Search Inside Yourself Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Search Inside Yourself adapts the ancient ethos of “knowing thyself” to the realities of a modern, fast-paced workplace by introducing mindfulness exercises to enhance emotional intelligence.

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These days, meditation becomes a go-to technique for all facets of personal growth. Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) explains how practicing mindfulness can have an enormously positive influence on your work performance and job satisfaction.

The “search” in the title, paired up with the design of the book’s cover, immediately makes you think of Google. That’s the right direction of thought: Chade-Meng Tan, the author, used to be one of the earliest Google engineers. As he explored the topic of personal growth, he ended up teaching company’s employees how to apply mindfulness to increase their well-being in the office and beyond.

Today, Search Inside Yourself is also the name of an independent leadership institute that organizes mindfulness-based trainings all around the world. 

But you don’t need to sign up for the training to explore the program. Tan decided to lay out all the basics of it in his book. Endorsed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Daniel Goleman, who both wrote forewords to Search Inside Yourself, it stands as a credible guide on how to find success by learning to look within.

Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned about mindfulness and emotional intelligence:

  1. Emotional intelligence matters a great deal at work.
  2. Meditation is a practical way to improve emotional intelligence.
  3. Happiness in the workplace comes primarily from three things.

Now let’s begin the most important work there is: the one of searching inside yourself!

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Lesson 1: The impact of emotional intelligence on work is tremendous.

Emotional and professional lives may seem to have little in common. But when we really understand what emotional intelligence is, the impact it has on our work becomes quite obvious.

Emotional intelligence can be defined as awareness of your own, as well as other people’s feelings – and the ability to use that awareness to guide your behaviors and thoughts. Howard Gardner, who first proposed the theory of multiple intelligences, would describe it as the fusion of the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

According to Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, it consists of five important elements:

  1. Self-awareness (knowledge of your internal state)
  2. Self-regulation (your capacity to control your mental states and behaviors)
  3. Motivation (being able to use emotions as fuel towards your goals)
  4. Empathy (the awareness of other people’s feelings)
  5. Social skills (your capacity to impact others)

Now that we’ve broken it down, it will be easier to understand that the most important skills at work are usually related to emotional intelligence. 

Self-awareness and self-regulation are the basics – they allow you to identify your internal state at any given moment and respond accordingly. This encompasses a wide range of issues – from knowing when to take a break, to getting your work relationships straight.

Skillfully cultivating motivation fuels productivity, while empathy and social competences help you collaborate within a team and empower you to be a better leader.

All of that sounds great. But what is the practical way to develop these aspects of emotional intelligence?

Lesson 2: Meditation improves self-awareness and how you manage your attention.

Tan sees the development of emotional intelligence as a three-step process. First, you need to master the intentional directing of your attention. This allows you to notice more thoughts and feelings and enriches self-knowledge. Finally, if you gain enough insight into your own mind, you are able to establish mental habits that benefit you – and your work – in the long run.

Mindfulness meditation can help with this because it tackles the very first step of the process: becoming the master of your attention. You can train attention like a muscle, so that, over time, it starts serving you in a much more effective way.

This also enhances self-awareness, which is the first of the Goleman’s components of emotional intelligence. The reason why self-awareness is so important is that it activates the neocortex – the new part of the brain, responsible for making rational decisions. Our behavior is then less driven by unconscious impulses and more by conscious choices.

Tan explains the practical implications of increased self-awareness by sharing a personal story of delivering a speech during the World Peace Festival in Berlin. Right before his presentation, he felt extremely nervous – so he became intentionally aware of his feelings. He reminded himself of his strengths and accomplishments that brought him to the stage in the first place. He also recognized his shortcomings, which he was able to simply let go of by reconnecting with his breath.

This shows that once we become aware of our internal state, we are no longer driven by it. Instead, we can be in charge of how we respond.

Lesson 3: There are three main sources of work-related happiness.

For many decades, employers used to think that the best ways to motivate employees were external rewards – such as pay rises or company benefits. But with a consistent observation of the modern workplace backed up by insights from motivational psychology, we can now confidently state that this is not the case.

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, has built his company around happiness. He believes that all job-related happiness comes from three main sources:

  • Pleasure, which comes from external acknowledgments of your work, such as a special mention from your boss or bonus pay. It is founded on the same mechanism as our instinctive chase for instant gratification and it is, therefore, short-lived.
  • Passion or the satisfaction that comes from being fully immersed in your work – what you may call a state of flow. Compared to pleasure, passion is a much more sustainable way to enjoy your work.
  • Sense of purpose comes last and is the most reliable factor for job-related happiness. Much like Dave Logan, the author of Tribal Leadership, Hsieh believes that this is the most powerful drive at work. Believing that what you do contributes to creating something bigger than yourself, often makes your job feel like an adventure.

All this goes to show that, good money and benefits or not, true happiness always comes from inside – even at work.

Search Inside Yourself Review

Search Inside Yourself is a practical guide on how to manage yourself at work – as well as how to create a better working culture of tomorrow. It is an important voice that encourages the much-needed shift in how we approach success and personal achievement. This book will help you redirect your focus from the external events and to the inner landscape of your mind.

Who would I recommend the Search Inside Yourself summary to?

The 30-year old online influencer who wants to saturate their work with meaning on a regular basis, the 52-year old executive director who needs to increase their department’s output without exploiting the employees, and any leader who’d rather care for their people than manage them.

Last Updated on August 18, 2022

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Marta Brzosko

In 2019, Marta wrote 30 summaries for us as a freelance contributor. She is a facilitator, writer, and community wizard. Originally from Poland, where she attained a Master's Degree in Asian Studies, she now lives in Edinburgh, where she runs her own event agency called Contour. In her spare time, Marta loves running, camping, meditation, and dancing. You can read her summaries or reach her on LinkedIn.