During my college years, I became interested in self-help books. I became interested in any book dealing with motivation, inspiration, personal development, self-improvement, positive thinking, self-empowerment, success and achievement.
In the self-improvement and positive thinking area there are many gurus one might choose to take advice from and gain insight from. These are my top five.
1. Norman Vincent Peale
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s most famous book is entitledThe Power of Positive Thinking. Even though his book has a religious slant to it, he offers practical ideas and strategies even for those who are not particularly religious. He believed in taking an assessment of what positive things you have in your life thereby allowing you to see that things are not always as hopeless as you might think. He believed that positive affirmations could have a powerful impact on one’s life. He believed in thankfulness and gratitude. He believed forgiveness was powerful and that one should forgive even those people one does not respect or like. He believed there was some good in all people. He believed in visualization and having a clear image of what you want to achieve. He believed in having clear goals. Knowing precisely what you want in life is better than having a hazy idea of what you want. Above all, he believed in positive thinking as is reflected in the title of his famous book. There is always hope.
2. Anthony (Tony) Robbins
I became familiar with Tony Robbins long before he started doing television infomercials. I bought a copy ofUnlimited Power in 1989. Tony Robbins introduced NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to a wider audience than it had previously been exposed to. Tony Robbins, like Norman Vincent Peale, also wrote of having clear goals in mind. He believes it is important to know the outcome that you desire. Tony introduced me to NLP techniques such as modeling, mirroring, anchors, and pattern interrupts. He introduced me to what he called The Ultimate Success Formula. The formula is a simple but effective strategy for achieving a successful outcome. Tony discusses the how the “state” one is in has a tremendous impact on how a person is feeling and behaving. Our state is determined by our thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, mental images, physiology, and other factors. Tony discusses the seven “lies” of success that are actually guidelines that usually foster success. Tony places heavy importance on beliefs because they influence one’s emotions and behaviors. He understands the importance one’s values play in his or her life. And, he too believes in always looking for the positive in life.
3. Maxwell Maltz
Dr. Maxwell Maltz authored the bestselling book Psycho-Cybernetics. He believed that man is a goal striving being. What I found the most intriguing in his book was his statement, “Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a ‘real’ experience.” Later in the book, he restates this idea slightly differently: “Our brain and nervous system cannot tell the difference between a ‘real’ experience, and one which is vividly imagined.” Dr, Maltz knew how powerful imagination and visualization could be. Dr. Maltz, like Tony Robbins, thought that beliefs were a strong determining factor in how one behaves and reacts to the world around him. Dr. Maltz understood how powerful our imaginations are. Therefore, he advocated visualization and mental rehearsal. Dr. Maltz believed that happiness was essential to good health and that pleasant thoughts were a major influence in regards to one’s happiness. Above all, Dr. Maltz understood how important one’s self-image was in determining his or her success in life. Too many people underrate themselves.
4. Wayne Dyer
My parents had a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer lying around the house during my youth so I was familiar with his name. During my college years, I visited my aunt and found a copy of Your Erroneous Zones on her bookshelf and decided to take a look at it. Dr. Dyer emphasizes two main themes in his book: taking responsibility for your emotions and your life and living in the present moment. He believes that thoughts precede emotions. Individuals can control their thoughts and therefore control their emotions. He believes that happiness is important and that you are responsible for your happiness by virtue of the beliefs and thoughts you hold. Dr. Dyer believes in being open to new experiences. One need not be too rigid in his beliefs or activities and one need not always have a plan. Living in the moment and being spontaneous can have a positive impact on your life.
5. Paul Pearsall
Dr. Paul Pearsall authored a book entitled Super Immunity: Master Your Emotions and Improve Your Health. This book fascinated me. I learned how important our thoughts and emotions are in determining our state of health. Dr. Pearsall understands the dangers of anger, sadness, and other emotions. He understands how beliefs influence how one feels. Thoughts can be a danger to our health. For instance, black and white thinking (rigid thinking) can contribute to illness. Seeing the gray areas in life and not demanding that everything be a particular way in life is much healthier. Interestingly, Dr. Pearsall also wrote a book entitled The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need in which he actually confronts the self-help industry and questions some its most common ideas and concepts. For instance, Dr. Pearsall thinks the concept of self-esteem has been overrated. He believes it’s good to be realistic and acknowledge that you can’t necessarily be good at everything you desire.
Some common themes seem to be present in the writings and teachings of these five self-help gurus. These five individuals seem to all understand the importance of goals, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, visualization, values, and personal responsibility. And, of course, they all recognize the importance of positive thinking.
Can we really have, do, and be anything we desire in life? I’m going to be positive and say, “Yes!”