Book Review: The Undefeated Mind by Dr. Lickerman

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Dr. Lickerman’s wisdom and compassion are evident on every page of this outstanding book The Undefeated Mind. Inspired by his many years of practice in the Nichiren Buddhist tradition, Dr. Lickerman, a practising physician, sets forth nine principles for developing an ‘undefeated mind.’

If you are suffering from a lack of confidence and negative thinking following a serious setback in life, then you need to find a way to treat that adversity in wisdom with calm and equanimity. 

Take action without waiting for yourself to ‘feel’ better first, as feeling will follow action. And develop a personal mission that will give meaning to your life and will make your strategies for fulfilling that mission more exciting.

You may still be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you everything about this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Key Insights

Lesson 1: Define Your Mission

When we face setbacks or failures, it can be easy to lose sight of our purpose in life. Lickerman argues that having a personal mission can help us stay focused and motivated even when individual strategies fail. Our mission gives us a sense of endurance and purpose that goes beyond any one specific goal or task.

To define your mission, Lickerman suggests looking for activities that give your life meaning. It doesn’t have to be an exciting mission, just one that gives you a sense of purpose. For instance, a sculptor may not get excited about filling the world with beauty, but they get excited about sculpting because it is how they make their life feel most significant.

Having a mission helps us cultivate a state of mind where we can look for lessons and positives from negative events and setbacks. Instead of denying our problems or suffering, we can find a way to create value with them. By focusing on our mission, we can develop the resilience needed to endure difficult times.

Lesson 2: Take Action to Regain Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is crucial in overcoming adversity. However, setbacks can dent our self-confidence and lead to negative beliefs that further exacerbate the problem. Lickerman suggests that taking action is the best way to regain self-confidence and overcome negative beliefs.

When we dither over a problem or challenge, we may procrastinate on the basis that we need to recover our self-confidence before taking action. But the mere act of taking action can be the first step towards regaining the self-confidence we have lost. By jumping into action, we gain more perspective on the scale of the problem and regain self-confidence through trial and error.

Lesson 3: Find Wisdom in Adversity

When we face difficult times, it can be easy to fall into negative thinking patterns. Lickerman argues that we need to learn to think clearly and look for wisdom in adversity. Instead of denying our problems or suffering, we can find ways to create value with them.

Lickerman suggests that we can develop wisdom by practicing Nichiren Buddhism, which involves chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, a phrase that translates to “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra.” By chanting, we can create a shift in our consciousness that allows us to view our problems in a new light.

Even if you’re not interested in Nichiren Buddhism, you can still find wisdom in adversity by looking for lessons and positives in difficult situations. By cultivating a positive mindset, we can develop the resilience needed to endure life’s challenges.

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1. It offers practical tools and strategies

One of the things I love about “The Undefeated Mind” is that it doesn’t just give you abstract concepts to ponder over. It offers concrete tools and strategies that you can use to navigate difficult situations. Lickerman draws from a variety of fields, including neuroscience, psychiatry, philosophy, medicine, and Buddhism, to provide a comprehensive guide to building resilience.

Whether you’re dealing with physical pain, emotional turmoil, or existential angst, this book has something for you. From mindfulness meditation to reframing negative thoughts, Lickerman offers practical ideas that you can implement right away. He also provides plenty of real-world examples and anecdotes that make the concepts easy to understand.

2. It shows us a new way of thinking

Reading “The Undefeated Mind” feels like going on a journey of self-discovery. Lickerman doesn’t just tell us what to do; he shows us a new way of thinking about adversity. He challenges us to see suffering as an opportunity for growth, rather than something to be avoided at all costs.

Through his conversations with patients and his own personal experiences, Lickerman reveals a whole new way of processing and reacting to things. It’s not just about optimism or positive thinking; it’s about developing a mindset that sees every obstacle as a chance to learn and evolve.

3. It introduces us to Nichiren Buddhism

While “The Undefeated Mind” draws from many different fields, one of its main influences is Nichiren Buddhism. Lickerman is a Nichiren Buddhist himself, and he weaves Buddhist concepts throughout the book. However, even if you’re not interested in Buddhism, you can still benefit from the book’s insights.

One of the things I appreciate about Lickerman’s approach to Buddhism is that he presents it in a practical, down-to-earth way. He doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges of Buddhist practice or make it seem like a magic cure-all. Instead, he shows us how Buddhist principles can be applied to everyday life in a way that makes sense.


1. It relies heavily on anecdotal evidence

One of the main criticisms of “The Undefeated Mind” is that the content can become repetitive. Some readers may find that the author reiterates the same points throughout the book, making it feel unnecessarily long. While the repetition may help drive home the message, it can be tedious for some readers.

2. It covers familiar ground

Another criticism of the book is that it lacks originality. While the author draws from various fields, such as neuroscience, psychology, and Buddhism, some readers may find that the information presented is not new or groundbreaking.

The advice given in the book may be similar to what readers have already encountered in other self-help books, making it feel redundant.

3. It reads like a self-help book

“The Undefeated Mind” is heavily reliant on anecdotes from the author’s experiences with his patients. While these stories may be useful in illustrating the author’s points, some readers may find that they are overused.

The abundance of anecdotes can make the book feel more like a memoir than a self-help guide. Some readers may prefer a more straightforward approach that relies less on storytelling and more on practical advice.


“The Undefeated Mind” by Alex Lickerman is a powerful book that introduces readers to a different type of Buddhism: Nichiren Buddhism. Through this book, we learn that resilience is the key to suffering less and achieving more.

This book is packed with tools and strategies to help us develop the wisdom necessary to face obstacles and view them as opportunities. While the book may read like a self-help book, it is the author’s compassion and genuine care for his patients that makes this book truly stand out.

From learning about the power of having a mission to understanding the importance of resilience, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their mindset and overall well-being.

Overall, “The Undefeated Mind” is a book that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a powerful and insightful read.

About The Author

Alex Lickerman is a primary care physician, former assistant professor of medicine, former director of primary care, and former assistant vice president for Student Health and Counseling Services at the University of Chicago. He currently leads a direct primary care practice in Chicago called ImagineMD. 

He’s also been a guest on NPR’s On Point. He’s also written a television pilot called Sessions that was optioned by DreamWorks Television, as well as several movie screenplays, including an adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Buy The Book: The Undefeated Mind

If you want to buy the book The Undefeated Mind, you can get it from the following links:

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