Psycho-Cybernetics is the first book I read after graduating college and it was one of the best investments I ever made.
It helped me shift the way I think about life and what’s possible.
Don’t get freaked out by the strange title either. This book is worth investing in if you’re serious about optimizing your life.
Here are some actionable insights from the book:
10 Actionable Insights from Psycho-Cybernetics
- Work on how you perceive yourself
- See and experience your goals before they happen
- Take the first step (even if it’s small)
- Remember that you compete against yourself
- Set YOUR standards
- Make mistakes
- Reframe how you think about projects
- Live and act at the moment
- Be happy now
- Set goals for yourself, not other people
1. Work on how you perceive yourself
Your actions, feelings, behaviors, and even abilities are consistent with your “self-image”.
For example, you’ll always operate by whatever your self-image is.
If you’ve labeled yourself as “a failure”, you’ll find ways to fail at whatever you’re doing. If you believe you believe the world is against you and you’re a victim of injustice, that becomes your reality. If you think you can’t learn X because you’re not smart enough (or insert some other excuse), you’ll never learn X.
It all comes down to positive self-talk.
I learned about “self-talk” when I was trying to improve as a baseball pitcher in college. After reading a few books, I discovered that my pitching struggles had nothing to do with my physical ability. It had everything to do with my internal self-talk.
When things didn’t go well, I was devastatingly brutal on myself (while I was playing).
The result was always the same when I had negative self-talk. My pitching would get progressively worse and the game would snowball for the worse. For a while, my self-image was “someone who can’t throw strikes”.
But one day I decided to pick up a few baseball pitching books.
I was shocked to discover that most of these books focused very little on technique or the physical aspects of pitching. Instead, they focused on the mental game.
That’s when everything changed for me.
I changed my self-talk and realized that I am someone who will throw strikes.
This brings me to the next important point from Psycho-Cybernetics which is…
2. See and experience your goals before they happen
Your mind doesn’t know the difference between an imagined and a “real” experience.
Watch the movie Inception and this will make sense.
Most people answer “NO” (with “you’re an idiot” look on their face), but think about it.
How many times have you been (what we define) as “dreaming” and it felt real?
That’s the power of our mind and imagination. Maxwell Maltz argues that you can tap into our subjective reality for the better.
The most actionable way to leverage this principle is through visualization.
Spend a few minutes each day visualizing your goals. I know you’ve heard this advice hundreds of times, but do not underestimate how powerful it is.
You need to see and feel your goals before you can achieve them.
“If we picture ourselves performing in a certain manner, it is nearly the same as the actual performance. Mental practice helps to make perfect.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 35
One thing that helps me is to think about what it looks like when I’ve achieved whatever goal I’m going for. The clearer you can see the goal, the better your subconscious mind can work.
3. Take the first step (even if it’s small)
Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“Do the thing and you will have the power.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 29
Most quality goals seem impossible when you’re looking at them on the surface.
For example, let’s say your goal is to write 12, 3,000-word blog posts this year. That immediately makes my stomach turn thinking about how much work I have to do.
That’s why it’s critical to set the high-level goal first. Then, break that goal down into baby steps. It’s much easier to write 100 words per day than to write 12, 3,000-word articles.
4. Remember that you compete against yourself
You are not inferior or superior to any other human. As Maxwell Maltz says:
“You are simply You.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 57
Focus on how the “you” of tomorrow is going to be better than the “you” of today. If you aren’t beating what you were yesterday then you’re not moving in the right direction.
Growth is happiness.
5. Set YOUR standards
We’re conditioned to believe that we’re trying to meet other people’s standards for us. Wrong.
The only standards that matter is yours.
“Stop measuring yourself against “their” standards. You are not “Them” and can never measure up. Neither can “they” measure up to yours – nor should they. Once you see this simple, rather self-evident truth, accept it and believe it, your inferior feelings will vanish.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 58
6. Make mistakes
Maxwell Maltz writes that our mistakes are building blocks for success. You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true.
I wouldn’t take back a single mistake or “failure” because they were all necessary steps for getting me to where I am today.
I also know that I’m going to make more mistakes and I welcome them. I know I’ll “lose” or “fail” on the surface. I want that because I know it’s the only way I’ll break through plateaus and reach new goals.
Embrace failure, no matter how scary it may seem.
7. Reframe how you think about projects
Persuade yourself to believe that what you have to do is easy and it will become so. One thing that helps me is to put things in perspective.
Is it really that hard for me to take my thoughts and type them onto this document? No. It’s not. It’s simple. I just write what I’m thinking. It’s easy.
But the question is: is it easy because I’ve conditioned myself to believe that? I think so.
8. Live and act at the moment
You can’t control yesterday and you can’t control tomorrow. The only thing you can do is focus on your thoughts and actions right at this moment.
I can choose to continue writing this article or I can choose to clean my desk. I’m choosing to continue writing because I know it’s a higher impact action. I know it can make a positive impact on other people’s lives.
And for my messy desk? It’s not going anywhere. It will be there for me to clean after I complete this higher impact work.
This goes along well with the next point.
9. Be happy now
I’ve struggled many times throughout my life to “be happy” despite having everything I would ever want.
It wasn’t until I realized that “to be happy” is a terrible goal.
You will never “be happy”. You just have to be happy now.
Happiness is a habit. You must practice it at every moment.
There is no person, goal, thing, experience, or anything in the future that will make you or me happy. Be happy right now, at this moment. But don’t listen to me, listen to what Abraham Lincoln said:
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 99
10. Set goals for yourself, not other people
Some “goals” are nothing more than an attempt to impress others. People believe that by setting and achieving goals, they’ll impress others.
This is a terrible motive and will not bring you happiness.
The only reason to set and work towards a goal is to satisfy yourself. To know that you put in the work and made a dream become a reality. You flexed your creative muscle and took control of your life.
Accomplishing goals is for YOU.
“Success” isn’t defined by other people. Create your definition of success.
I hope you enjoyed this breakdown of Psycho-Cybernetics. I believe it’s a book worth investing in and reading. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without reading this book. It’s that serious.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think about the book!