Dr. Michael Gurian is a marriage and family counselor in private practice and the New York Times bestselling author of thirty-two books published in twenty-three languages. He is a social philosopher who has pioneered efforts to bring neuro-biology and brain research into homes, schools, corporations, and public policy. Dr. Michael is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Gurian Institute, a company that conducts research internationally, launches pilot programs, and trains professionals.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up all over the world because my parents were academics then joined the foreign service.
Some of my boyhood in India was very important, then some of my teen years working with my dad on the Southern Ute reservation (See my book The Stone Boys)
My childhood had brutal times of sexual abuse and child abuse, which were formative for me and, via a great deal of therapy during my youth and adulthood, actually helped shape my purpose and commitment to child development and social services as an adult.
Meanwhile, my parents were writers and my father was a playwright; their aesthetics helped shape me as a writer.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wish I realized earlier these things:
Be more patient
Practice challenge and compassion simultaneously, not as an either/or
Focus on what brings you joy—if you do that, you will bring joy to others.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
That words are the best way to communicate or judge a person—often boys and men especially do not use the words we want them to, but they are empathic and whole.
Don’t believe the politically motivated stereotype that boys and men are always villains or victors, and girls and women are always the vanquished and victims. This simplification is tearing our culture apart.
Feelings are the most important thing—someone who is always expressing how they feel is healthy.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
As a target and survivor of significant child abuse and sexual abuse, I was traumatized and depressed during most of my teen years. I started therapy at 16 and was in therapy on and off for ten years. This hard work, along with mentors who apprenticed me in aesthetics, writing, psychology, education, taught me that I did have a core self, which was very important for becoming a successful, loving, and healthy adult.
Ultimately the useful thing I learned is to keep moving forward into purpose, even if one is in darkness or struggling. Set goals and reach them while in the darkness; form the one-on-one relationships that will help you out of the darkness; turn to the wisdom of past depressives to seek pathways (many of the writers we all love were depressives, so they have an inherent body of wisdom for those who struggle).
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Not just one thing but a combination of:
–goal setting, and perseverance, and risk-taking toward those goals
–acceptance of constant failure, but also learning from mistakes
–challenging others and letting myself be challenged by others
–taking almost nothing personally.
–my family, wife, and two daughters, as well as extended family/community, have been crucial since they provide not only the best challenges and vehicles for loving and being loved but also the scaffolding by which to be able to live in the world courageously
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at approximately 4:45. I have a meditation/prayer ritual then I start writing. I write for between 2 – 4 hours depending on the day of the week it is (e.g. longer on weekends, shorter on weekdays)
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Daily rituals have been the core of my success. This includes prayer/meditation, writing time, time in Nature, Exercise and athletics, Family time and others in relationships, Work time, and Entertainment in the evening (TV, etc). Doing all these in ritualized ways nearly every day allows all of them (most days) to work together well.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
The last answer probably answers this last question though I can add that I don’t spend much or any time on social media, which allows me to be healthier at my baseline, less anxious/depressed, less agitated, less constantly focused on victimhood, and excessive rumination, and better able to serve the people I love and the people in my constituency around the world. The less time we spend on social media the better, as media and social media are reality cloakers and anxiety causers if overused.
What books have influenced your life the most?
The Torah and Holy Bible
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Life is what happened to you while you were making other plans.”
“Experience shreds itself into bits as it forms its wholes.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“What is meant to be will happen.”
“We carry God’s masterpiece in our small hands.”