Book Review: Peaks And Valleys By Spencer Johnson.

Book: Peaks and Valleys

We all go through challenges in life and sometimes it can feel like they will never end. But what if there was a way to manage these events so that we start to not only see them as sources of positivity but as an opportunity to learn how to reduce their impact and frequency in our lives? What if we could increase the ups in our lives and make them last longer too? That is the subject of Spencer Johnson’s book,  ‘Peaks and Valleys’.

The book in a nutshell

The book makes the point that the ups and downs of life are inevitable but it is possible to manage them in a way that allows us to find more peace and success. We can do this by taking the Peaks and Valleys approach to dealing with the good and the bad times. The more we use this approach we are able to do three things: get out of a valley (our lows) sooner, stay on a peak (our successes and highs) longer and have more peaks and fewer valleys in our lives.

Key takeaways

  1. Peaks and valleys are normal but it’s how you feel about and respond to them that makes the difference in your life. It is natural for everyone to have ups and downs at work and in life in general. Some can last minutes while others can last days, months and even years. The key is to separate what happens to you from how good and valuable you feel you are as a person. It is possible to still feel good about yourself even when bad things are happening in your life.
  2. Peaks and valleys are connected. The mistakes you make when times are good create the bad times that follow. Conversely, the wise things you do when things are bad bring the good times. The problem is that we fail to manage our good times and don’t realise that we are the ones creating our bad times by wasting too many resources, forgetting the basics, and ignoring what matters most.
  3. Peaks are moments when we appreciate what we have. Valleys are moments when we long for what is missing. But we can change a valley to a peak by either changing what is happening or changing how we feel about what is happening so that it works to our advantage. We can find and use the good that is hidden in the bad time. 
  4. How we manage our valleys will determine how soon we reach our next peak. If we fail to learn while in a valley we become bitter instead of better. Similarly if we are unprepared for a peak we will soon fall from it and feel pain. Our ego makes us arrogant on the peak but fearful in the valley. On a peak, our ego makes us see things better than they are and in a valley they seem worse. It makes us think a peak will last forever and a valley will never end.
  5. To stay on a Peak we have to shed our ego and embrace humility and gratitude. We continue doing the things that got us to the peak and continue to improve ourselves, the people around us and our environment. We save resources for the valleys we know are going to come.  
  6. The best way to get through a valley is to create a compelling but achievable vision and start working towards it. It has to be something you want so much that you don’t have to force yourself to do what you need to do to make it happen. 

Final thoughts

This is a short book packed with what at times feels obvious but rather compelling advice. Going through the ups and downs of life doesn’t have to make us stressed or anxious. Once we realise that we are not the peaks or the valleys, we are able to find peace. We can learn how to better manage our peaks and valleys so that our peaks last longer and our valleys last a much shorter time. By being honest with what is happening in our lives and changing our attitude to it we can find the positive in any situation. We can learn from these experiences and make better decisions as we move through life. 

If you’re looking for a bit of inspirational common sense with a flavour of Jim Rohn’s ‘The Season of Life’ and a bit of stoic philosophy thrown in too, you will enjoy this book. 

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