The Road Less Travelled – M. Scott Peck : Book Review

the road less travelled
Let’s start our journey, to the road which is less travelled

Book: The Road Less Travelled

Author: M. Scott Peck

Pages: 300

Price: Rs. 399

Genre: Self Help

Publications: Arrow Books

Plot: The Road Less Travelled is a self-help book. It gives one a sound, practical and doable advice on to build a happy life. The book talks about Psychology, Psychotherapy, Love, and Spiritual Growth.

The author of the book, M.Scott Peck was an American Psychiatrist and through his experiences with his clients, plus his personal experiences he shows us a path to the road which leads to spiritual growth and happy life but is less traveled.

So we’re not giving away too much about the book, I tried my best to give you a brief information about what the book is. So let’s start it.

The book has 4 sections:-

  1. Discipline
  2. Love
  3. Growth and Religion
  4. Grace

We will talk about each and every section, but briefly.

Section 1: Discipline

So the first thing author says is ‘Life is difficult’ and we have to accept this truth. Once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. It is the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning.

But instead of accepting it, we moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of our problems, our burdens, and our difficulties, as if life, in general, should be easy.

There are four tools author describes to solve life’s problems. These tools are:

  1. Delaying of Gratification
  2. Acceptance of responsibility
  3. Dedication of truth
  4. Balancing
  • Delaying Gratification

Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.

This tool or process of scheduling is learned by most children quite early in life, sometimes as early as age five. For instance, occasionally a five-year-old child when playing a game with a companion take the first turn so that the child might enjoy his or her turn later. But as we grow old, we tend to forget it.

  • Responsibility

We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them.  For any problem, we have to accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying “it’s not my problem.” We cannot solve a problem by hoping that someone else will solve it for us. I can solve a problem only when I say, “This is my problem and it’s up to me to solve it.” But many, so many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying to themselves: “This problem was caused me by other people, or by social circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people or society to solve this problem for me. It is not really my personal problem.”

  • Dedication to reality

The third tool of Discipline is a dedication to the truth. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world.

Our view of reality is like a map with which we negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go will generally know how to get there.

While this is obvious, most people to a greater or lesser degree choose to ignore. They ignore it because our route to reality is not easy.

First of all, we are not born with maps, we have to make them, and the making requires effort. The more effort we make to appreciate and perceive reality, the larger and more accurate our maps will be. But many do not want to make this effort. Their maps are small and sketchy, their views of the world narrow and misleading. By the end of middle age, most people have given up the effort. They feel certain that their maps are complete and correct.

The biggest problem of map making is that we have to continually revise them. The world itself is constantly changing. Glaciers come, glaciers go. Cultures come, cultures go.

What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that the view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn. The painful; effort required seems frightening. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality.

Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.

  • Balancing

Balancing is the fourth tool described by the author. Balancing is the discipline that gives us flexibility. Extraordinary flexibility is required for successful living in all spheres of activity.

Courageous people must continually push themselves to be completely honest, yet must also possess the capacity to withhold the whole truth appropriately. To be free people we must assume total responsibility for ourselves, but in doing so must possess the capacity to reject responsibility that is not truly ours. To be organized and efficient, to live wisely, we must daily delay gratification and keep an eye on the future, yet to live joyously, we must also possess the capacity, when it is not destructive, to live in the present and act spontaneously.

According to the author, the essence of this discipline of balancing is ‘giving up’. He explained it with an example, ‘when he was 9 years old and had just learned how to ride a bike and was exploring his skills. While riding, he gathered up speed which he found ecstatic, but there came a problem. He noticed a sharp turn, but to up this ecstasy by the application of breaks seemed self-punishment. So he resolved to simultaneous retaining his speed and negotiating the corner, which resulted in badly scratched and bleeding and twisted new bike.’ He had lost his ‘balance’. He was unwilling to give up the ecstatic speed in the interest of maintaining balance.

So the author says that discipline has to be balanced.

Section II: Love

The author defines love as the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love does not happen by chance, it is an act of will- namely both an intention and action. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful. Before describing what love is, the author has explored the nature of love by examining what love is not.

So he says falling in love is a misconception. There are two problems with falling in love, one we do not fall in love with our children, parents, our friends. We fall in love only when we are consciously or unconsciously sexually motivated. The second problem is that the experience of falling in love is temporary. The feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes. The bloom of romance always fades.

Similarly, he describes other Misconceptions like a – myth of romantic love, self-sacrifice, love is not a feeling etc.

So if this is not love, what is love?

The author says that love is self-discipline; love is separateness. The genuine lover always perceives the beloved as someone who has a totally separate identity. Moreover, the genuine lover always respects and even encourages this separateness and the unique individuality of the beloved.

According to author love is not a dependency, in love, when one says that he/she cannot live without another, then it’s not love, this is a parasitic relationship. In love, two people can live without each other but choose to live with each other.

When we genuinely love we are extending ourselves when we are extending our self we are growing. The more we love, the larger we become. Genuine love is Self – replenishing and selfish.

Section III: Growth and Religion

In the third section, author says that everyone has a religion. We tend to think that religion must include a belief in God or some ritualistic practice, but according to the author, this is not true. For the author, our religion is our worldview. The Author says that we accept everything, even religion without questioning, it’s like everything is second hand. He says

‘One of our problems is that very few of us have developed any distinctive personal life. Everything about us seems secondhand, even our emotions.’

For mental health and spiritual Growth, we must develop our own personal religion and not rely on that of our parents. We have to examine, distrust, experience, and discipline to have our own worldview.

Section IV: Grace

In section IV, author talks about unconsciousness. He says that our unconscious is much more intelligent than our consciousness.

He says that grace is a miracle with which everyone is blessed, but only a few of us actually notice and take advantage of it. It’s a serendipitous, a gift.

He explains the characteristics of grace, few of them are: it serves to nurture and its action is either incompletely understandable or totally obscure. The occurrence is frequent. Its origin is outside of human consciousness.

He says that it’s a miracle and path to this miracle is opposite to our natural tendency. It takes an effort to walk on this path of a miracle. It takes continuous courage to walk on this path and that is why it is very less traveled.

My views: Anyone who has basic knowledge of Psychology should read it. Anyone who doesn’t have basic knowledge of psychology should read it too. This is a book, which one does not read to pass the time. At times it is difficult to comprehend what the author wants to say. There will be times when you may feel like not reading it, but keep going, read this book. It will give you the wisdom to understand life better.

The Author has made this book really interesting, one who does not know psychology can also understand easily, as the author has used very simple language, has given plenty of examples from his real life and his experiences of psychotherapy with clients. It is not any kind of ‘spiritual book’ which one may misunderstand, it is very practical. Everything author says can be applied in our lives, but yes, applying it needs effort.

I love this book and am very thankful to my teacher who recommended this book to me. And now, I recommend this book to each and every person who is willing to take efforts to make his/her life better.

And now I will end this long post with a quote from the book

“.Love is everywhere, I see it.

You are all that you can be, go on and be it.

Life is perfect, I believe it.

Come and play the game with me.”

Recommendations: Go read it.

Ratings: 5/5

Komal Bagri
A traveler and a bookworm at heart, Komal Bagri has explored many destinations across India. But that never seems to be enough and she’s always ready to hit the road again. Her obsession for travel is combined with a love for books. She is currently working as a Content Developer at an eminent press.

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