Rock and Water is a book meant to help readers better manage their thoughts and worries in order to enjoy a less stressful life and achieve greater happiness. According to the author Scott Cooper, our pursuit of happiness is often derailed by our reaction to events and how we think about them, as well as our inability to let go of things that we cannot control or that aren’t really important to us.
Cooper has written two earlier books directed toward youth to enhance their ability to cope with people and events around them. In this book, Rock and Water, he makes a shift to an adult audience.
The book is written in a practical style. For example, Cooper tells readers that the key to happiness is “having satisfying thoughts and feelings inside.” Having a job we like or friends we enjoy are good, but we must have positive thoughts about them to realize their benefit. That makes sense, although it isn’t often easy to do.
The word rock in the title symbolizes the stability of our thoughts when we think rationally and reasonably. Water symbolizes the letting go of events or thoughts that are no longer useful or that we have no control over. Think of the constant flow of a river to visualize events going down the stream after you have experienced them. There are nine chapters for the rock theme, and nine for water.
Cooper provides helpful questions and exercises throughout to help readers challenge their ways of responding to events and thoughts. Some old beliefs come from our upbringing, while others have developed through our life experiences. Although perhaps we ought to be able to challenge our thinking without such a deliberate process, I think it is true that having a guide is often more productive. Cooper suggests that readers may not want to read the book cover to cover, but rather to bounce around according to their unique interests or needs.
The most valuable aspect of Rock and Water may be the variety of approaches Cooper suggests. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to how we approach life and our thinking. Having a number of ways to challenge ourselves allows us to keep trying alternative options, knowing that one or more are likely to have an impact.
Cooper’s encouraging writing style is also beneficial. This book can be read by people of all ages and with all types of life experiences. The persistent encouragement should give readers a good feeling about making progress with their pursuit of happiness. Although the Cooper cannot give readers a better job, better friends, more food, or more clothing, he can help them learn how to think more clearly about what is important and achievable for them.
The theme of accepting things we cannot control or that have already occurred is easier said than done for many people. While this doesn’t mean that we should just accept everything and give up, it does mean that we should stop wasting valuable energy worrying about some of them. Reviewing the past to see what we might do better in the future is fine. Obsessing is not. Trying to live more in the present than in the past is always good advice. And while planning for the future can be important, putting too much effort into considering all of the possible outcomes is not productive and takes away from enjoying what is happening now. Mindfulness techniques come into play here as useful tools to stay focused on the present.
Rock and Water is a worthwhile book. While other books may be based more on science or research, the practical advice provided by Scott Cooper is useful and easy to grasp. The book flows easily and can be read in small doses or longer stretches.
Rock and Water: The Power of Thought, The Peace of Letting Go
DeVorss and Company
Paperback, 187 pages