Think and Grow Rich is one of the most popular self-help books of all time (some estimates point to sales of around 100 million copies).
In this blog post, I’m going to explore the most prescient ideas from the book and explain why, almost a century later, they still have the power to change your life.
First, we’re going to look at the DCA or Definite Chief Aim. Napoleon Hill (the author) believed everybody should have one and I’ll show you how to create, and use it, so you can realize your life’s purpose.
Then, I’ll explain the true value of Think and Grow Rich, breaking down Hill’s 12 Steps to Riches and explaining how to use each one in turn.
Finally, I’ll reveal The Secret to unlimited riches that Hill frequently refers to, but never explicitly states.
There are six steps to creating your Definite Chief Aim. Taken from the book, they are;
Step 1: Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount.
Step 2: Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire.
Step 3: Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
Step 4: Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
Step 5: Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly, the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
Step 6: Read your statement out loud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. As you read – see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of the money.
Let’s explore the implications of these 6 steps.
One of the key themes of Think and Grow Rich is definiteness of purpose. You must be certain about how much money you want. Therefore, when creating your DCA, you don’t use guestimates, hopes or wishes. Instead, set your figure with conviction.
How much money do you want?
For a moment, forget societies standards. This isn’t about being realistic. Instead, give your imagination free reign and be honest. How much money will it take for you to be financially free?
Whatever that figure might be (and be precise, down to the penny), write it down now.
Now, what are you going to do to achieve it?
You have to do something. Winning the lottery won’t cut it.
Do you know your life’s purpose?
If so, great. You already know the means through which you’ll generate your riches.
If you aren’t sure, then go with your best idea. Don’t over analyse. Right now, what’s the most inspiring way you can think of, that stands some chance of success, to make money?
Got that? Good, use it for your DCA (you can always choose something else further down the line if you find it more inspiring and there’s a greater chance you can make money from it).
When do you want to realize your DCA?
The importance of set dates, and an exact sum of money, is that it sends a clear message/instruction to your subconscious. The second section will reveal how important the subconscious is but, for now, know it can only help you, if you help it.
Giving yourself a lifetime to achieve your DCA will mean you won’t achieve it until it’s too late. However, if you instruct your subconscious that 10 or 5 years is the deadline, then it knows the urgency with which it needs to deliver the money-making ideas.
So, go ahead and create your DCA.
If you need a little help, here’s Bruce Lee’s, taken from the book Fighting Spirit,
“I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest-paid Oriental superstar in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970, I will achieve world fame and from then onwards until the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and peace.”
Bear in mind that his was written in 1969, before Fists of Fury or Enter the Dragon. At the time, Lee was an injured, out of work actor with mounting debts.
In his mind, however, he was a superstar and, what some might have called empty words, soon became his reality. Be bold.
Think and Grow Rich is not a wealth creating manual, it’s an idea generating manual. Don’t be fooled by the title. You won’t find any advice on investments or saving your money. However, what you will find, is a lot of information on how to access the ideas that are going to create your fortune.
Hill believes in an idea generating loop that looks like this. The conscious mind (if there is enough emotion behind your thoughts), can make an imprint on the subconscious. The subconscious mind shares a connection with The Infinite Intelligence (the source of all knowledge and creation). The Infinite Intelligence will send ideas back to you, in the form of hunches or flashes of inspiration, which are received through your creative imagination.
Sounds far-fetched, right?
I’ll use myself as an example. My DCA is to sell 1 million copies of my books and, because I’m passionate about this goal, I get hunches from The Infinite Intelligence. These hunches take the form of book ideas – I currently have six titles in the pipeline. However, it doesn’t end there.
The Infinite Intelligence also gives me ideas for where I might find opportunities to sell my books. For example, I had hunch that I should attend a YES Group meeting in London to listen to a speaker. While there, I bought his book, got chatting to him and found out which company published his work.
A month or so later, I emailed him, after reading and reviewing his book, and asked if he had any contacts at the company to whom I could submit a book proposal. He did, I did and, a year and half later, I had my own book deal.
Here are two very real things – book titles and a book deal – gained through ideas generated by The Infinite Intelligence. It works.
To ensure you can share in these wealth generating ideas, you must master Hill’s 12 Steps to Riches. They are as follows,
1. Desire – each day, think about what you want to achieve.
2. Faith – feel, and live, as if you’ve already achieved it.
3. Auto-Suggestion – programme your mind by reading your DCA and other affirmations or visualizations on a daily basis.
4. Specialized Knowledge – Become an expert at something. This will increase the quality of your ideas about the subject you intend to become rich through.
5. Imagination – Recognize a great idea when you have it.
6. Organized Planning – Each month, write a new plan on how to achieve your DCA.
7. Decision – Reach decisions quickly. A mind constantly wavering between two or more options doesn’t have the power to make a connection with The Infinite Intelligence.
8. Master Mind – An individual only has one connection with The Infinite Intelligence. A group of ten people, all with knowledge pertaining to the realization of your DCA, has ten connections. Take advantage of this and surround yourself with intelligent people willing to help you in a reciprocal relationship.
9. Sex Transmutation – Channel your sex drive. Take the motivation it creates and, instead of pursuing physical gratification, seek spiritual rewards through working on your DCA.
10. Subconscious Mind – See previous explanation.
11. The Brain – Your thoughts have power. However, it’s only the thoughts backed by deep emotion that will carry enough power to make a connection with other minds and The Infinite Intelligence.
12. The Sixth Sense – Follow steps one through eleven and The Infinite Intelligence will communicate with you through your sixth sense. Act upon these intuitions.
Hill claims that a secret to infinite riches was passed onto him by Andrew Carnegie during their first meeting (the steel magnate gave Hill the idea for writing Think and Grow Rich). Although he spends most of the Introduction waxing lyrical about its importance, he never explicitly mentions what it is. Instead, he leaves clues, claiming it’s referred to one hundred times throughout the book and, at least, once in every chapter.
I’ve now read Think and Grow Rich three times. It was on my final reading that I finally deduced the meaning of the secret. Ironically, Hill gives it away in the first line of the first chapter when he writes, ‘truly, thoughts are things’. Furthermore, a quote included between chapters, in a later edition of the book, spells it out even more clearly.
Is this news to you?
Probably not. Essentially, it’s what’s become known as The Law of Attraction. Your thoughts, feelings and beliefs, whether you direct them consciously or not, attract the circumstances, events and outcomes of your life.
You should be EXCITED about this information. Right now, you’re being presented with a way to transform your life and create whatever it is you desire. Shouldn’t you be jumping up and down, celebrating in the knowledge that your life will be great from now on?
I bet you’re not!
I also think I know why you’re not. After all, The Law of Attraction isn’t really a law, is it? There’s no mainstream scientific study validating its’ claims. Furthermore, nobody outside the personal development world thinks this way. They all KNOW that events and outcomes are determined by chance and that only those lucky enough to be born with an amazing talent get to do something extraordinary with their life. For the rest of us, we just have to make do, accepting whatever role The System gives us.
But who wants to live like that?
Isn’t it worth experimenting with Napoleon Hill’s secret to see if there’s something in it? Why not give yourself six months to see if you can create some results by changing the way you think, feel and what you believe? If it doesn’t work out then you can go back to how you lived before.
But, what if, there happens to be something in this secret?
If it’s true, then you’ll never be the same again. This could be the moment you realize that YOU are the master of your destiny. You have the power to shape your reality through your connection with The Infinite Intelligence.
Surely this knowledge is worth far more than material riches.
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Last night, I watched The Secret on Netflix. Despite this movie/documentary being made in 2006, and despite me working in the personal development world, I’d never seen it before.
I’d heard a lot about it. I knew that it’d been a personal development phenomenon – selling 30 million copies of the book – and introducing a new audience to the self-help world. I also had a good idea what The Secret was about – hence me never watching or reading it. However, I was slightly sceptical.
I’d heard a lot of criticism about The Secret and The Law of Attraction. Pseudoscience or New Age nonsense is a label that’s commonly applied. I believed it was too simplistic. Miracles manifesting in a matter of months. It didn’t measure up with my experience of changing my life. However, despite all this, I was pleasantly surprised when watching the film.
My only criticism was the production of the documentary (and on a tight budget the producers can be forgiven for this). Some of it did come across as a little cheesy and dated and the ‘movie sections’ lacked polish, giving the film a ‘made for TV’ feel. However, Hollywood gloss isn’t the reason people are watching The Secret, so let’s explore its message.
The Law of Attraction gets a lot of criticism. The main gripe is that it isn’t really a scientific Law. Unlike The Law of Gravity or the speed of light etc. . it, SO FAR, it hasn’t been proved. Does this mean it lacks credibility? Furthermore, Is everything that can’t be proved by science worthless?
It’s interesting that, to my knowledge, The Law of Attraction hasn’t been disproved either. The fact is, it hasn’t been tested. Nobody has conducted a series of experiments to check the validity of its claims. Perhaps, and this is why we have no results or findings, we presently don’t have the technology to make any measurements. We can’t see the direct correlation between a raise in mood or energy and subsequent positive events occurring in a person’s life.
I’m sceptical of science. I don’t doubt that it’s discovered some amazing things about how our world works, and brought advances that have massively helped the cause of humanity. However, I don’t agree with the God like status that scientists, doctors etc. are granted in our society and I certainly don’t believe they know all the answers.
As an interesting aside, the speed of light isn’t actually a constant. Despite scientists telling us it’s fixed at 299 792 458 m / s, there’s a lot of evidence to suggests it varies. (Dr. Rupert Sheldrake talks about this in his book and talk ‘The Science Delusion’ if you want to conduct further research.)
Anyway, back to my point. Just because science hasn’t proved The Law of Attraction, doesn’t mean it’s without merit. The basic idea is that YOU attract the circumstances and conditions of your life through the way you think and feel. You have an energy or, vibrational frequency, and this is transmitted to the Universe which responds with the physical equivalent.
It’s both an interesting, and liberating, theory. It means that, through your thoughts and feelings, you can direct and shape your life in a way you desire. You can be happy, healthy, achieve all your goals and experience love. There is nothing stopping you apart from the mastery of this ‘law’.
While The Law of Attraction can’t scientifically be described as a ‘law’; it operates close enough to this definition to be effective. I’ve turned my entire life around through changing my thoughts and feelings. On many occasions, which I’ve documented in a diary spanning 16 years, I’ve changed the outcome of a tennis match, my ability to attract women, injuries and my ability to help clients, through raising my energy. There was a direct correlation. Higher energy (better mood) = improved outcomes. I don’t need a scientist to tell me this. I’ve conducted my own experiments and proved it to myself.
The Secret gives an excellent and easily applied explanation of The Law of Attraction. Think about the outcome you desire as much as possible and feel how you would feel if this outcome came to pass. Furthermore, always think about what you want. If you ever catch yourself thinking about the things you don’t want, then immediately correct this thinking and redirect it towards to something positive.
A major criticism of The Secret is that it claims each individual is responsible for ALL the events and outcomes in their life. This means that if you have cancer or a failed relationship, or get fired from your job, it’s because of something you thought and felt for a sustained period of time.
This triggers a lot of people. It’s an uncomfortable truth that challenges their notion of being a blameless victim. ‘I don’t deserve this’ they say. It’s cruel.
To some extent, I agree. You would never say to someone who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, ‘you brought it on yourself.’ However, I think people who despise The Secret or The Law of Attraction for this reason are missing the point.
Rather than blaming you for what has happened, you’re being given the key to change and recover. The film documents two cases of people who have bounced back from life threatening situations by using The Law of Attraction. The first, is a lady who healed herself of breast cancer in 3 months. The second, is a man who recovered from a plane crash that broke his back and crushed his diaphragm.
So, rather than focusing on blame, think about responsibility. If you take total responsibility for all the events and circumstances in your life, irrespective of how bad they are, you can then start to move towards a solution.
Finally, the issue of time scales must be addressed. On this point, I am slightly critical of The Secret. In the film, the author Jack Cranfield talks about how he manifested a $100,000 income in a matter of months. It all seems so easy.
My experience has been anything but. I’ve struggled for 16 long years to turn my life around. I’ve been successful, but it’s been the fight of my life. To see people talking about realising their desires in less than half a year is difficult to comprehend.
Again, though, this could just be a fault in my approach. Notice how I use the words ‘struggle’ and ‘fight’ in my previous paragraph. The Law of Attraction indicates that if one believes they need to struggle and fight against their conditions then they’ll receive more of this experience. Perhaps my own slow progress is a result of the internal battle that has been raging inside me throughout this time. And, if I could just believe with greater clarity, then I’d have achieved my desires far more quickly.
I can accept this criticism. In fact, I want to believe it because of the opportunity it presents. If I can let go of the struggle, then the possibilities for rapid manifestation are very appealing.
In conclusion, I couldn’t find much to fault in The Secret. Yes, The Law of Attraction isn’t a bonafide scientific law, but that won’t stop it from working in your life. My advice is to USE IT!
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I was talking to one of my tennis students today about her interest in drama and singing. I suggested she might want to pursue it professionally when she left school or university.
Her response was that it would never work. Apparently, to make a career as an actress you have to be incredibly lucky. She also mentioned that most people performing in West End shows are barely able to make a living.
I was disappointed to hear this. I don’t know how passionate she is about acting (I know she likes it a lot), so I don’t want to presume that it’s her dream. However, I was more disappointed to hear that a 15 year old already had this kind of belief system.
Where did she get it from?
At a guess, possibly parents and friends, most likely from fellow students or teachers at her drama class and receiving rejections from auditions. All of these voices and experiences, when delivered from figures of authority we’ve been taught to respect, bypass the critical, reasoning faculty of our mind and form limiting beliefs in our subconscious. We accept them as The Truth, but do we ever take time to analyse or attempt to discredit them?
The conversation reminded me of my own thinking when I was 22. At the time, I wanted to write a best selling personal development book but all I heard from my parents, another author and the media (reading magazine articles/writers’ handbook), was that this was an impossibility. There was no money in being an author, apparently. Furthermore, the chances of getting published were so remote it wasn’t even worth trying. Basically, it was down to luck. It was a total shot in the dark, so did I really want to invest all that time on something that might never work out?
Unfortunately, I believed these voices. I accepted them as The Truth. Whenever I contemplated my dream of becoming a best selling personal development author, a subconscious feeling of embarking on an impossible journey was triggered.
However, I persisted. I imagined my life as lawyer, accountant, working in a corporation etc as being so dull and out of sync with who I was, I reasoned that I may as well go for my crazy dream. What did I have to lose?
Many years later, I can see how that initial belief held me back. I never threw myself into my dream with the vigor that might have enabled me to be successful.
I don’t have that belief anymore. By challenging it, I can see there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to achieving a dream society declares impossible or dependent on luck. Here are some of them;
1. Almost everybody accepts the conventional way of thinking. They also believe the chances of achieving a ‘crazy dream’ are minuscule. This is actually to your advantage. It means that, if you persist, most of your competition is going to drop out, so the competition for places is not as intense as you think.
2. Although you may not achieve your dream, you can still make a living from it. Aim for the moon and you may hit a star, right? Although this quote makes zero cosmological sense, you get the idea. Despite what The System would have you believe, achieving a crazy dream isn’t always black and white. You might fail to becoming a best selling author or star in Hollywood films, but you might sell enough copies of your book to get by or land enough acting roles on TV or the stage to make it work. Isn’t that good enough? Sure, you’d rather accomplish the goal you set out to achieve, but it beats a load of other alternatives.
3. Luck isn’t necessary. Your own hard work will forge a path. When you challenge a system held truth (nobody makes money as an author, being a professional actress is all about luck), and PROVE to yourself that it isn’t, it messes with your head (in a good way). You discover that the world doesn’t work in the way you were led to believe. Your hard work and clarity of purpose, DOES make a tangible impact. As Steve Jobs said,
“The minute you understand that you can poke life and something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it, that’s maybe the most important thing. To shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it.”
However, to get to this place, you have to challenge accepted beliefs. If you’re never take this step, the world will always conform to the way it’s been presented to you.
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Are you looking for a radical way to shake up your life?
Are you bored with the seemingly meaningless way of life The System offers?
Would you like your life to be one big adventure?
If you answered yes to any, or all, of these questions then I have the solution. It comes in the form of a 1999 film that introduced a revolutionary new character with a dark, yet liberating, life philosophy.
I am, of course, talking about Fight Club and Tyler Durden and, by learning from its philosophy, you’ll be able to transform yourself into the person you’ve always wanted to be.
What was the fight club in Fight Club all about? A chance for some blue and white-collar workers to vent their aggression?
No, it was an opportunity for a group of men, totally disconnected from life, to feel alive.
Fight Club was criticised for the level of violence displayed. People said it promoted fascism and misogamy. These critics totally missed the point.
The men in Fight Club were so numb from a life of pumping gas, waiting tables, working in offices and chasing the empty dream of consumerism, that they needed something as extreme as fighting to remind them they were alive.
Remember what led Jack (Edward Norton’s character) to Tyler Durden and the creation of Fight Club. He was an insomniac. His life was so dull, he described himself as living in a state that was neither ‘asleep nor awake’.
What happened when he started attending fight club? He slept like a baby!
The lesson here is that without stimulation, your mind is prone to turning in on itself, shutting down or seeking other more destructive outlets such a drugs, emotional eating or gambling. Therefore, you must engage in, and with, the pursuits, people and activities that make you feel alive. This prevents mental illness, increases your happiness and unleashes your creativity.
‘Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat. It isn’t a god damn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and let go. LET GO!’
– Tyler Durden
Do you find that attempts to control your life often backfire?
Whether a natural impulse, or inherited from growing up in such a demanding society (exams, deadlines, work targets etc.), the need to control is hard to resist. We struggle, push and strain, hoping that if we can exert enough effort, then we can achieve our goals.
But what if there was another way?
Throughout the film, Tyler urges Jack to let go of his need to control. This, he teaches him, is the only way to evolve and be free.
To prove his point, he lets go of the steering wheel while they’re driving on the freeway. Jack immediately urges Tyler to take control of the car. Tyler refuses. Jack’s been questioning him about the exact direction that Fight Club is taking as it transitions into Project Mayhem. He’s insisting that he’s kept informed of all developments.
Tyler doesn’t want to hear this. To him, it’s a sign that Jack hasn’t learned a thing since coming to Fight Club. He doesn’t realise that projects evolve and grow and can’t be micro managed. Sometimes, the destination isn’t clear, but if we’re open to where the journey might lead, we can still achieve the outcomes we desire.
Of course, without Tyler controlling the car, it crashes and careens off the road. It’s an extreme lesson and, for a moment, the viewer is left wondering what it’s about. However, Tyler, in his twistedly brilliant way reveals all, as says to Jack while scrambling from the wreckage, ‘God damn, we’ve just had a near life experience.’
He wants to show Jack what happens when you learn to let go of your need to control. You don’t die. Your world doesn’t fall apart. You don’t lose all motivation and you’re still able to function and perform important duties. However, what does happen, when you stop attempting to control every tiny detailed, is that you are opened to the adventure of life.
Defeats turn into opportunities. A blocked road alerts you to a more interesting path. Being injured or unable to do something, frees up time for you to explore other areas.
The message is that your subconscious mind is connected to a deeper wisdom than your conscious. You can’t possibly control all the millions of outcomes that need to go your way to be successful. It would take too long. At some point, you must let go and trust that everything that needs to happen will occur.
In one of the most powerful scenes of the film, Tyler holds a gun to a convenience store workers head. The worker (Raymond) is terrified. He thinks his store is being held up. However, his terror soon turns to confusion as Tyler starts questioning him about his life.
Raymond has been putting off becoming a vet because of all the obstacles he believes stand in his way.
Tyler views everything Raymond says as an excuse. So, he gives him an option. Either he can enrol in veterinary school and follow his dreams, or, Tyler can re-visit him in six weeks and blow his brains out.
Extreme and cruel?
Perhaps, but Tyler also makes a brilliant point. Far too many of us don’t follow through with the truly important things in our lives. We’re too willing to believe our own excuses and spend our lives focusing on the small stuff we think needs to be done.
The problem is that, unlike Raymond, none of us are faced with a life or death choice. When walking The System’s Path, our decline is slow. We don’t notice the loss of vitality and health until it’s too late. Looking back, we rue the wasted years and regret the dreams we didn’t follow but, at the time, we have no perspective.
When faced with a life and death situation, you see clearly. When threatened with the loss of everything, you realise you’re free to do anything. What else matters? Paying the rent on the crappy apartment you hate? Paying a mortgage to a bank who’s ripping you off? Turning up on time to a job that bores your brains out?
Are you really going to be thinking about these things on your death bed?
No, so why let them stop you going for the life you want?
The lesson here is that living your dreams is relatively simple. There’s nothing stopping you. If someone put a gun to your head and told you to follow through on that idea you have for a business, or pursue your dream to be an actor, you’d do it, and probably be successful too!
In, perhaps, the most powerful speech of the film (or any film), Tyler tells the group of disaffected men congregated at Fight Club, “We’re the middle children of history. No purpose, no place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war; our great depression is our lives.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by another great thinker – Victor Frankl – when he wrote this in his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning,
“Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every age needs its own psychotherapy to cope with it. The existential vacuum which is the mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as the contention that being has no meaning.”
At its deepest level, Fight Club is a film about finding meaning. Life seems pointless because you’ve been conditioned to value things that make you feel empty (accumulation of wealth and status). If you can reject this conditioning and, instead, win the ‘spiritual war’ of your soul (obey your inner voice, rather than societies, in all your major life decisions), then the sense of purpose that eludes so many of us, will be yours.
(image taken from Jess’s photostream at flickr.com)
To read more on Tyler Durden and Fight Club, please check out Self-Improvement is Masturbation: Tyler Durden’s 3 Rules for an Exciting Life. With over 3000 shares it’s the sites most popular post.
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2016 is over. 2017 is upon us. It’s a new year, full of possibilities and yet to be determined outcomes.
As it begins, your thoughts may turn to what you’re going to do differently this time around The Sun.
You may even set yourself some New Year’s Resolutions or goals.
I’m no stranger to this impulse. I love challenging myself. Even more than that, I love the idea of experimenting with different habits and recording the impact they have on my well-being and productivity.
Last year, I undertook such a challenge. Alongside my goal of working 20 hours a week on building my business (while still working a regular job), I determined to meditate every single day of the year.
I’d set myself this goal the previous two years running. However, on both occasions, circumstances conspired against me and I failed in my efforts.
This time, though, I knew exactly what I was facing. I knew how to avoid repeating previous mistakes and make sure that I was successful.
And I was. 365 days later, I’d managed to stick to my goal of meditating every single day of the year.
There were close runs ins (pulling my car over to the side of the road to get a session in at 11.50pm and having to break off late night phone conversations with my girlfriend to ensure I didn’t miss the midnight deadline) but there wasn’t a day that went by without me sticking to this practise.
Mentally and spiritually stronger, I now want to share my experiences with you.
My hope is that you’ll engage in a similar undertaking and that my insights will help you do so successfully. I’ll reveal everything I’ve learned about how to use this practise effectively and the positive changes you can expect to see as a result of doing so.
Before we begin, though, let me first explain the parameters of my yearlong challenge.
I don’t want to appear disingenuous by using the word meditation. It’s the most recognisable word I could find to explain my challenge in a way that the reader (you) would understand. However, in the sense that I didn’t focus on my breathing, or clearing my mind of thoughts, I wasn’t meditating in a traditional way.
Instead, I focused my mind.
If you google the term ‘meditating’, the second definition the search engine offers is this, ‘think deeply about something’.
This is exactly what I did. I went to my room, sat down, fixed my eyes on a burning candle (if night time) or the treeline I could see out of my window (if during the day), and focused my thoughts on a few specific aims.
The aims were as follows;
1. Selling a million copies of my book.
I would see the number 1,000,000 clearly in my mind or rehearse a scene in my imagination where, after having sold the requisite amount, I revisited my old University (the site of my greatest unhappiness) and experienced a moment of triumph.
2. Feeling great.
I would focus on a massive wave of positive energy flowing through my body. Although I couldn’t always do it, I would aim to get this feeling pulsating. I wanted it to be that powerful to remind me of the state I aspire to live in during the day.
These were the thoughts I’d alternate between, although I focused most regularly on the first. I choose them because I wanted to experience them in my life.
When it came to the rules of the challenge, I had to mediate for 10 minutes every day and I had to do this before midnight. If I hadn’t completed by then, or went just 1minute over, then it was considered a fail and my challenge would be over.
This is what I learned.
Sometimes I did it first thing in the morning, sometimes it was last thing at night. Occasionally, I even did it during the day. It made no difference to the effectiveness of the meditation.
Practise is what gets you good at silencing random thoughts and strengthening your focus, not doing it at a particular time.
This is something you need to be aware of. If you’re up and out of the house early in the morning you may not have time to do it before work. A busy job may prevent you from doing it during the day. Being tired at night, or going out with friends, may stop you from getting it done before you go to bed.
Of course, these circumstances do not occur every day. But if you’re looking to take on the yearlong challenge, then you need only miss one day and you’ve failed.
To prevent this from happening you must plan, either the day before or when you wake up in the morning, when you’ll do your 10 minutes of meditation. You can set a timer on your phone, record it in a diary or, if your memories good and you’re accustomed to meditating daily, then make a mental note.
A rough guess will suffice. You don’t want to be thinking about the time, or whether it’s nearly up, while you’re meditating. This breaks your focus and prevents you building an emotional connection.
Whenever you feel ready, and think you’ve done close to 10 minutes, bring the session to a close.
I did both. Sometimes I built a deeper connection emotional connection by shutting my eyes. Sometimes looking at natures scenic splendour helped me relax. I found both equally effective.
Throughout the course of a 365-day year, there are going to be moments (perhaps many of them) when you feel tired. There are going to be occasions when you feel demotivated or receive bad news.
In these moments, the thought of doing your 10 minutes’ meditation will be unappealing to say the least. However, this is when the practise shows its true value.
You may have thought you’re engaging in a powerful mind calming and focusing practise, but the secret and most powerful benefit of making yourself meditate daily is the boost to your willpower and discipline.
By doing it when you don’t want to, you gain mastery over the weaker elements of your mind. Expect to see knock on effects in areas like controlling your eating, going to the gym and working on your project or business.
This rule also applies to exercise, diet or any habit change you want to create. Success is largely about positive momentum. The most effective way to create this is to do something regularly.
We’re conditioned into thinking the job interview or the exam or the first date are the most important moments of our lives. However, the way these events play out is largely a reaction to beliefs we have stored in our subconscious minds.
You create empowering beliefs by feeding your mind with empowering thoughts. That’s why these 10 minutes a day should be considered sacred and given precedence over everything else.
This is a great way to stay motivated. It’s a constructive dopamine rush. Rather than getting your hit from outlets that offer a temporary buzz (e.g. chocolate and shopping), you gain a real sense of reward from celebrating each successful day by noting it down.
Meditation isn’t always fun. Stopping your thoughts from wandering can feel like hard work.
Don’t be surprised if you have this experience. It’s just the lazy, untamed side of your mind fighting back and saying it doesn’t want to work.
Don’t listen to it or allow it to wander. Keep bringing it back to whatever you’re focusing on. Eventually, it will obey.
The good news is, it gets easier. About three months into my yearlong challenge and meditating daily was no longer a hassle. By the time I reached six months, I was positively looking forward to my daily sessions. I viewed it as a chance to connect with my higher purpose. In this way, my time spent meditating felt sacred.
Expect to experience a similar transition.
What do you stand to gain by meditating daily?
Here’s a summary.
A successful meditation session is as follows. You silence your wandering mind and gain an emotional connection with the object of your focus (in my example, feeling ecstatic about selling 1 million copies of my book). Once complete, you walk away feeling refreshed and positive.
It’s important for you to know, especially if you’re a beginner, that this won’t always happen. Sometimes you will sit down, close your eyes and for most of the 10 minutes your mind will wander. Then, when you open your eyes, you’ll feel like you haven’t accomplished anything and it’s been a wasted session.
Even when you don’t build the connection you desired, you’ve still done something incredibly important. You’ve turned up. You’ve displayed your commitment to grow and given yourself the opportunity to be great.
Don’t underestimate just how powerful this is.
As a hypnotherapist whose witnessed many people being successful (and failing) at achieving their New Year’s Resolutions and goals, I can tell you that which side of the divide you fall on will have a lot to do with your priorities.
You’ll remember me mention pulling my car over at 11.50pm at night, and breaking off conversations with my girlfriend, to ensure I completed my daily meditation. These were selfish and bizarre actions. However, completing this challenge was one of my top three priorities for the year so they had to be done.
If you don’t prioritise in this way, then 101 different circumstances and events will occur and prevent you from being successful. When you do prioritise, those circumstances and events fall in around your goals.
For me, even earning money would have been sacrificed to keep my commitment.
As I mentioned before, it’s very easy to skip a day when doing this challenge. You prevent this from happening by attaching a powerful meaning to the goals completion.
For me, the success of the challenge was about who I was as a person.
Was I the kind of person who could excel?
I’d always done well in school, at work and with sports, but never excelled. I gave 80% to 90% effort all the time but I could never quite get to 100%.
I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I wanted to be a super achiever and I saw the completion of this yearlong challenge as a big part of me making this transition.
This reason undoubtedly helped me on the occasions I considered taking a break. It fired me up because I was so determined to live up to my ideal.
Find a similarly powerful reason and you will succeed.
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It’s all on the line. You’ve worked years for this moment. All the time spent learning, practicing and perfecting your craft and now you have 5 minutes to give the show of a lifetime and impress the judges sitting in the audience.
The pressure is truly on!
As you enter the arena, you hope the audience don’t see that you’re sweating. You hope they don’t notice the dark circles under your eyes from a sleepless night worrying about how this performance will go. You’ve been thinking about it all week. Sometimes you envision failure, sometimes it’s success but the mere thought of being on stage sends your pulse racing and brings butterflies to your stomach.
We’ve all been in this predicament. Whether it’s a product we’re selling, a match we’re attempting to win, an important speech we have to deliver or an interview for a new job, pressure situations are unavoidable, even in our tame, modern world.
Ironically, in practice or rehearsal, when the pressure’s off, we deliver a near perfect performance. However, when we believe it matters, when we think everything is on the line, our nerves attack and prevent us from relaxing and letting everything flow.
If, like many, this happens to you regularly, then you need to keep reading. I’m going to reveal the 3 secrets to performing successfully while under pressure. Read, practice and apply this knowledge and important meetings, matches, performances, interviews or exams will soon become just another opportunity to display your greatness.
Consider this, we only have conscious control over 2% – 4% of our actions, decisions and behavior in any given situation. The other 96% – 98% is controlled subconsciously.
This means that, when faced with a pressure situation, we have very little ability to directly influence the outcome or how we perform.
On the surface, this may seem a reason to be even more nervous about these situations. However, with deeper analysis, this statistic not only makes sense, it also liberates you when having to perform under pressure.
Think about it, if you did have 100% (or even 80%) conscious control over your actions, decisions and behavior then you would perform exactly as you pleased. There would be no forgetting of lines, singing out of tune or slicing the shot, because you are in full control. However, your mind doesn’t work that way. The control that you can develop (96% – 98%) is exerted through your subconscious.
What does this mean?
After all, there’s not a whole lot you can do (in the moment) to affect the performance – I mean, why get stressed about a measly 2% – 4%?
There’s a brilliant quote from Muhammad Ali and it goes like this,
‘The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.’
He’s talking about the importance of preparation. This, combined with experience, is where the fight, pitch, talk, exam, interview is won. Because what we’re bringing into a pressure situation is so much more important (96% to 4%) than what we do in a pressure situation. Therefore, all our attention should go into making sure our preparation is comprehensive as possible.
Here’s an example to give you an idea.
Last month I faced my own challenge to perform successfully under pressure. I was invited to speak at Inspire’D Stage in London, giving a talk with the theme, ‘If you had 10 minutes to share your wisdom with the world, what would you say?’
It was the biggest personal development talk I’d done to date. Previous to that, I’d spoken a few times at some Meet Up groups, made YouTube videos (yes, despite only talking to a camera they are surprisingly good public speaking preparation) and gave a best man speech at my brother’s wedding.
I tell you this so you can gauge my experience at public speaking. Although I’m not a complete beginner, I’m far from being a honed professional. As a result, I didn’t have a huge amount of experience to see me through. Instead, I had to rely on preparation.
Below is the recorded footage of my talk. You’ll notice that it lasted a little over 10 minutes.
Want to know how many hours preparation went into delivering that short 10 minute speech?
10!!!! That was the total amount of time spent conceptualising, writing and then rehearsing (over 5 hours) the talk. This should give you some idea of the length of time needed to perform successfully under pressure in a discipline you are not heavily experienced in. You have to get to the point, and put in as many hours as necessary, to really feel ready.
Even the best preparation in the world can be sabotaged by anxiety in the days and hours leading up to an important event, speech, exam or match.
Thoughts or failure, or even just thoughts about the event (neither negative or positive), can be enough to trigger a nervous response and raise your anxiety levels. You may try to combat this feeling by telling yourself that it will go well and that you’re a champion, but by this time, if you’re feeling the anxiety, it’s already too late. You’re caught in a vicious cycle and the more you think about it (whether positively or negatively) the more nervous energy you draw in.
To perform under pressure successfully you need to be calm and relaxed enough for everything to flow. Spend the days and hours preceding a pressure situation frequently experiencing a high anxiety state and it’s more than likely that, when it comes to the all-important moment, you’ll be too wound up to give your best.
To avoid this happening, you must become a master of letting go and living in the now.
Rarely are your fears routed in reality (what’s happening right now!). They are always based upon something that happened in the past or something you fear happening in the future. Therefore, if you live in the present, you cannot be afraid (unless you’re confronted with a imminently dangerous situation).
Easier said than done, I know, but mastering this skill is absolutely essential, to not only performing under pressure, but also for a balanced and happy mind.
Doing so requires a tremendous amount of vigilance and patience. You have to keep track of your thinking and be aware of the moments when your mind starts to dwell on the upcoming pressure situation. Of course, if you’re directly preparing for the event then your mind needs to be engaged on the subject. However, when you’re travelling, eating, walking and working on other activities, you have to completely switch off.
If you do catch yourself dwelling on what lies ahead, and can feel the anxiety rising, then remind yourself to LET GO. It will take time to master, and nobody can do it for you, but keep practicing and the fear will eventually clear. It has to. Your thoughts are the only things keeping it alive!
When performing under pressure it’s best to adopt the mind-set of a master in your field (or any other field that inspires you). Ponder these questions,
Remember, we’re talking about an absolute master. Someone who has been there and done it a thousand times or more and has a proven track record of getting results. Take some time to put yourself in this position and then answer the questions from that perspective.
For example, does a master tremble with nerves the night before an important event and find it impossible to sleep? No, they’ve done it a thousand times before and believe in themselves to such an extent that they feel calm.
You now have a direction to follow and a standard by which you can measure yourself against.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete beginner and, initially, struggle to meet this standard. It’s always there for you to aim towards and prevent your mind from drifting into negative thinking.
Remember, you’re not faking it, you’re becoming it. Act as I am and I will be!
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Do you believe in time travel?
Not in a ‘Back to the Future’ sense of the word (although wouldn’t that be cool), but I do believe in our ability to go back into our minds and memories and relive experiences from the past.
Some of you will know that, when I’m not running this website and promoting my book, I work as a hypnotherapist. One of the techniques I trained in is called Time Line Therapy.
This technique, created by NLP Master Trainer Tad James, asks the client to go back through their memories to a significant emotional event connected with the problem state they are experiencing in the present. For example, a person terrified of public speaking might go back to a humiliating childhood memory, of being laughed at, while trying to speak in front of a class at school.
They are then asked, ‘What’s the one learning that the you now, would tell the you back then, that were they to live it, would completely free them from this feeling of X (whatever the problem state might be)?’ If the client successfully embraces this learning, their subconscious is then updated and they are freed from an emotion that has been holding them back for years.
This is a simplified explanation of Time Line Therapy (and if you want a more detailed idea of how it works then watch this video of Tad James in action) but the point is that, through our minds, time travel is possible.
If you can get into a relaxed enough state, and focus clearly on a powerful memory from the past, after a while, you will be drawn deeply into that memory so that it begins to feel real.
You then have two options. You can just enjoy, or experience (if it’s a bad one), the memory. Or, you can use the Time Line Therapy question above and try to work out what you needed in order to successfully progress through what you were experiencing.
I’ve been using this hack a lot lately with some amazing results. I wander back in my mind to some key moments in my development, centered around the time when I first started getting intuitions about what I felt was my life’s purpose, and then ask this question, ‘What would I have done back then if I’d had the knowledge that I now possess?’
You see, back then, I wasn’t the person that I am now. Although I had this embryonic dream of writing a best-selling personal development book, it was also one of the darkest times in my life (I was 22 at the time and had just finished University).
I was lost and full of self-doubt. On top of that, I had these doubts echoed to me on a daily basis by careers advisers, parents and an environment of lack (lack of supportive friends, lack of my own money, lack of any contacts or ideas on how to break into the personal development industry).
As a result, my progress was incredibly slow. It was a case of one step forward, nine tenths of a step back. I doubted every decision (or proposed decision) I made and had to test the water with everything I did (rather than diving straight in, learning from my mistakes, and making progress).
With this approach, it’s hardly a surprise that the meteoric rise to the top I frequently imagined, never occurred.
But it could have done! And this is the point.
If only I’d known back then, what I know now, my progress would have been so much quicker. If I’d approached my dream with the energy that I now possess, I could have halved the time which I took to achieve it.
I don’t want you to fall into the same trap as you advance in the quest to live your dreams.
My problem was self-doubt but there could be any one (or more) of an array of problem states that currently block or slow your path. How can you tackle them?
As crazy as it sounds, by using the technique above!
Right now, I want you to recall a pivotal time in your life, when you had the opportunity to make significant progress or alter the course of your life in a positive way, yet you didn’t take full advantage of it.
Drift back into the memory. Focus on where you were and what you could see. Remember the possibilities and excitement of the time. Try and recall what you were doing. You’re looking for a specific memory. The more you focus on it, the more real it will feel. Close your eyes if it helps (it probably will!).
Now ask yourself this question, ‘What would I have done back then if I had the knowledge that I now possess?’
Now see yourself doing it. Rewrite your own history and feel the excitement of putting that knowledge into action.
Then, once you’ve immersed yourself in the experience, write down your answer.
For help doing this, read the following example. It’s taken from my ‘success diary’, that I’ve been keeping since September 2002, and is an account of me going through the process outlined above.
The entry for the 1st May 2016 reads as follows:
The event I was thinking about last night was from May 2002. A month away from finishing at Manchester University, I was in the Library on the first or second floor, staring out of the window pondering my future. I was starting to feel alive again after having spent the last 3 years in another time and place. The power of my dream was calling me and I could feel the excitement of its possibilities. However, I didn’t throw myself into it wholeheartedly. There was too much doubt, delay and confusion in my mind.
If only, if only I could go back there now. I would attack my dreams full tilt. I’d have knuckled down and written my book [referring to what was to become Escape The System] in 6 months. It wouldn’t have been perfect but at least I’d have had something. I’d then have started promoting myself by starting up groups and perhaps gained a life coaching qualification. Then, as my skills developed, and my writing became more refined, I’d have got a publishing deal by 2006.
I’ve got to stop there because it’s pointless saying what I would have done. I can’t go back. All I’ve got is now. And as of today, I must approach my dream full tilt. Risk everything and don’t hold back. I can’t do anything about 2002, but, sure as hell, I can do something about today. Throw yourself into it. If these 14 years have taught me one thing, it’s that I never fail by taking risks to advance my dream. I fail when I delay and opportunities (and life) pass me by.
I highlighted my key learning (and answer to the question posed above) in bold. I’ve then taken that knowledge and lived it every day since the 1st May this year.
As a result, my motivation has increased immensely and I no longer fear cutting back on higher paying tennis coaching and hypnotherapy clients to make time to work on my greater, but less well paid (at the moment), dream of becoming a best-selling author. Experience has taught me that taking risks works and that removes any reservations I have about what I stand to lose. Therefore, my mind is clear and I’m free to act, certain in the knowledge that my actions will bring success.
My learning demanded that I take greater risks and attack my dream with unrestrained energy.
What did yours teach you?
In whatever way you can, I urge you to apply that knowledge.
The increased motivation it provides is immense. How could it not be? Here you are, in exactly the same position as you were in the memory I asked you to recall (i.e. with an amazing opportunity to advance your life) but now you have the chance to benefit from your increased wisdom.
What could be more motivating or exciting?
You see, in some way, we do have the opportunity to go back and correct our mistakes from the past. We do it by taking on board the lessons they’ve taught us and then acting on them NOW.
(Image taken from Ape Lad photostream on flickr.com)
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Last weekend, I went to the Muhammad Ali exhibition at the O2 in London.
I left the venue buzzing. Not only was I dazzled by Ali’s boxing prowess and career, I was awed by the strength he showed in standing up for what he believed in and touched by his humanity.
But I also left the venue in a deep state of thought. Many of Ali’s quotes were plastered around the walls and most of them referenced his incredible self-belief. He went around telling people he was ‘The Greatest’ and this was even before he won a championship belt.
Read the quote below (taken from the exhibition).
Amazing, isn’t it? He was a kid from Kentucky who believed in himself and went on to conquer the world.
How was he able to do this? What was so unique about Ali?
Of course, his physical attributes and hard work played a massive role but there are plenty of other athletes who share these qualities.
So I want to focus on something else that Ali seemed unique in possessing, or was at least the undisputed king in this field – self-talk!
“I’m the greatest of all-times.”
“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.”
“I’m gonna show you how great I am.”
“I am the king of the world.”
These were just some of the affirmations he would tell himself, his opponents and the media. Some were funny, some seemed arrogant but they were all fueled by a divine certainty in himself and his abilities.
I now want to explore the implications of adopting Ali style self-talk and delve deeper into the possibilities of you becoming great through using his method.
I’m from the UK and, in general, we’re a pretty miserable bunch. I’ve grown up in a society where it’s more socially acceptable to put yourself down than to dare say something positive about your abilities.
I’m used to hearing people say,
“I’m rubbish at that.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I couldn’t do that.”
It’s considered OK to tell people about your perceived weaknesses but a sign of thinking you’re better than others if you vocalize a belief in yourself.
How crazy is that? We’d rather encourage playing small, in the misguided belief that others will feel safe around us, than tell (and show) the world how great we are and give other people permission to let their light shine.
I doubt such an attitude is restricted exclusively to the UK. My country may be an extreme example but how many cultures encourage positive self-talk?
Not many, I would wager, and this is the problem.
You don’t get to be great by telling yourself that you’re rubbish!
Could there be millions of us talking ourselves out of greatness?
I think so!
And as it turns out, I’m not alone in my thinking.
Two giants of the personal development world list identity or self-image (basically how we see ourselves) as the main factor in determining a person’s level of success.
Tony Robbins, with his best-selling books, seminars with an accumulated total of well over a million attendees and celebrity roster of coaching clients, has this to say about identity,
Then there’s Dr Maxwell Matlz, who’s 30 million plus selling book, Psycho-Cybernetics, is based upon the idea that people conform to their self-image.
His is an interesting perspective because he was originally introduced to the importance of self-image through his work as a plastic surgeon. He discovered that while some clients were delighted with the results of their surgery, and, as a result, adopted a more confident and outgoing persona, others would experience no change in their confidence levels despite their operation being a success.
This led him to the conclusions that self-image was more important than actual image. He could remove or correct what the patient viewed as an ugly disfigurement, yet if the patient still saw themselves as ‘ugly’, then their self-esteem wouldn’t change.
Both Robbins and Maltz’s findings concur with my experiences as a hypnotherapist.
The most difficult part in helping a smoker give up their habit was convincing them of their new identity as a non-smoker. Often, changing the behavior wasn’t too difficult as most could go without smoking for a short to medium period of time. However, if that change was to last then they had to believe they were non-smokers. If they still identified as a smoker they might abstain for a couple of months but the pull of their identity would be too great for them to maintain their resistance.
The significance of all these examples is that we build our identity, or create a self-image, partly through self-talk. Constantly tell yourself that you are ‘The Greatest’ and you’ll unleash your limitless potential. However, tell yourself that you’re ‘not good enough’ or ‘rubbish’ or ‘ugly’ and you’ll unwittingly inflict a life time of self-sabotage on your efforts.
So how will you apply what you’ve learned today? It might wear a little thin if you’re constantly telling friends, colleagues and anyone who’ll listen about how amazing you are and accompanying it with a quick ‘Ali shuffle’.
So I suggest that in some (but not all) cases you keep your positive self-talk to yourself.
There are hundreds of small phrases that you can focus on in daily situations to reinforce the message that you have the ability to achieve anything you desire.
Of course, you have to feel them as well.
Think back to how Ali used to talk about himself. He would shout and holler, ‘I’m the Greatest of all-times.’ In some interviews he looked manic but it was this depth of feeling that turned mere words into a powerful identity.
It’s also important to note that there will be times when it’s appropriate to vocalize the belief you have in yourself. If someone at work asks you whether you can handle a particular job, if a prospective client wants to know if you can help them, if an organizer is asking you whether you’re ready to speak at their event, and you believe you are and can, THEN DAMN WELL TELL THEM. Don’t play small and say ‘maybe’ or ‘I’ll do my best.’
Look them in the eye and tell them that you’re the real deal and you can get the job done.
Let’s make a start right now, shall we?
In the comment section below I want you to tell me one thing you’re really good at or have done. And if you have a website promoting this skill then by all means leave a link.
I’ll start it off so no one feels awkward. You then follow my lead and from this day forward, start positively affirming your abilities and NEVER put yourself down!
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