Rising Strong by Brene Brown

start simple (5)

Rising Strong is about getting back up after falling. Brené interviewed a range of people from all walks of life and compiled her research into this 267 page book. She presents her findings in a way that is easy to understand and outlines the steps to apply them to our everyday lives. We will all fall down at some point in our lives, the real question is, what do you do once you’re down?

Takeaway #1: Box Breathing Method

This is a breathing technique used to increase mindfulness and decrease anxiety and stress:

step 1: Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your stomach, for a count of four – one, two, three, four.

step 2: Hold in that breath for a count of four – one, two, three, four.

step 3: Slowly exhale all the air through your mouth, contracting your stomach, for a count of four -one, two, three, four.

step 4: Hold the empty breath for a count of four – one, two, three, four.


Takeaway #2: The stories we tell ourselves

Humans are story-tellers. When someone does something that hurts my feelings or offends me, the first thing I need to ask is, “What is the story I’m telling myself about this situation?” It’s impossible to know what the other person is thinking, their motives, or their intentions without asking them.

We can come up with a whole story associated with one quick sentence that may be true, but most likely isn’t because we don’t have all the facts. A great way to clear this up is to shed light on the story we’re telling.

Brené gives a few examples of this. One is a moment between her and her husband. She reaches out and tries to connect and isn’t met with the response she wanted. She immediately begins to go through a slough of explanations for why he responded that way until she has a clear picture of the story she’s telling herself. She approaches her husband and starts the conversation with, “I’m confused by your reaction back there. The story that I’m telling myself is…”.

The difference between our stories and the truth is what she calls The Delta. By shedding light on our initial stories and opening up dialogue, we’re able to see the truth of the situation. It’s in this difference where true learning happens and wisdom is gained.

I really liked the idea of coming right out and saying, “The story that I’m telling myself is…”. I feel like this is a really gentle way to open conversation about a situation. You’re essentially starting the conversation with, “I recognize this is a story and likely not the truth, but for some reason this is the best I can come up with with the information that I have. Please help me understand.”

Takeaway #3: People are generally doing the best they can

Brené presents the idea that people are generally doing the best they can with what they’ve been given. This was really hard for me to agree with at first, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I would say it is true. One of the exercises she presented to consider the application of this idea goes something like this:

Think of someone you find yourself judging and holding resentment toward, and write that person’s name on a piece of paper.

“What if you had it on the highest authority that the person whose name you wrote down is doing the very best that he or she can do?” Think about that for a moment. What if God told you that the person that came to mind is doing the best they can. How would that change your thoughts, emotions and behaviors?

Takeaway #4: Living BIG

Brene shares a story about a professor she took a few courses with:

“Whenever someone would bring up a conflict with a colleague, she would ask, ‘ What is the hypothesis of generosity? What is the most generous assumption you can make about this person’s intentions or what this person said.'” (pg. 122)

I’ve heard this described similarly as, “Assume good intent.” As a child abuse survivor and someone who has been walked over multiple times, I had a really hard time with this. As I was reading this book and Daring Greatly, I started to realize a big reason why I had a hard time with generous assumptions was the need to Live BIG:

Living BIG: Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity

What boundaries do I need to put in place so I can work from a place of integrity and extend the most generous interpretations of the intentions, words, and actions of others? (pg. 123)

I need to learn to set boundaries, so I can maintain my integrity while being generous. She defines boundaries simply: what is and is not okay. It’s impossible to be kind and respectful to someone who is hurting us. Setting boundaries allows us to hold others accountable and maintain our integrity.

Takeaway #5: The truth about heartbreak

“Heartbreak comes from the loss of love or the perceived loss of love.” (pg. 143)

While I’ve been reading this book, I’ve been rumbling with a recent loss that has had me completely confused. This section about heartbreak shed light on this current situation and other situations of loss I’ve experienced in the past. I found myself grieving, but couldn’t explain or understand why.

Heartbreak is usually associated with romantic love, but it can result from any loss of love or perceived loss of love. According to Brené, heartbreak is associated with grief. If what we’re experiencing is heartbreak, then grief is inevitable. Being able to acknowledge this truth and understand heartbreak better has helped to process the emotion. I stopped judging myself for the emotion and allowed myself to just be present with it. And, even more important, I’ve been able to take all of this to God and lay it at his feet rather than trying to fix it on my own.


Favorite Quote: “The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; the opposite of scarcity is simply enough.” (pg. 9)

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