.

Hence, how do you really find out what makes you happy?

It is very easy to get a grip of your true values when you are faced with the inevitability of death. This sets you on a path that leads to a joyful life.

Kelly realized this while he was consulting for a popular hospital. One day, he was talking with some of the hospital nurses. He asked the nurses what people talk about once they are about to die?

The nurses answered by saying a revelation.

The nurses said most people dwell on their regrets. For instance, they said if only they were courageous enough to be themselves, communicated their feelings better and taken more risks.



Kelly saw that this gave an insight into how to live. By thinking about the inevitability of death and what you’d say on your deathbed, you can start prioritizing what’s really important to you.

Meaning you should make sure you do what is important to you and the things that will make you happy.

It helps when we understand that we are all faced with our own unique struggle. You will become more compassionate once you realize that.

Let’s see another example from Kelly’s life. Kelly’s view of the world changed forever from the day he was diagnosed with cancer.


It was a sunny day and he had just received the worse news. However, looking around; he realized that everyone was basically going about their usual business.

No one knew what he was going through. This gave him a deep realization that people can look okay from the outside even though they are actually struggling deep down.

Compassion is the awareness of the fact that everybody has a battle they are fighting. When you understand others, you will have a better understanding of yourself.


3 – Make your life more meaningful by reading and identifying that money isn’t the most essential thing in life.


It doesn’t matter how esteemed the school is or how nice the teachers are, most of the kids fear the classroom and the thought of learning from books.

However, reading is an invaluable resource. Books are like one’s friend because it lightens your spirits even in situations when things are tough.

Take it from Kelly, the honored owner of over a thousand books.

In one of Kelly’s previous work titled the Rhythm of Life; he chose 37 titles that had a huge impact on his life. These are his best books and they take pride of place at his top-shelf

So what did he choose?

The books that have had a great impact on him include subjects like philosophy, theology, psychology, business studies, and history. They included works like Parker J. Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak and Peter J. Kreeft’s Three Philosophies of Life.

What Kelly valued in these books is their positivity. Because he admitted to himself that he is a fairly negative thinker.

Through reading, Kelly was able to learn about the world and he learned other views on things which made him think more positively about life.

Through reading, the author was able to remind himself to work harder in order to be the best version of himself which is a better approach to life than the pursuit of wealth. If you believe that money is really important, imagine the following scenarios.



Kelly knocks on his neighbor Joe’s door, he asked Joe if he could help him plant trees at a local school $1,000 an hour.

Joe shows up and does a few hours of half-hearted, lazy work. He leaves $2,000 richer but feeling strangely deflated. This is because you feel satisfied only when you have put in your best.

Imagine now that Kelly knocks on Joe’s door and asked him if he has time to volunteer and plant trees at the local school. Then, Joe spends his day by giving his all and when he finishes; the teachers and Kelly thanked him for doing a good job. Joe leaves with a smile knowing he gave his all.

What’s the difference between these two scenarios? Money for one. In the second example, Joe does not leave with any money. However, this shows us that money alone won’t make us happy or become better people.


4 – Accepting solitude and becoming an active listener is important when it comes to finding happiness.


Loneliness can become a burden. Truly, isolation can be so scary that a lot of people do silly things just to prevent it, like making a bad‌ ‌dating decision or making a lot of plans just to overfill their schedules.

However, the only real solution to loneliness is spending more time alone!

This is because in order to live a passionate life, learning to enjoy your own company is important.

Let’s take a woman in her thirties for example. If she is being asked on a date by someone and she doesn’t feel like going to the date, she will reject the offer. However, if she was in her twenties she might have accepted the offer even if she didn’t feel like going.

The difference is that, as she got older, she embraced solitude. She has realized that nothing tops reading a good book and drinking a glass of wine in the bathtub. Why should she go out just for the sake of going out?

You begin to understand who you truly are when you spend quality time with yourself. No one else can help you discover that, not even your friends, parents or society.

A great way of connecting with other people is to learn how to appreciate solitude. Therefore, once you are happy with yourself, you can begin to work on how to become a better listener.



So how do you go about that?

Kelly gave five key techniques that will immediately help improve your listening skills as well as improve your relationships.

The first is deceptively simple: make eye to eye contact. Meeting the gaze of the person you are having a conversation with and smiling at them shows to your conversation partner that you are interested in what they are saying.

Also, your body language. Paying rapt attention to the way a person positions their bodies tells you about how they feel. For example, the crossing of arms shows a lack of interest.


The third technique is to avoid interrupting other people. No one likes to be interrupted during the middle of a sentence. It shows that the person interrupting you thinks that what they have say is more essential. Even when you disagree with a statement, it is always good to wait for your turn before you say your opinion.

Being fully present at the moment is also essential. Even if you think it’s not noticeable, your partner can tell if you’re not fully engaged. Therefore,  put your phone down and concentrate on the conversation!

Lastly, ask questions. Following up on points is a great way of showing that you care about what’s being said.


5 – Surround yourself with good friends and learn to delay gratification to become your best self.


The desire for community is as close as it gets to a universal human trait. Everyone wants significant connections and relationships. Therefore, surrounding yourself with friends is a good idea. Best friends are those that challenge us and help us become our best selves.

Use Kelly’s life as an example.

One day, his friends invited him on a golfing trip. He was excited about the idea of relaxing and spending some time outdoors. However, he was in for a shock. He realized he had been misled when they got there. His friends actually planned an intervention.

His friends said they were worried about him because he travels a lot. They said that was having a negative effect on his life. They also said because of that, he was still single.

At first, Kelly took this whole intervention plan badly. However, he reminded himself that his friends cared about him that was why they decided to intervene. They had his best interest at heart.

In the end, he took his friend’s advice and he began to use the internet to connect with other people. This turned out to be a good idea!

Kelly used the internet to promote and spread information about the nonprofit organization he founded in 2009 named the Dynamic Catholic Institute. The goal of his organization was to help reconnect Americans with the Catholic faith.



Establishing this institute provided another significant life lesson. Sometimes it’s essential to delay gratification if you want to achieve success.  

A lot of sacrifices were made in order to establish Dynamic Catholic. Kelly spent two-thirds of the year on the road. This meant that he was missing out on other opportunities and he was hardly seeing his friends. However, all of this paid off at the end. After all, becoming the author of various books, selling over ten million book copies and talking in 50 different countries is nothing to be sniffed at! 

However, do not just take Kelly’s words for it. It has been proven scientifically that Delaying gratification has a positive impact.


That was illustrated by Professor Walter Mischel a Stanford psychologist in the 1960s and 1970s in the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment. In the study, Mischel gave children a choice between eating one marshmallow immediately or waiting for 15 minutes and receiving two.

A follow-up study was conducted in 1988 and it showed the long-term effects of the ability to delay gratification. The children who took the latter option were all healthier and happier. They were also more successful and did well in their SATs.


6 – Learn to assist others and overlook criticism if you want to stay focused on your own goals.


Dissatisfaction is mostly the result of you not knowing what you want to achieve in life.

Imagine using a snowblower as a vacuum cleaner. The outcome wouldn’t be good. That is how life is too. When you use something for a purpose it was not made for, the result does not come out good. This is why it is so necessary for you to determine your mission in life.

Start by helping others if you really want to live a meaningful life.

Learn from the woman Kelly met through his work with Dynamic Catholic.

When she was 70, she could not leave her home. She said one thing she would do if she could relive her life is to spread the gospel of God in the same way Kelly does. That did not seem possible then.

However, one morning, she had a revelation. She understood that in order for her to help others she didn’t have to leave her house – she had the gift of time. Therefore, she ordered a box of Kelly’s book Rediscovering Catholicism and started sending it to her loved ones.

Four years after, she received several letters from people whose lives she has changed for the better.

Although, pursuing your mission can be tough. You will meet a lot of naysayers. This is why it is necessary to ignore criticism from others and listen to people that will encourage you.



Kelly learned firsthand about the significance of having a thick skin.

Two events organizers told Kelly earlier in his career as a religious public speaker that the only thing going for him was his age. The also told him that, once he clocked 25 no one would listen to what he has to say anymore.

Fortunately for him, there were other people that offered him words of encouragement.

He continued to be a public speaker even after the age of 25 and he proved his doubters wrong by reaching over millions of people around the world with his work.

It was the people who continued to believe in him even when things got hard that kept him motivated.


Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly Book Review


Resistance appears in different forms whether it is procrastination, self-sabotage, laziness or fear. This is a wily thing. It has a lot of tricks that hinder you from accomplishing your goals and living a meaningful life. Therefore, if you want to be happy you have to overcome resistance. Once you start overcoming these obstacles that come your way, you are closer to becoming your better self.


Write down the list of everything you’d regret not doing if you died today.

If you were told you only had the rest of the day to live, what are the things you will regret? Take a minute to meditate on the things you would have liked to achieve in life. Now write them down! The things you listed down should be the things you need to work on achieving if you want to live a happy life.


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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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