While many books have been written about how changing the way you think can transform your results, I believe one stands above all the others.
That book is Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.
It may have a crazy name and it may lack the jazzy marketing of more recent publications.
But his ideas have been repackaged by others and now form the basis of expensive coaching and training programs under different names.
The truth is many people could have saved a lot of time and money by reading this book – and of course implementing his ideas.
In my own experience, I feel I could have saved myself the weeks of time and thousands of dollars I spent learning NLP, hypnosis and other aspects of personal development if only I’d read this book first.
Though clearly I’ve learned a lot from the other sources, I feel Psycho-Cybernetics summarizes and explains the mental aspects of success better than anything else I’ve seen.
One of the factors that makes Maltz stand out is the combination of his expertise in medical matters with a deep understanding of real human psychology.
Maltz was a plastic surgeon who puzzled over why some of clients with physiological disfigurements immediately felt better after plastic surgery, while others continued to have psychological problems despite the physical problem being taken away.
Everyone has their own take on a book. But I thought it was worth sharing some of the key points as I saw them.
1. We get what we focus on
The word cybernetics comes from the Greek word meaning the ‘steersman’.
The key to psycho-cybernetics is that the brain steers us towards a specific outcome based on what we think about and how we react to feedback from the world around us.
This is an inbuilt servo-mechanism which can operate as an automatic success mechanism or as a failure mechanism – depending on where we put our attention.
The automatic mechanism depends on regular feedback to keep it on course.
The mechanism therefore works best if we give it a clear direction by setting specific goals.
Without a clear sense of direction, it will not operate effectively.
2. Self image determines success
While what we focus on is important, our success in getting there is determined by our self-image.
But the reality is that how we feel about ourselves is based on what we think others think – not what they actually think.
Our self-image is vital as it controls what we are capable of and it imposes limits on our achievement that are usually artificial.
What happens is that we magnify non-existent or unimportant flaws in our imagination and we literally hypnotize ourselves to be unsuccessful.
What we need to do instead is take control of our own self-image and learn to become successful.
We need to learn to look at the facts in a situation rather than what we believe to be true. For example, if you think everyone is laughing at you when you are speaking, how do you know that to be true?
We need to learn to use feedback to make small adjustments in our forward progress rather than using it to hold us back from success.
In fact, we often hold ourselves back from future progress by spending too much time focused on events from the past that we cannot change.
To succeed in the future, we have to learn to stop giving power to the past.
3. We create the future we imagine
The principle here is that we tend to focus all our attention and worry on what could go wrong in a situation.
But the fact is our minds cannot tell the difference between imagined outcomes and real outcomes.
So future success exists in our mind before it becomes real. The same applies to failure.
We have to learn to put the same energy and thought into imagining a positive outcome that we currently do into imagining a negative one.
We need to learn how to ‘worry’ about success by thinking about it all the time – rather than worrying about failure.
The truth is fear, worry, anxiety and lack of confidence exist in our imagination of the future. They are not real events based on fact.
So the secret is to spend time focusing our minds on the positive outcome. In Psycho-cybernetics, Maltz suggests that the way to do this is by setting aside time to run Mental Movies where you actively picture a positive outcome.
Instead of focusing your attention on worrying about what might go wrong, take time to actively picture what it will be like getting the outcome you want.
Picture the outcome you want happening consistently – whether it’s applause at the end of a presentation, getting the order from a sales call, getting compliments for your work or winning that tennis match.
You have to make it exist in your mind before you bring it into reality.
The key to success in any area of life is learning to run positive mental movies.
Obviously some of these ideas appear in other books. But what I like about this one is that it seems to cover every angle, it is based on real case studies from Maltz’s time as a surgeon working on people’s physical scars, and it provides specific actions you can follow to apply his recommendations.
Incidentally I particularly recommend the updated version edited by Dan Kennedy.