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Your Self-Image Creates Your World: Five Lessons From Psycho-Cybernetics

In the 1950’s, Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon helping people fix ‘defects’ in their appearance.  After years of practice, he noticed a strange phenomenon.  Even after helping some people make a massive change in their appearance, it made no difference in how they saw themselves.  Their level of outer success and inner happiness did not change one bit.

He discovered that how we see ourselves is far more important than our physical appearance.  Many people who got surgery only needed to change their self-image to become who they wanted to be.  This idea is the foundation of his incredible book, Psycho-Cybernetics.

Below are 5 of the many life-changing ideas from Psycho-Cybernetics:

1. Aim To Achieve Daily Success, Not To ‘Be Successful’

There is a world of difference between daily, inner success and ‘being successful’. 

Aiming to ‘Be Successful’ means seeking the awards and prestige that others bestow on you.  This never creates a satisfying and fulfilling life.  Meaning doesn’t come from outside yourself – it comes from a deep inner knowing that you’re making progress today.

That’s what you’ll go for: Achieving a sense of success, one day at a time.  Focus on what you need to do today, and do it to the best of your ability.  Appreciate every little bit of progress you make toward your goals.  To maximize satisfaction, be fully present in each moment, too.

2. Be Fully Present and Live In A 24-Hour Bubble

“Create the habit of consciously responding to the present moment.  Put your full attention on the present moment.” – Maxwell Maltz

Focusing 100% on the task in front of you is the key to doing it incredibly.  Thoughts of the past or future are just distractions.  Any attention you use thinking about something other than what’s in front of you right now limits what you accomplish.

To experience the most peace and prosperity, live in a 24 hour bubble.  This means that anything that happened more than 24 hours ago no longer matters, and anything more than 24 hours in the future is not on your mind.  You can still take action and prepare, but don’t obsess over the past or future.

Being fully present in a task means focusing on accomplishing one thing at a time.  Put your full attention on the task at hand right now.  Don’t switch tasks randomly – only move on to the next one when you’re done with this one.  If distracting thoughts about other tasks pop up in your mind, write them down in a notebook at your desk.  They can be dealt with after this task is complete.

“Ease off on the pressure.  Stop trying to cram into the machinery more than one job at a time.” – Maxwell Maltz

3. Measure Yourself By Your Own Standards, Not Others’

“How you think of yourself depends on which norms you measure yourself by.  If you measure yourself against someone else’s norm, you will always fall short.  If you measure yourself by your own norms, you are always enough.” – Maxwell Maltz

This is the most powerful idea I learned from Psycho-Cybernetics.  I used to walk around comparing myself to others all day, and always fall short.  That’s because I would see what someone else is really good at, and compare it to my shortcomings in that area.  We most value the abilities we don’t have.  The unique and powerful talents we possess seem ordinary, because we’re so used to them.

Corporate marketing is constantly telling us what we should be.  It creates standards for wealth, beauty and happiness that are unrealistic.  They want to put us in a state of desire, so we buy their products.  Their purpose is to make us feel like we’re ‘not enough’.

Maltz shares a different method for measuring ourselves. He says we should create our own standards to measure ourselves by.  Instead of measuring myself by the standards of others, I can measure my success based on the metrics I care most about, like my writing productivity.  

Only you know the unique skills that you can offer the world.  Build those up instead of trying to become what the world tells you to be.  That’s where you will find true success.

“You are not inferior or superior.  You are, simply, you.  Self-realization is understanding your unique value and bringing that to the world” – Maxwell Maltz

4. Happiness Is A Choice

“Happiness does not lie in the future, but in the present.  If you are to be happy at all, it must not depend on external reasons.” – Maxwell Maltz

One of the biggest tricks your mind plays on you is saying ‘I’ll be happy when…’

  • I have more money
  • I’m in a great relationship
  • I get promoted in my job

None of these things can make you happy.  The only way you can be happy is deciding to be so.

Happiness is a choice.  You can choose to be happy now, or you can pursue things that won’t actually make you happy.  Taking action towards meaningful goals will make choosing happiness easier.  But it’s always your choice.

Only you can decide whether your life is great or terrible.  There is always proof that both are true.  You can pay attention to the things that are great about your life, or focus only on what’s going wrong right now.  The choice is yours.  You get what you pay attention to.

5. Your Reality Is Created By Your Mind

“A human being always acts in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment” – Maxwell Maltz

We often think that what we perceive with our senses is the true nature of reality. Actually, physical reality is only a small part of our experience.  Our true reality is all the layers of thought put over those physical objects.

These layers include our:

  • Past Stories
  • Expectations
  • Beliefs
  • Ideas
  • Mood

Reality is created in our minds.  To change your reality, you must change how you see the world.

One of the best ways to change our reality is by visualizing a different one.  To your brain, there is no difference between what you vividly imagine and what’s really happening.

This is most impactful when performing a difficult task.  Athletes often visualize victory long before they are playing in the championship.  When pitching in sales, visualization and practice are key to succeeding.  By visualizing the performance repeatedly, we can prepare mentally for facing the real challenge. This mental practice powerfully improves our performance.

“You act, not in accordance with how things really are, but what you imagine they are.” – Maxwell Maltz

Conclusion: To Change The World, Change How You See Yourself

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz blew my mind.  There’s a reason it’s still in print 60 years after publication.  Books that survive the test of time do so for a reason.  

The ideas in Psycho-Cybernetics are so incredibly fresh and relevant that it would still be revolutionary if it were published for the first time today.  I highly recommend reading it if you enjoyed this article.

Joel Smith

Author and writing coach at The Fit Writer.

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