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Home My Blog The Road Less Travelled

The Road Less Travelled

Tuesday, 07 July 2009 21:06

The Road Less Travelled by M Scott Peck is a wonderful book.  I am hard pressed to think of a book that has had a more profound influence on me and my thinking.  No other book has affected me so deeply.  I love it.

In my book, Doing It with Love!, I included a list of books that have made me think over the years.  The Road Less Travelled made the list but it is only now that I realise how important and amazing it is.  Every time I read it, it gives me something more.

I got the book as a gift when I was 25 - a lovely lawyer friend that I was working with gave it to me, for my birthday I think.  It is a lovely hardcover book (the classic edition) and it is absolutely divine.

The Road Less Travelled was published in 1978.  M Scott Peck was a psychotherapist and it was his first book.  It quickly became a best seller.  I got it in 1993 and it felt like a book that I had always known about.  The Road Less Travelled - it sounded so familiar.

I love the way he writes - there are so many passages that make me tingle.  The two things that essentially attract me to this book are its intellectual rigour and simplicity - two things that are rarely seen together.  He is dealing with spiritual growth but his approach cannot be seen as wishy washy in any sense.

Perhaps it is this paradox that really attracts me - that he approaches the subject with such intelligence and such simplicity.  He gets it.  It is obvious from the very beginning.

One of the assumptions that underlie his book that he states upfront in the introduction is that he makes no distinction between the mind and the spirit, and therefore no distinction between the process of achieving spiritual growth and achieving mental growth.  They are one and the same.  I remember that this assertion made me bubble with excitement even the first time I read the book.  How refreshing.

He writes in a way that seems at once scholarly and personal.  He shares of himself and his experiences.  He also gives the impression that he is along for the ride with the reader - that we are learning together and he is not preaching these things just as an expert; he has a certain underlying humility.  Having said that, he is a product of his time and some of his values seem a bit strange to me observing them from a couple of generations later.

There are 4 main sections but it is the first two that really capture my imagination.  They deal with Discipline and Love.  The other two sections are on Growth and Religion; and Grace.  I should check how this book is categorised - as a self-help book I presume.  But to me, it is first and foremost a parenting book.  Maybe that is why it is only now that I understand its true value.

The first section is on Discipline and starts with the words 'Life is difficult'.  Not a particularly promising start.  However, he does not dwell on this fact but states that discipline is the basic set ot tools we require to solve life's problems.

The 4 tools are delaying of gratification; acceptance of responsibility; dedication to truth; and balancing.  He often points to the quality of parenting as a key determinant.

This is a wonderful book for parents.  Here are some of my favourite bits:

The quality of discipline - the time and the quality of the time that their parents devote to them indicate to children the degree to which they are valued by their parents.

The feeling of being valuable is worth more than any gold and is a direct product of parental love.  It is the cornerstone of self discipline and is essential to mental health.

In summary, for children to develop the capacity to delay gratification, it is necessary for them to have self-disciplined role models, a sense of self-worth and a degree of trust in the safety of their existence.  These 'possessions' are ideally acquired through the self discipline and consistent, genuine caring of their parents, they are the most precious gifts of themselves that mothers and fathers can bequeath.

In the section on Love, he states that discipline is the means of human spiritual evolution and what provides the motive, the energy for discipline is - Love.

His definition of Love is 'the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth'.

My favourite bits from this section are:

The principal form that the work of love takes is attention.

By far the most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening.  Most of us listen very poorly.  Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work.

True listening is love in action.

As parents, we often scrutinise our childrens' behaviour but Scott Peck reminds us that to truly be good parents we need to first look at our own behaviour.

I think that Scott Peck has beautifully and simply captured the essence of life.  It does come down to these two things - discipline and love.

I have been reading lots of biographies at the moment and came across a book about M Scott Peck called The Road He Travelled by Arthur Jones.  I was really curious to see what kind of man could write such a profound and insightful book.  I was quite surprised and taken aback with what I found - and it was an excellent example of how we can have a great understanding of what is important in life but putting it into practise is what counts.  But I will leave that for another blog.

I will be giving The Road Less Travelled another good read soon.  I wonder if I have stirred your interest; I hope so.  I would love to hear what you think about it.




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