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Book Summary – The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change your Life and Achieve Real Happiness

The book answers the question “How can you achieve real happiness?” using insights from Adlerian psychology. The authors Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga challenge us to rethink our notions of self-acceptance, interpersonal relationships, personal growth, and personal freedom. They encourage readers to chart their own paths to find true happiness and fulfilment, even if it means breaking social norms and expectations. In this free version of The Courage to Be Disliked summary, you’ll learn the key teachings of Adlerian psychology and how to find true happiness.

What is The Courage to Be Disliked About?

This book presents the key ideas and teachings of Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler, who founded “individual psychology.” Contrary to common belief, Adler’s philosophies differ from those of famous psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Adlerian psychology is more aligned with Greek philosophy and the teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Alfred Adler believed that happiness isn’t something that happens to you, but the result of how you choose to live your life. You’ll naturally find happiness if you develop yourself, build healthy interpersonal relationships, and contribute to your community.

There are 2 key behavioral objectives in Adlerian psychology:

• To be self-reliant as an individual. This requires the mindset “I have the ability (to create and steer my life).”

• To live in harmony with society. This requires the mindset “People are my comrades.”

The authors dive into these ideas using a dialogue between a wise philosopher and a young man who’s unhappy with life. Over 5 nights of intense debate, the young man learns many concepts around these 5 overlapping themes:

• Your past doesn’t dictate your future.

• To gain personal freedom, you must take responsibility for your life tasks, and let go of the need for external validation.

• All problems come from interpersonal relationships. So, you must improve your relationships to improve your life.

• The goal of relationships is to gain a sense of belonging, and you can only achieve this by contributing actively to your community.

• Live earnestly in the present moment to enjoy a fulfilling life.

Achieving Happiness & Fulfillment in Life

We’ve distilled and organized the ideas from the 5 overlapping themes above into 3 main sections. Here’s an overview of the key concepts from Adlerian Psychology covered in the book.

The Courage to be Disliked summary - Adlerian Psychology concepts

We’ll now zoom in on 1-2 key ideas from each section.  Feel free to get our full 12-page version of The Courage to Be Disliked summary for an elaboration of all the concepts listed above, and how they’re interconnected!

Your Past Does Not Dictate Your Future

No Trauma, Only Perception

According to Adler, there’s no such thing as trauma. Painful experiences in the past cannot dictate your attitudes/actions unless you allow them to do so.

The world is simple. It only seems complex because of our subjective perspectives. The same thing/event can be perceived differently by different people. For example, a glass of water at 15oC tastes cool to someone in the hot sun, but it tastes warm to someone in a freezing room.

We’re not defined by our experiences, but by the meaning we give to those experiences. What happened in the past matters less than how we interpret and respond to those events. That’s the difference between etiology vs teleology, which brings us to the next point.

Etiology vs Teleology

Etiology focuses how the past affects the present. This is the approach adopted by Sigmund Freud, who focuses on how past experiences, traumas, or psychic wounds impact our current thinking and behaviors.

By contrast, Teleology in Adlerian psychology ignores the past. It focuses on how our actions are driven by our current goals and motivations for the future.

Imagine a young man, Tom, who dares not step out of his room. The moment he does so, he starts to suffer from severe palpitations. From an etiological viewpoint, Tom probably suffered from some trauma in the past which led to his fear of going out. From a teleological viewpoint, Tom’s past doesn’t matter. He’s not going out because he doesn’t want to go out (possibly because he wants his parents’ concern and attention). So, he works himself into a state of fear/anxiety to keep himself indoors.

Do check out our full summary bundle for more insights on:
Self-directed emotions: how we create and direct our emotions as part of our response to external situations.
• The courage to change: Everyone has the ability to change, if you only have the courage to do so.
Focusing on the here and now: this is a key to happiness.

Gain Freedom through Personal Responsibility


Adlerian individual psychology is built on the concept of “holism,” which says that each individual is a single, unified whole. You can’t split your mind from your body, your conscious mind from your unconscious mind, nor your thoughts from your emotions. When you lose your temper and yell at someone, you’re doing it as a whole person. Your emotions cannot “force” you to do it.

In our complete 12-page summary, we’ll explain other key concepts including:
• The 3 “life tasks” that everyone must perform as a member of society;
• The separation of tasks: to take full responsibility for your life tasks, and leave others to theirs.
• This in turn requires that you let go of the need for external validation or the desire for recognition.

Find Happiness by Contributing Actively to your Community

Relationships = The Root of All Problems

Human beings are social creatures. We get the greatest satisfaction and happiness when we feel like we belong and are making a positive contribution. Our well-being is closely tied to our relationships with others. In fact, Adler says that all problems are rooted in interpersonal relationships, since relationship problems will always spillover to other parts of our lives. When we improve our relationships, we naturally improve our lives.

Other Concepts for Finding Happiness and Fulfillment

To understand how relationships affect our sense of well-being and happiness, and why active contribution is a key to happiness, do check out our complete version of The Courage to Be Disliked summary. Here’s very brief outline of the key ideas involved:

Pursuit of superiority: Feelings of inferiority can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. Find out how to harness it for personal growth.

See others as comrades, not enemies/competitors. This will pave the way for you to contribute to others, increase your sense of purpose and self-worth, which is ultimately what brings you true happiness.

• The goal of interpersonal relationships is to get a sense of community or belonging, which comes from active contribution to your community, shifting from self-interest to social interest, and building “horizontal relationships” based on equality and respect.

• According to Adler, life has no inherent meaning, and it’s up to you to give meaning to life. Find out how!

Getting the Most from The Courage to Be Disliked

Ready to learn more about Adlerian psychology and find happiness and fulfillment in your life? Get more insights, actionable tips and specific examples from our full book summary bundle. This includes an infographic, 12-page text summary, and a 27-minute audio summary.

The Courage to be Disliked summary - book summary bundle

In the book, the ideas above were explored in detail through the dialogue between the young man and the philosopher. This helps you to consider various arguments and counter-arguments, along with the nuances and facets they represent, and how they can be applied in real-life. You can purchase the book here for more details.

Read more on Greek philosophies in Ego is the Enemy summary, or get a different take on happiness using positive psychology in The Happiness Advantage summary.

About the Author of The Courage to Be Disliked

The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change your Life and Achieve Real Happiness was written by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. 

Ichiro Kishimi is a Japanese author, philosopher and a certified counselor. He’s a lecturer at the Adlerian Psychology Association of Japan, and a counselor and consultant at the Japanese Society of Adlerian Psychology. He has authored, co-authored and translated several books on Adlerian psychology.

Fumitake Koga is a Japanese author who has written extensively on philosophy and psychology. Koga encountered Adlerian psychology in his late twenties and was deeply influenced by its concepts. This led to his partnership with Ichiro Kishimi for the creation of this book.

This book was previously titled “The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and and Achieve Real Happiness.”

The Courage to Be Disliked Quotes

“The important thing is not what one is born with but what use one makes of that equipment.” —Alfred Adler

“Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.”

“We do not lack ability. We just lack courage. It all comes down to courage.”

“We cannot alter objective facts. But subjective interpretations can be altered as much as one likes. And we are inhabitants of a subjective world.”

“All you can do with regard to your own life is to choose the best path that you believe in.”

“If you are not living your life for yourself, then who is going to live it for you?”

“If one really has confidence in oneself, one doesn’t feel the need to boast.”

“Happiness is the feeling of contribution.”

“Human beings are all equal, but not the same.”

Click here to download the full book summary & infographic

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