Maxwell Maltz wrote one of the most successful self-help books ever, called Psycho-Cybernetics (read the actionable summary here).
Psycho-Cybernetics, or the cybernetic system of our mind, teaches us how to overcome our failures and live a fulfilling and successful life. Its author, Maxwell Maltz, provides scientific, evidence-based, and anecdotal insights on happiness and success.
The term “psycho-cybernetics” refers to a set of principles that define a route to prosperity through overcoming one’s limitations. He illustrates how altering one’s self-image may help one master their fate.
Once the mind sees a positive self-image, it will use every resource at its disposal to make that image a reality. It has the same effect on a negative self-image, making it come real and leading to failure and despair.
Whoever we are, we believe certain things about ourselves. These form our self-image, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Even a so-called successful person can have a “loser” image of himself or herself.
So, if you think of yourself as a miserable failure, you act and behave in ways you will probably fail. If you see yourself as a success, you keep finding more ways to succeed more often, as Maltz pointed out.
Selected Quotes From Psycho-Cybernetics
▪ “The science of Cybernetics does not tell us that “man” is a machine, but that man has and uses a machine. Moreover, it tells us how that machine functions and how it can be used.”
▪ “Our self-image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become.”
▪ “The most liberating of all thoughts is disregard or “disconcern” for what other people think. … Excessive concern over what other people think inhibits personality more than any other factor.”
▪ “To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behavior.”
▪ “We are built to conquer the environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve.”
▪ “We must have the courage to bet on our ideas, to take the calculated risk, and to act. Everyday living requires courage if life is to be effective and bring happiness.”
▪ “A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment… For imagination sets the goal ‘picture’ which our automatic mechanism works on. We act, or fail to act, not because of ‘will,’ as is so commonly believed, but because of imagination.”
▪ “When you see a thing clearly in your mind, your creative “success mechanism” within you takes over and does the job much better than you could do it by conscious effort or willpower.”
▪ “We age not by years but by events and our emotional reactions to them.”
▪ “Times will change for the better when you change.”
▪ “To really live, that is to find life reasonably satisfying, you must have an adequate and realistic self-image that you can live with. You must find your self acceptable to you.”
▪ “Live in the present. The past is gone; the future is unknown – but the present is real, and your opportunities are now.”
▪ “One of the commonest causes of unhappiness … is that they (people) are attempting to live their lives on the deferred payment plan. They do not live, nor enjoy life now, but wait for some future event or occurrence. They will be happy when they get married, when they get a better job, when they get the children through college, when they have completed some task, or won some victory.”
▪ “Happiness is a mental habit, a mental attitude, and if it is not learned or practiced in the present, it is never experienced.”
▪ “When one problem is solved, another appears to take its place. Life is a series of problems.”
▪ “Man is by nature a goal-striving being. And because man is “built that way” he is not happy unless he is functioning as he was made to function — as a goal-striver. Thus true success and true happiness not only go together but each enhances the other.”
▪ “The greatest mistake a man can make is to be afraid of making one.”
▪ “Whatever your definition of happiness may be, you will experience happiness only as you experience more life. More living means among other things more accomplishment, the attainment of worthwhile goals, more love experienced and given, more health and enjoyment, more happiness for both yourself and others.”
▪ “If you are to be happy at all, you must be happy – period! Not happy because of.”
▪ “Human beings always act and feel and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment.”
▪ “If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone.”
Let’s finish this with a memorable story from the book.
There was a salesperson who felt intimidated when calling on the big shots. Maltz helped him overcome his fear and nervousness by asking him would he physically get down on all fours and crawl into his superior’s office and prostrate before them? The man said, ‘No.’
Maltz asked, ‘Then why do you mentally cringe and crawl before them?’
Maltz then asked, would he go into his bosses’ office with his hand extended out like a beggar and beg for a dime to buy a cup of coffee? ‘Certainly not,’ the man said.
Maltz pointed out, can’t he see he is doing essentially the same thing when he goes into his boss’ office? ‘You walk in overly concerned with whether they will approve of you. Can’t you see you have your hand begging for their approval and acceptance of you?’
With this insight into his plight, the salesman saw how he could change his mental image of himself and become more assertive with his higher-ups.
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Click to read the Actionable Summary of Psycho-Cybernetics!
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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