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The Miracle Morning

The Miracle Morning

The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 A.M.)

By Hal Elrod

What’s in it for me? Find out how changing your morning can change your life.

If you want a fulfilling and happy life, your morning routine is the place to start. Many successful people, multimillionaires, top managers and TV stars are early birds and probably get more done before you have even brewed your first coffee. But it’s not just about waking up early. In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod explains the importance of creating a morning ritual consisting of six simple activities that you can utilize to start creating the life you’ve always wanted.

In these blinks, you will find out exactly which techniques you can employ to change your way of thinking and your daily habits in order to achieve your dreams and goals.

You will also discover

• what professional athletes do to reach their goals;

• why hitting the snooze button costs you more than you think; and

• how to follow through with a healthy habit.

Many of us live a mediocre life, though we all have the potential to be successful.

The average American wallows in $10,000 of debt, is overweight, doesn’t like their job, has fewer than one person to call a close friend, and is mildly depressed.

Evidently, most Americans are traipsing through a life that falls far short of its potential.

The Social Security Administration says that if you select a hundred people at the beginning of their working life and observe them for 40 years, only one will have become wealthy, four will be financially stable, five will need to continue working, 36 will have died, and 54 will lean on friends and family for financial support. These statistics paint a grim picture indeed.

Assuming that none of these people had planned to just “get by” throughout their life, this means that a shocking 95 percent of them aren’t living the life they wanted for themselves.

Being financially successful is tied to a sense of freedom, as you don’t have to worry about paying your bills or being trapped in debt.

Furthermore, studies show that more prescription drugs are being taken than ever before; one in two marriages in America are falling apart; Americans have more individual debt than ever before; obesity has become an epidemic; and heart disease and cancer are on the rise. However, despite all of this, we’re capable of leading a successful and happy life; it’s possible to turn things around.

The author, Hal Elrod, is a stunning example of this. Elrod actually died for six minutes following a car accident. After spending several days in a coma, he awoke to doctors telling him that he had permanent brain damage and might not be able to walk again.

Yet he was able to recover.

He accepted his circumstances, instead of wasting time wishing that they were different, and was able to create the life of his dreams and fulfill his potential.

Rearview Mirror Syndrome and Isolating Incidences prevent people from reaching their full potential.

Have you ever considered that the way you think about your life might be the very thing that is preventing you from fulfilling your potential?

The majority of us tend to make decisions based on our past and in doing so suffer from something known as Rearview Mirror Syndrome (RMS).

If you’re an RMS sufferer, you believe that who you used to be is who you are now, and your choices and decisions are informed by the limitations of your past experience. So when you come across new opportunities, you often turn them down on the grounds that you’ve never experienced them before.

For example, someone who can’t commit to their partner because of failed relationships in the past probably suffers from RMS.

Aside from RMS, another reason we don’t reach our potential lies in our habit of Isolating Incidents.

This means we treat events in our life as though they’re disconnected from everything else – which is contrary to reality.

For example, perhaps you think it’s perfectly fine to skip your workout today, since you can always do it tomorrow. But rather than your decision just affecting this moment in time, you’re actually affecting the person you’re becoming.

Author and businessman T. Harv Eker highlights the significance of this habit in his book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind when he states, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

So, if you look at incidents in isolation, you end up being more lenient on yourself, and the events that you think of as mere exceptions will become the norm. As a result, your ability to achieve your dreams is stunted and you succeed only to the level which your excuses allow you.

If you want to create life on your own terms, you need to change the way you think about it. Dwelling on the past and making excuses will only hinder your success.

To start the day well, stop hitting the snooze button and change how you think about sleep.

So maybe you’re convinced that you need to change your life. But where do you start? Well, first a quick question – did you hit the snooze button this morning?

Many of us would be guilty of this. So what’s the problem? Well, hitting the snooze button keeps us from waking with a sense of purpose. Each time you reach for that button, you are subconsciously saying to yourself that you don’t want to rise to your life, your experiences and the day ahead.

Think about those who suffer from depression. For these people, mornings are often the hardest time of day. When you resist waking up, you reduce your chances of enjoying a satisfying day.

Conversely, if you wake up every morning with a purpose in mind, you’ll be on your way to crafting a happy life.

Take a look at Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and even Aristotle. All of these famous people have one thing in common: getting up early!

If you find you’re always sluggish in the morning, try changing the way you think about sleep.

Consider this – have you ever woken up completely drained on a special day? Probably not. If it’s your birthday, wedding day or Christmas morning, then no matter if you got only a few short hours of sleep, you likely woke up full of energy and anticipation for the day ahead.

This is because the beliefs we hold about our sleep play a crucial role in how we feel when we wake up.

The problem with most of us is what Elrod found out for himself – when you go to sleep thinking “this is way too little sleep, I will feel exhausted tomorrow,” you’re spoiling your morning before you’ve even dozed off.

When he told himself that he would feel good in the morning, he felt refreshed with as little as four hours of sleep.

Change your morning routine to increase your Wake Up Motivation Level.

So how do you stop wasting your life in slumber and start fulfilling your potential? One significant leap you can make is to change your morning routine by raising your Wake Up Motivation Level.

This level can be described on a scale of one to ten, where ten means that you’re eager to rise and greet the day ahead, and one means you would rather just roll back into bed.

Fortunately, employing just a few basic techniques can make you more alert and give you more of a spark during your morning routine.

First, before heading to bed, you should affirm to yourself that you’ll rise the next morning feeling refreshed. If you can get yourself to look forward to the next day somehow, waking up will be a lot less of a chore for you!

Next, place your alarm clock on the other side of the room to your bed. This of course means that you’ll need to actually get up out of bed when it rings in the morning in order to turn it off.

Once you’re out of bed and have switched off your alarm, head to the bathroom and brush your teeth. Doing this will give you a feeling of freshness and help you feel more awake first thing.

After this, go to the kitchen for a glass of water and drink it as fast as you can comfortably manage. This allows you to rehydrate after a night of losing water through breathing. It’s important to note that dehydration can actually make you feel extremely tired.

By completing these simple steps, you’ll wake up feeling brighter and prepared for the core practice of the Miracle Morning routine, which we’ll turn to now.

Practicing purposeful silence in the morning will help you fight stress.

It’s highly likely that you, like most of us, get stressed. One powerful way to reduce this is to use the first step of the Miracle Morning routine. This means carving out some time for purposeful silence after you wake up.

One example of purposeful silence is meditation – a popular technique that many people in high-pressure jobs use to combat stress.

The Huffington Post, for example, reported that Oprah Winfrey believed Transcendental Meditation® in particular helped her “connect with that which is God.”

A lot of well-known people such as Sting, Jerry Seinfeld and Russell Simmons state that meditation is an essential part of their life.

So how can you introduce purposeful silence to your routine? Well, you can try the Miracle Morning Meditation.

Before you start, take a break from your worries and concentrate only on yourself. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, like a pillow or the couch, and sit cross-legged and upright.

Next, close your eyes or look forward at the floor in front of you. Bring your attention to your breath, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Breathe slowly and into your belly, not your chest. Then set a pace for your breath – breathe in for three seconds, then breathe out for three seconds. Try to push away any thoughts but if they come, simply refocus on your breath.

Though this may be difficult at first, it will gradually become easier if you practice every day. Bit by bit, you’ll feel your stress levels reduce.

If you have already attempted such techniques and think it’s not your thing, you can also find other methods to help you relax.

This could mean taking some time to reflect on your life and the things you’re grateful for, or you may find that praying works better for you, if you’re so inclined.

Use affirmation and visualization in the morning to start creating your ideal life.

How do we go from a mediocre life to a life that we love and that truly fulfills us?

One way is to look at our self-talk. Our brains are subconsciously programmed by the way we talk to ourselves, but it’s possible to alter this by using positive affirmations.

All of us have constant streams of thoughts in our head which are grounded in our previous experiences and they can work for or against us, depending on how we use them.

To turn some of your thoughts into positive affirmations, you can follow these steps: articulate and note down how you want your life to look in every area, clarify your motives by asking yourself why you want what you want and ask yourself what you’re committed to doing to get your life there, or even just to get to the next level.

After you have created your affirmation, be sure to read it out loud to yourself at least once a day.

Another important tool to have at your disposal to achieve success is one that many professional athletes use: visualization or mental rehearsal.

You, too, can employ this technique to visualize your ideal life, your dreams and goals.

For example, if you want to write a book, visualize yourself feeling inspired and joyfully writing page after page at your desk.

Your affirmations can help you visualize the answers when you ask yourself questions such as, “What do I want?” “Why do I want it?” and “What am I committed to doing in order to get there?”

Affirmation and visualization are powerful tools. Visualizing the life of your dreams and affirming to yourself the action you’re willing to take to make it happen will change the perspective you have on your daily routine.

Morning exercise will keep your body healthy and spur your success.

We often find that we’re far too busy to exercise. It seems as though our lives are so packed with activities that we often feel totally depleted in the evenings. So why not try starting the day with some exercise to get it done first thing?

Exercise is vitally important to keeping our bodies healthy, so it’s a smart idea to make room for it in our lives.

Too few of us manage to exercise during the day, even though we’re all aware of the benefits, like a reduced risk of disease, and just feeling good because you’re in shape.

The thing is, we also know that our days will be busy: last minute appointments get scheduled and important tasks can crop up. So often we just collapse on the couch at the end of the day, too exhausted to go for a run or workout.

Even though we know exercise is important, we frequently push it to the side. Yet making time for it as part of our morning can really aid our success.

For instance, when asked in an interview what the number one key to success was, self-made multimillionaire entrepreneur Eben Pagan replied: “Start every morning off with a personal success ritual.” He then emphasized the value of morning exercise as part of this ritual, explaining how this gets his heart rate up, his blood pumping and his lungs filled with oxygen.

One way you can work out in the mornings is to follow a yoga DVD. The author makes time for 20 minutes of yoga every day by following an instructional DVD. This helps him focus, wakes him up and allows him to maintain increased levels of energy throughout his day.

Read and write in the morning to focus on personal growth.

Once you’ve exercised, it’s time to focus on your personal growth as the next stage of your Miracle Morning. Reading and writing are two significant activities that can help you reflect on your successes and move toward what you want out of life.

We can all find a little time to read, and reading books on personal development in the morning is one quick means of gaining insight from others who have experienced success.

There are books on all kinds of goals such as increasing your earnings, improving your relationships or building a business.

A good reading target to aim for is a minimum of ten pages per day. This means around ten to 20 minutes of reading per day, depending on how quickly you read. Surprisingly, this amounts to approximately 3,650 pages a year, which means you’ll be reading around 18 books a year.

Furthermore, re-reading, highlighting or circling useful information makes it easier for you to recall what is of most value to you.

Next up is writing. Why should this be useful to us? Well, writing for just five to ten minutes every morning will accelerate your personal growth.

Writing down your thoughts, feelings and insights in particular can be highly beneficial.

For example, Elrod noticed that he was far happier and felt more gratitude for his life because his writing allowed him to focus on the things he had already achieved, as well as on the goals he wanted to reach in the future.

He did this by splitting a page into two columns entitled Lessons Learned and New Commitments.

This helped him stop making the same mistakes, and committed him to the changes he wanted to make in his life.

By writing each day, you can review what you have learned, gain clarity on your problems and achievements, and acknowledge your progress along the way.

Customize your Miracle Morning to make it fit your own specific needs.

Now that you’ve been introduced to six morning habits that can bring you fulfilment and success, it is important to learn how to tailor them to fit your needs.

You can take less or more time, depending on what is best for you. If you like, you can use 60 minutes in the morning to prepare yourself for the day and divide the hour in different ways. For instance, you could do ten minutes of each activity or you could workout for 30 minutes and dedicate five minutes to all the other activities, if you think you’d benefit more from the exercise.

Even a few minutes is better than nothing. So if you are stressed out about the thought of adding anything else to your schedule, just take six minutes and divide them like so:

Minute one – sit in silence; minute two – recite your affirmations; minute three – visualize your day going perfectly; minute four – note down some things to be grateful for and what you want to achieve during the day; minute five – read two pages of a book; and finally, minute six – do some push-ups and crunches.

To add even more freedom to your new routine, the time and place of your Miracle Morning can also be flexible. For example, the author travels a lot and often carries out his Miracle Morning on the fly, taking with him some yoga lessons as well as a book and journal. By doing so, he can sit down anywhere to meditate or pray, recite his affirmations and visualize his goals.

If you work night shifts, you could also do your Miracle Morning when you wake much later in the day. The only vital thing is that you have some specific, dedicated time for self improvement.

Make your Miracle Morning a new habit by having an accountability partner and committing to a 30-day challenge.

Like any healthy habit, the Miracle Morning works best when you commit to it and do it regularly.

One effective way to make this happen is to seek out an accountability partner to help you stick to your commitment.

We’ve all had those days when we intended to go to the gym, but didn’t because we just didn’t feel like it. However, if we had a friend there waiting for us, we would be far more motivated to show up.

We’re more adherent when other people hold us accountable for our behavior. So find an accountability partner who wishes to do the Miracle Morning with you. That way you can both call each other to make sure you‘re on track. If finding someone is tricky, you could also join an online community.

We know that it takes around 30 days to form a habit, so you should be ready to dedicate yourself to the 30 Day Miracle Morning Transformation Challenge.

The Transformation Challenge can be divided into three phases. The first ten days can be difficult and particularly hard to bear; the next ten days become easier, but still feel foreign and somewhat disagreeable. However, during the last ten days, your new habit will become part of your identity and you will start to enjoy it.

For example, the author initially despised running, but dedicated himself to running every day for 30 days straight.

In the first ten days, he wanted to give up. Each day he fought with his inner voice, who told him it was OK if he wanted to quit. But he didn’t. During days 11 to 20, he no longer hated running, and it started feeling more normal to him. Finally, as the last phase rolled around, he felt that it had almost become enjoyable!

Final summary

The key message in this book:

The answer to a successful, fulfilling life lies in our morning ritual. Elrod encourages us to use six steps every morning to start living the life of our dreams: silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and writing. Completing these simple activities first thing every morning sets the tone for an effective, successful day ahead and, in turn, has a profoundly positive effect on our life in general.

Actionable advice:

Get happy about tomorrow!

Before you go to sleep, think about what you could look forward to in the next morning. Are you meeting with a dear friend? Are you simply looking forward to a delicious breakfast? Finding reasons to be excited about the next day will make it easier to get up in the mornings.

Find a Miracle Morning partner.

Significantly increase your chances of making a lasting commitment to Miracle Mornings by having a buddy system – you and a partner support one another and hold each other accountable to your new morning habits.

Organise Tomorrow Today

Organise Tomorrow Today - Dr Jason Selk, Tom Bartow and Matthew Rudy

Eight ways to Retrain your Mind to Optimise Performance at Work and in Life. 10 Key ideas.

What’s in it for me? To change your life for the better, change one bad habit at a time.

What’s so special about people who excel? Is it superior talent? Were they born advantageously?

No. Successful people come from all backgrounds and walks of life, and not every person starts out as a stellar success. But they all do share one feature – they all have awesome habits.

So what exactly are successful habits, and how do you get them, too? These blinks will explain in detail the eight ways to retrain your mind and change for the better. Even focusing on one new habit will help you go the distance when it comes to becoming more focused and productive.

In these blinks, you’ll discover

• why being abnormal is preferable to being normal;

• how multitasking is just a ruse to pretending you’re productive; and

• how establishing a ritual can help you to turn good behaviors into habits.

It’s just not productive to focus on more than one goal at a time if you want positive results.

Have you ever felt the need to make a positive change in your life? Maybe you’ve already made a list of all the small things you’d like to alter. But making a long list isn’t the most effective way to go about making improvements.

Why? It’s a fact that our conscious mind can only process between five to nine concepts, or pieces of information, at a time. This phenomenon is called channel capacity, and was first identified by psychologist George A. Miller in 1956.

No matter what you’re reading or looking at, from words to colors or numbers, your working memory can only store a limited amount of data at any given time. And working memory is all a person has from moment to moment, whether making an argument or trying to solve a math problem.

So given this limitation, it makes sense that trying to tackle too many tasks at once can be overwhelming. This also holds true when you try to change too many things at once in your life.

Since every task you try to complete requires its own amount of data, your working memory can suffer from information overload when you try to juggle multiple tasks. When this happens, important data can get improperly processed and you might make a mistake, or worse, your conscious mind will shut down. You can think of this like a computer freezing when you’ve opened up too many applications.

The author has witnessed this dilemma firsthand. People have told him that when they try to change two or three things in their life at the same time, they get stuck. But when they focus on only one thing, the results can be unbelievable.

So the best way to improve your life and get positive results is to commit yourself to changing just one thing at a time!

Prioritizing tasks and organizing tomorrow is the key to better time management and productivity.

People may look productive when they frantically hurry from one task to the next, or by multitasking to the point of distraction. But such behavior just points to a person who has poor time management skills!

The secret to having a productive tomorrow is to organize it today.

Organizing effectively means prioritizing your tasks by making a list of the Three Most Important things you want to achieve. Be sure as well to include the time needed to accomplish these tasks.

Then from your three tasks, pick one that absolutely needs to be done that very day.

In doing so, you’ll be sure to focus on what’s most important to you, and will be less likely to forget or push aside a task that might be more difficult in favor of an easier goal.

Plus, by only focusing on three tasks, instead of being overwhelmed, you’ll find increased confidence in being able to accomplish all your stated goals.

There are also three important things to keep in mind when making your list.

First: Don’t make the mistake of listing a big, complex project as one item. Instead, find smaller and more manageable tasks within the big project that you can add to the list.

Second: Prioritize and schedule wisely. Carefully identify your most important task for tomorrow and make sure you schedule enough time to complete it. For many, the period between lunch and 3 p.m. is a great window for uninterrupted work.

Third: Write it down. Putting your plan on paper is about more than just remembering what to do. Writing activates a specific part of your brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). This area acts like a filter and puts important information, such as the things you write down, at the forefront of your mind.

So with a prioritized, written plan of attack, you’ll be ready to conquer the day ahead!

Maximize the time you have by finding ways to structure goals and increase meeting productivity.

Do you ever look at your to-do list and wish there were more than 24 hours in a day? Here are four tips on how you can make the most out of the time you have.

Tip #1: Don’t waste time waiting around.

You might not think the time between appointments is valuable, but these short periods can add up to significant hours. So instead of twiddling your thumbs or checking Facebook, spend your extra time productively. Chances are there’s an email you can reply to, or paperwork that needs to be done.

Tip #2: Use the ask and chop technique to avoid procrastination.

This is a helpful technique when you’re confronted with a task that feels too overwhelming to even start. First, ask yourself: What is the first step that needs to be taken? Then simply focus on chopping off that first step by completing it, then repeat the question. By chopping away the task in small steps, you’ll make progress without being intimidated by the scale of the larger project.

Tip #3: Set your game clock.

Create a challenge by giving yourself a short amount of time for a small task. When you meet your deadline, you’ll see how efficient you can be and learn that you really can do more with less time.

And finally, tip #4: Pre-structure your meetings to meet solid goals.

Unstructured, aimless meetings are a waste of time. People end up jumping from topic to topic or spending the meeting focusing on minor details. Make your meeting productive by giving it a focus.

Open the meeting by articulating a clear goal that outlines what you want to accomplish. Everyone at the meeting will then be aware of the meeting’s focus, and you can spend the rest of the time productively in reaching that goal. Close the meeting by dedicating a short amount of time for questions or proposals.

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating more time in your working day by using each minute as efficiently as possible.

Create a ritual of your new lifestyle goals to avoid procrastination and stick to new, positive behaviors.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions to kick a bad habit or to get into better shape. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to revert to old habits or bad behavior after just a few weeks.

So how can you stick to a plan and develop new, better habits? Start by making a ritual of the positive habit you want to adopt.

Making a ritual means doing something at the exact same time, each and every day. If you want to go to the gym more often, ritualize this new habit by setting a specific time to go, like 8:30 a.m. every day, and commit to it. By making your new goal a ritual, you’ll be less tempted to procrastinate or postpone.

But if you start to doubt or feel like slacking off, remember that changing habits gets easier with time!

As you start trying to change your habits, you can run into situations where old behaviors, like lying on the couch watching television, might feel like a better option. When this happens, resist the temptation by reminding yourself that this is a normal, temporary phase on the path to a great new lifestyle.

You might have to fight through these early stages – but it will get easier the longer you stick with it!

To boost your fighting spirit, ask yourself two questions: How will I feel when I win this fight and stay committed to my new habit? How will I feel if I give up? These questions will help provoke feelings within you that can motivate you to stick with your goals.

Finally, imagine how your new lifestyle will change things for you in the long run.

It helps to do this through visualization: imagine your new self as a healthy, productive and confident person. This technique keeps your goal in mind and will motivate you to keep going for it!

By applying these basic thinking techniques, anyone can stay committed to establishing new habits or making lifestyle changes – until the change finally becomes second nature.

Self-evaluation is effective as long as you focus on the process, not just the results, of your work.

Do you ever hesitate starting a task for fear that you may make a mistake or fall short of your own expectations? If so, you might be a perfectionist, and this can get in the way of evaluating yourself fairly.

When a perfectionist performs a self-evaluation, he is likely to focus more on shortcomings over whether something as a whole was done well.

By basing a self-evaluation on the highest of standards, you are simply setting yourself up for disappointment. You can either fail to reach those standards and let yourself down, or you can meet expectations and see no reason to appreciate good work.

This can result in negative feedback, which in turn leads to stress and low self-confidence.

The better method is to appreciate when you do things well! Take the advice of legendary basketball coach John Wooden. He said that the most successful people always give themselves credit when it’s due.

It’s also important to focus more on the process than on results.

By paying attention only to results, you won’t learn what needs to be done to get the results you want. When you focus on the process, you’ll learn what works best to reach your goals and what you might need to improve.

Consider creating a success log, or a daily journal that will help you evaluate your process in a useful way.

To start your journal, write down the realistic goals you hope to achieve each day, and take the time to evaluate your goals afterward.

You should answer three questions: What did I do well today? What is one aspect I’d like to improve for tomorrow? Is there one thing I can do differently? When you answer these questions, you are focusing on setting goals around behavior and not on the external results.

So be on the lookout for behaviors that contribute to success – they’ll point the way to continued progress!

How you think and talk to yourself can either build you up for success or let you down toward failure.

Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something? Maybe you were going to apply for a new job or ask for a promotion, but then you thought, “Why bother, it’s not going to happen, I’ll just end up getting my hopes crushed.” This is a bad habit that you can change.

How you talk to yourself impacts your self-confidence. Over time we tend to believe whatever it is that we tell ourselves. You can either convince yourself that you’ll fail by thinking negatively, or you can boost your confidence and increase your chances of success by encouraging yourself.

Even if you are doubtful in the face of a challenge, you’ll find that by continuing to feed yourself with positive thoughts, you’ll eventually feel the necessary confidence to get on with it.

After all, you’ll never even approach a challenge if you don’t allow yourself the belief that you will succeed!

Think of it like a coach: When a team is facing a tough match, it’s a coach’s job to rally the team with positive messages and keep them motivated. Without hope, no one would bother trying!

Another important technique is to keep yourself from overthinking a problem.

When you overthink, your mind turns the problem into an unsolvable obstacle, which can end up paralyzing you into inaction. Your brain releases stress hormones, leading to tension and the loss of any creative intelligence. This usually ends with the overthinker giving up to escape the stress.

A much better way to achieve a goal is to relax and, instead of focusing on the problem, concentrate on a solution.

Take stock of everything you have at your disposal, the tools that can help you solve your problem. Rather than becoming overwhelmed, take the task step by step, think positively and work out a gradual solution.

By writing thoughtful speeches, practicing often and speaking calmly, you’ll get your message across.

Chances are you don’t enjoy making speeches in front of large groups of people. But every professional can learn how to give a decent speech; here are some keys to help you learn how.

There are two important points to giving a good presentation: preparation and practice.

When you prepare a speech, you want to make sure your audience understands your main ideas. In previous blinks, we learned that the mind can only handle a certain amount of information. Building on this, be aware that your audience, to stay engaged, requires a well-structured speech.

You’ll also need to remove any elements in your speech that might distract a listener or obscure your message. To do this, write down your entire presentation and look at the first and last five minutes. Take out any details that seem superfluous.

With your presentation lean and organized, you can then rehearse delivering it to an audience.

If you’re overly nervous, you might appear awkward, fidgeting with clothes or hair. Before you take to the stage, reassure yourself that you’re well-prepared and boost your self-confidence by rehearsing the speech until you can recite it effortlessly. Take moments throughout the day, even during mealtimes, to mentally recite the details in your speech.

Don’t forget to talk slowly, and pause after you make a point. People who speak at a calm, measured pace are often seen as more confident than people who speak quickly. And by allowing for pauses, you’ll give your audience time to better process the points you are trying to make.

In contrast, if you’re preparing a one-on-one talk, there are two important things to keep in mind:

First, keep the tone of your voice calm and friendly. This will allow the other person to be at ease, and what’s more, the person will also be more receptive to your message.

Second, be sure to give the other person a chance to voice his thoughts, and listen carefully to what he has to say. If you speak slowly and pause frequently, this gives your partner the opportunity to respond.

Being a normal person can get in the way of achieving greatness. Seek to be abnormal!

Why are people so hung up on being normal? Can you think of any great artist, writer or scientist who was considered normal?

Normal people have traits, or “viruses,” that can keep them from achieving their goals. But abnormal people are immune to these viruses, and refuse to let them interfere with personal success.

The main virus that plagues normal people is procrastination.

The normal person is scared to pursue an ambitious goal, worried that failure awaits. And for that normal person, it is easy to find excuses not to start: laundry, a dirty kitchen, and so on.

But the abnormal person doesn’t look for excuses. Abnormal people look for ways around any obstacle. If the dog ate a notebook, the abnormal person will staple together some paper and make a new one. Abnormal people take control of their fate, convinced that they alone can achieve their goals.

A secondary virus, related to procrastination, is focusing on things you can’t control.

Normal people can blind themselves from the things they can control by obsessing over things they can’t. It’s too cold or rainy outside, the neighbor’s dog is barking, the coffee shop raised its prices, and so on. By focusing on such concerns, normal people distance themselves from the aspects of their life that they can actually improve.

For abnormal people, such concerns are a waste of time and energy. Instead, they pay attention to what they can control and the parts of their lives they can improve.

So do what abnormal people do: create a step-by-step plan of action on what you’d like to improve in your life and how to make it happen. You can even add a list of things that you can and can’t control, to make sure you don’t get distracted along the way.

Final summary

The key message in this book:

If you want to be highly successful, you need to know how to control your mind and talk with yourself in a positive fashion. Always remember to focus on the solution rather than on the problem. And even when you’re at the top of your game, never forget the process that got you there.

Actionable advice:

Build an evaluation ritual.

Next time you have a bad day at the office and you feel that your self-esteem is flagging, don’t focus on what you did wrong. It’s much better to write down everything you did well. Such a positive evaluation will immediately increase your confidence, motivate you and improve your performance tomorrow.

Practice the Mental Workout to reduce anxiety about a task.

First, relax your mind by controlling your breath. Inhale for five seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and exhale for six seconds. Next recite a personal mantra, or a fixed set of encouraging statements. For example, “I’m strong, smart and confident and things will work out well.” Spend 60 seconds visualizing the situation you’re afraid of. Imagine what you’re going to see, how you’re going to feel, and what you’re going to say. Repeat your personal mantra and return to the breathing technique.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested further reading: The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod explains the techniques that got him through the aftermath of a near-fatal car accident. Elrod realized that the key to a successful and fulfilling life was dedicating some time to improving ourselves every day. He details six crucial steps we can take every morning to help us jump-start our days and get us well on our way to a fulfilled life.

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit

Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

By Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit (2012) explains what an important role habits play in our lives, whether they’re good ones, like brushing our teeth and exercising, or bad ones, like smoking. Filled with research-based findings and engaging anecdotes, The Power of Habit not only explains exactly how habits are formed, it provides easy tips for changing habits, both on an individual and an organizational level.

What’s in it for me? Learn to pick up or drop any habit you wish.

You’ve made the decision: no more cigarettes! Or maybe it’s: no more junk food! For a couple of weeks, things go swimmingly. You’re proud of yourself. But then, one day, the craving suddenly overpowers you – and, before you know it, you’re back to your old habits.

Sound familiar? If so, you already know the power of habits.

But where does the power of habits come from? As you’ll see in these blinks, habits go deep into the human brain and psyche and influence our lives in a myriad of ways. And while they make our lives a whole lot easier – just imagine if you had to figure out how to open a door every time you encountered one – habits can also cause problems and even ruin lives.

Luckily, by learning how habits work, you can begin to overcome their power. So let’s delve into the world of habits!

In these blinks, you’ll learn

why anticipation is at the root of habit formation;what resisting marshmallows can tell us about habits; andwhat the LATTE method is.

Habits are simple cue-routine-reward loops that save effort.

In the 1990s, a group of researchers at MIT were studying mice to learn more about how habits are formed in the brain. The mice had to find their way to a piece of chocolate that’d been placed at the end of a T-shaped maze. Using special equipment, the researchers could monitor the brain activity of the mice as they sniffed their way to the chocolate.

When the mice were first put in the maze, their brain activity spiked. They could smell the chocolate and they began searching for it. When the researchers repeated the experiment, however, they noticed something interesting.

As the mice gradually learned where the chocolate was and memorized how to get there – go straight, then turn left – their brain activity decreased.

This process of turning a sequence of actions into an automatic routine is known as “chunking,” and it forms the basis of all habit formation. Its evolutionary role is clear and crucial: it allows the brain to save energy and perform common tasks efficiently.

Hence, even a complicated act that demands concentration at first, like finding a piece of chocolate in a maze or backing out of the driveway, eventually becomes an effortless habit. In fact, according to a 2006 paper by a researcher at Duke University, as many as 40 percent of the actions we perform each day are based on habit.

In general, any habit can be broken down into a three-part loop:

First, you sense an external cue – say, your alarm clock ringing. This creates an overall spike in your brain activity as your brain decides which habit is appropriate for the situation.

Next comes the routine, meaning the activity you’re used to performing when faced with this particular cue. You march into the bathroom and brush your teeth with your brain virtually on autopilot.

Finally, you get a reward – a feeling of success and, in this case, a minty-fresh tingling sensation in your mouth. Your overall brain activity increases again as your brain registers the successful completion of the activity and reinforces the link between the cue and the routine.

Habits are incredibly resilient. In some cases, people with extensive brain damage can still adhere to their old habits. Just consider Eugene, a man with severe brain damage caused by encephalitis. When asked to point at the door leading to the kitchen from his living room, he couldn’t do it. But when asked what he would do if he were hungry, he walked straight into the kitchen and took down a jar of nuts from one of the cabinets.

Eugene could do this because learning and maintaining habits happens in the basal ganglia, a small neurological structure embedded deep in the brain. Even if the rest of the brain is damaged, the basal ganglia can function normally.

Unfortunately, this resilience means that, even if you successfully kick a bad habit, like smoking, you will always be at risk of relapsing.

Habits stick because they create craving.

Imagine this scenario: every afternoon for the past year, you’ve bought and eaten a delicious, sugar-laden chocolate-chip cookie from the cafeteria at your workplace. Call it a just reward for a hard day’s work.

Unfortunately, as a few friends have already pointed out, you’ve started putting on weight. So you decide to kick the habit. But how do you imagine you’ll feel that first afternoon, walking past the cafeteria without indulging? Odds are, you will either eat “just one more cookie” or you’ll go home in a distinctly grumpy mood.

Kicking a bad habit is hard because you develop a craving for the reward at the end of the habit loop. Research from the 1990s conducted by the neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz shows how this works at the level of the brain. Schultz was studying the brain activity of a macaque monkey named Julio, who was learning to perform various tasks. In one experiment, Julio was placed in a chair in front of a screen. Whenever some colored shapes were shown on the screen, Julio’s task was to pull a lever. When he did, a drop of blackberry juice (Julio loved blackberry juice) would drip down on his lips through a tube.

At first, Julio didn’t pay much attention to the screen. But when he happened to pull the lever at the right moment, thus triggering the blackberry-juice reward, his brain activity spiked, showing a strong pleasure response.

As Julio gradually grasped the connection between seeing the shapes on the screen, pulling the lever and getting the blackberry juice, he not only stared at the screen, but Schultz noticed that, as soon as the shapes appeared, there was a spike in Julio’s brain activity similar to when he actually received the reward. In other words, his brain had begun anticipating the reward. This anticipation is the neurological basis of craving and helps explain why habits are so powerful.

Schultz then altered the experiment. Now, as Julio pulled the lever, either no juice would come or it would come in a diluted form. In Julio’s brain, Schultz could now observe neurological patterns associated with desire and frustration. Julio got decidedly mopey when he didn’t get his reward, just as you might if you forewent your cherished end-of-the-day cookie.

The good news is that craving works for forming good habits as well. For instance, a 2002 study from New Mexico State University showed that people who manage to exercise habitually actually crave something from the exercise, be it an endorphin rush in the brain, a sense of accomplishment or the treat they allow themselves afterward. This craving is what solidifies the habit; cues and rewards alone are not enough.

Given the power of habits, it should come as no surprise that companies work hard to understand and create such cravings in consumers. A pioneer of this tactic is Claude Hopkins, the man who popularized Pepsodent toothpaste when countless other toothpaste brands had failed. He provided a reward that created craving: namely, the cool, tingling sensation that we’ve come to expect toothpaste to have. That sensation not only “proved” that the product worked in consumers’ minds; it also became a tangible reward that they began to crave.

To change a habit, substitute the routine for another and believe in the change.

As anyone trying to give up cigarettes will tell you, when the craving for nicotine hits, it’s hard to ignore. That’s why the golden rule for quitting any habit is this: don’t try to resist the craving; redirect it. In other words, you should keep the same cues and rewards, but change the routine that occurs as a result of the craving.

Several studies on former smokers have shown that, by identifying the cues and rewards around their smoking habit and replacing the routine with one that has a similar reward, such as doing some push-ups, eating a piece of Nicorette or simply relaxing for a few minutes, the chances of staying smoke-free increases significantly.

One organization that uses this method to great effect is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which may have helped as many as ten million alcoholics achieve sobriety.

AA asks participants to list what exactly they crave from drinking. Usually, factors like relaxation and companionship are far more important than the actual intoxication. AA then provides new routines that address those cravings, such as going to meetings and talking to sponsors for companionship. The idea is to replace drinking with something less harmful.

However, research on AA members shows that, although this method works well in general, it alone is not enough. In the early 2000s, a group of researchers at California’s Alcohol Research Group noticed a distinct pattern in their interviews with AA members. A frequent response was that the habit-replacement method worked wonders, but, as soon as a stressful event occurred, the old habit was simply too strong to resist, no matter how long the respondent had been in the program.

For example, one recovering alcoholic had been sober for years when his mother called to say she had cancer. After hanging up, he left work and went directly to a bar, and then, in his own words, was “pretty much drunk for the next two years.”

Further research has indicated that those who resist relapse and remain sober often rely on belief. This is why spirituality and God feature prominently in AA philosophy. But it’s not necessarily the religious component itself that helps people stay sober. Believing in God also helps participants believe in the possibility of change for themselves, which makes them stronger in the face of stressful life events.

Change can be achieved by focusing on keystone habits and achieving small wins.

When former government bureaucrat Paul O’Neill became the CEO of the ailing aluminum company Alcoa in 1987, investors were skeptical. And O’Neill didn’t improve matters when, during an investor meeting in a swanky luxury hotel in Manhattan, he declared that, rather than focusing on profits and revenues, he intended to make workplace safety his number-one priority. One investor immediately called his clients and said, “The board put a crazy hippie in charge and he’s going to kill the company.”

O’Neill tried to explain his reasoning to the lukewarm investors. No amount of talk would reduce injury rates at Alcoa, he argued. Sure, most CEOs claimed to care about workplace safety. But empty words would never lead to the formation of a company-wide habit, which is what would be necessary for real change.

O’Neill knew that habits exist in organizations. And he knew that changing an organization’s direction is a matter of changing its habits. He was also aware that not all habits are equal. Some habits, known as keystone habits, are more important than others because adhering to them creates positive effects that spill over into other areas.

By insisting that worker safety come first, managers and employees would have to think about how the manufacturing process could be safer and how safety suggestions could best be communicated to everyone. The end result would be a highly streamlined, and hence profitable, production organization.

Despite the investors’ initial doubts, O’Neill’s approach proved to be a huge success. By the time O’Neill retired in 2000, Alcoa’s annual net income had increased fivefold.

Keystone habits can help individuals change, too. For instance, research indicates that doctors have a hard time getting obese people to make a broad change in their lifestyle. However, when patients focus on developing one keystone habit, such as keeping a meticulous food journal, other positive habits start to take root as well.

Keystone habits work by providing small wins – that is, early successes that are fairly easy to attain. Developing a keystone habit helps you believe that improvement is possible in other spheres of life, too, which can trigger a cascade of positive change.

Willpower is the most important keystone habit.

In the 1960s, researchers at Stanford conducted what would become a very famous study. A large group of four-year-olds was brought, one by one, into a room. In the room, there was a table with a marshmallow on it. A researcher gave each child a choice: either eat the marshmallow now or wait a few minutes and have two marshmallows instead. The researcher then left the room for 15 minutes. Only about 30 percent of the children managed not to devour the marshmallow in the researcher’s absence.

But here’s the interesting part. When, years later, the researchers tracked down the study’s participants, who were now adults, they found that those who had exhibited the greatest willpower and waited the full 15 minutes had ended up with the best grades in school, were more popular on average and were less likely to have drug addictions. Willpower, it seemed, was a keystone habit that could be applied to other parts of life, too.

More recent studies have shown similar results. For instance, a 2005 study on eighth-graders showed that students exhibiting high levels of willpower had better grades on average and were more likely to get into selective schools.

So willpower is a key habit in life. However, as you might have noticed if you’ve ever tried to start exercising more, willpower can be highly inconsistent. Some days, hitting the gym is a breeze; on others, leaving the sofa is nigh impossible. Why is that?

It turns out that willpower is actually like a muscle: it can tire. If you exhaust it by concentrating on, say, a tedious spreadsheet at work, you might have no willpower left when you get home. But the analogy goes even further: by engaging in habits that demand resolution – say, adhering to a strict diet – you can actually strengthen your willpower. Call it a willpower workout.

Other factors can also affect your willpower. For example, Starbucks found that, on most days, all of its employees had the willpower to smile and be cheerful, regardless of how they felt. But when things became stressful – for example, when a customer began screaming – they would soon lose their cool. Based on research, executives at the company determined that if baristas mentally prepared for unpleasant situations and planned out how to overcome them, they could muster enough willpower to follow the plan even when under pressure.

To help them, Starbucks developed the aptly named LATTE method, which outlines a series of steps to take in a stressful situation: Listening to the customer, Acknowledging their complaint, Taking action, Thanking the customer, and, lastly, Explaining why the issue occurred. By practicing this method over and over, Starbucks baristas learn exactly what to do should a stressful situation arise, and can stay cool.

Other studies have shown that a lack of autonomy also adversely affects willpower. If people do something because they are ordered to rather than by choice, their willpower muscle will get tired much quicker.

Organizational habits can be dangerous, but a crisis can change them.

In November of 1987, a commuter at the King’s Cross station in London approached a ticket collector and said he’d just seen a piece of burning tissue by one of the building’s escalators. Rather than investigating the matter or notifying the department responsible for fire safety, the ticket collector did nothing. He simply returned to his workstation, thinking it was someone else’s responsibility.

This was perhaps not so surprising. Responsibilities in running the London underground were divided into several clear-cut areas, and, as a result, staff had formed an organizational habit of staying within departmental bounds. Over the decades, an intricate, hierarchical system of bosses and sub-bosses, each highly protective of his authority, had emerged. The nearly 20,000 employees of the London Underground knew not to encroach on each other’s terrain.

Under the surface, most organizations are like this: battlegrounds on which individuals clamor for power and rewards. So, in order to keep the peace, we develop certain habits, such as minding one’s own business.

Soon after the ticket collector returned to work as usual, a huge fireball erupted into the ticket hall. But no one present knew how to use the sprinkler system or had the authority to use the fire extinguishers. The rescuers, who were eventually called in after a long series of failures to act by several employees at the station, described passengers so badly burned that their skin came off when touched. In the end, 31 people lost their lives.

The failure at the heart of this tragedy was that, despite its complicated system of responsibility distribution, no single employee or department at the London Underground had an overview responsibility for the safety of passengers.

But even such tragedies can have a silver lining: crises offer a unique chance to reform organizational habits by providing a sense of emergency.

This is why good leaders often actively prolong a sense of crisis or even exacerbate it. In investigating the King’s Cross station fire, special investigator Desmond Fennel found that many potentially lifesaving changes had been proposed years earlier, but none had been implemented. When Fennel encountered resistance to his suggestions, too, he turned the whole investigation into a media circus – a crisis that enabled him to implement the changes. Today, every station has a manager whose main responsibility is passenger safety.

Companies take advantage of habits in their marketing.

Picture yourself walking into your local supermarket. What’s the first thing you encounter? In all likelihood, it’s fresh fruits and vegetables, laid out in lush piles. If you consider this for a second, it doesn’t make much sense. As fruit and veggies tend to be soft and are easily damaged by other products put in the cart, they ought to be displayed closer to the registers. But marketers figured out long ago that, if we begin our shopping by filling our carts with fresh, healthy items, we’re more likely to buy unhealthier products, like snacks and cookies, as we continue to shop.

This might seem pretty obvious. But retailers have figured out far subtler ways to influence customers’ purchasing habits. For example, here’s a surprising fact: most people instinctively turn right when entering a store. That’s why retailers put their most profitable products to the right of the entrance.

As sophisticated as these methods are, however, they have one big drawback; they’re all one-size-fits-all and don’t account for differences in the purchasing behavior of individual customers. Over the past few decades, however, increasingly sophisticated technology and data-collection have made it possible to target customers with breathtaking precision. One of the true masters of this game is the American retailer Target, which serves millions of shoppers annually and collects terabytes of data on them.

In the early 2000s, the company decided to use the full force of its data to target a particular segment of the population long known to be one of the most profitable: new parents. To get a leg up on its competitors, however, Target wanted to do more than market to new parents; it wanted to draw in expecting parents before their babies had even arrived. To accomplish this, it set out to determine pregnant women’s purchasing habits.

In the end, Target’s analysis worked so well that it marketed to a pregnant teenage girl who hadn’t yet told her family about her situation. Target sent her baby-related coupons, prompting her father to pay the local Target manager an angry visit: “She’s still in high school,” he said. “Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?!” When the truth came out, it was the abashed father’s turn to apologize.

But Target soon realized that people resented being spied upon. For its baby coupons to work, it figured out a clever way to bury them amid random and unrelated offers for things like lawnmowers and wine glasses; the offers had to seem like the familiar, untargeted ones.

Indeed, when trying to sell anything new, companies will do their best to make it seem familiar. For example, radio DJs can guarantee a new song becomes popular by playing it sandwiched between two existing hit songs. New habits or products are far more likely to be accepted if they don’t seem new.

Target got a lot of flack for its invasive approach to marketing, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a smashing success. Due in large part to its work with targeting pregnant women, the company’s revenues grew from $44 billion in 2002 to $65 billion in 2009.

Movements are born from strong ties, peer pressure and new habits.

In 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and charged, and the events that followed made her a civil-rights icon.

Interestingly, her case, though it’s become the most famous, was neither unique nor the first. Many others had already been arrested for the same reason. So why did Parks’s arrest spark a bus boycott that lasted over a year?

First of all, Rosa Parks was especially well-liked in the community and had an unusually broad array of friends. She belonged to many clubs and societies and was closely connected to all kinds of people, from professors to field hands. For instance, she served as the secretary of the local NAACP chapter, was deeply involved in a youth organization at a Lutheran church close to where she lived and spent her spare time providing poor families with dressmaking services, all while still finding time to make gown alterations for young debutantes from wealthy white families. In fact, she was so active in her community that her husband would sometimes say she ate at potlucks more often than at home.

Parks had what is known in sociology studies as strong ties – that is, first-hand relationships with plenty of people from across different social segments of her community. These ties not only bailed her out of jail; they spread word of her arrest throughout Montgomery’s social strata, thus sparking the bus boycott.

But her friends alone could not have sustained a lengthy boycott. Enter peer pressure. In addition to strong ties, social spheres also comprise weak ties, meaning acquaintances rather than friends. It is mostly via weak ties that peer pressure is exerted. When a person’s larger network of friends and acquaintances support a movement, it is harder to opt out.

Eventually, commitment to the boycott began waning in the black community, as city officials began introducing new carpooling rules to make life without buses increasingly difficult. This is when the final component was added: a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advocating nonviolence and asking participants to embrace and forgive their oppressors. Based on this message, people began to form new habits, such as independently organizing church meetings and peaceful protests. They made the movement a self-propelling force.

We bear the responsibility for changing our habits.

One night in 2008, Brian Thomas strangled his wife to death. Distraught, he promptly turned himself in and was prosecuted for murder. His defense? He was experiencing something scientists refer to as sleep terrors.

Research has shown that, unlike sleepwalking, during which people might get up from bed and start acting out impulses, when a person experiences sleep terrors, the brain effectively shuts down, leaving only the most primitive neurological regions active.

Since he was in this state, Thomas thought he was strangling a burglar who was attacking his wife. In court, the defense argued that the instant Thomas thought someone was hurting his wife, it triggered an automatic response – an attempt to protect her. In other words, he followed a habit.

Around the same time, Angie Bachman was sued by the casino company Harrah’s for half a million dollars in outstanding gambling debts. This was after she had already gambled away her home and her million-dollar inheritance.

In court, Bachman argued that she, too, was merely following a habit. Gambling felt good, so when Harrah’s sent her tempting offers for free trips to the casino, she couldn’t resist. (Note that Harrah’s knew she was a compulsive gambler who had already declared bankruptcy.)

In the end, Thomas was acquitted and many, including the trial judge, expressed great sympathy for him. Bachman, on the other hand, lost her case and was the object of considerable public scorn.

Both Thomas and Bachman could quite plausibly claim: “It wasn’t me. It was my habits!” So why was only one of them acquitted?

Quite simply, once we become aware of a harmful habit, it becomes our responsibility to address and change it. Thomas didn’t know he would hurt anyone in his sleep. Bachman, however, knew she had a gambling habit, and could have avoided Harrah’s offers by participating in an exclusion program that would’ve prohibited gambling companies from marketing to her.

Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

Following habits is not only a key part of our lives but also a key part of organizations and companies. All habits comprise a cue-routine-reward loop, and the easiest way to change this is to substitute something else for the routine while keeping the cue and reward the same. Achieving lasting change in life is difficult, but it can be done by focusing on important keystone habits such as willpower.

Actionable advice:

Make your bed every morning.

In these blinks, you learned that not all habits are equal but some are more powerful than others. One such keystone habit that you can easily adopt is to start each day by making your bed. Research has shown that this can both increase your general well-being and boost your overall productivity.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested further reading: Rewire by Richard O'Connor

Rewire is about why we sometimes fall into self-destructive behavior, and how to move past it. It delves into the brain activity behind addictions and outlines strategies for rewiring yourself for improved self-control over your bad habits. To find these blinks, press “I’m done” at the bottom of the screen.

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind

What’s in it for me? Tap into the power of your subconscious.

Imagine an iceberg floating along in the Arctic. While you see parts of it above the surface of the water, most of it is hidden beneath. The same can be said of your mind: the part we are aware of – the conscious mind – is visible and known to us, while the other, and at least equally large, part constitutes our subconscious. So how do we tap into such a vast and seemingly inaccessible part of our minds?

That is exactly what we will look at in these blinks of a classic book from the early 1960s. You will discover how to unleash the potential that is hidden in your subconscious to tackle a wide array of issues and problems, coming out at the other end feeling both wiser and happier.

You’ll also find out

how a doctor used his subconscious to reduce mortality rates;why you need to visualize your house being sold; andwhy you must learn to love the boss you don’t like.

The subconscious mind is prone to suggestion, which you can use to your advantage.

Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike? It likely required intense attention and focus from your conscious mind. But after a while, your subconscious probably started to get the hang of things and, pretty soon, riding a bike was a natural, almost automatic task.

This is a great example of conscious to unconscious learning, an incredible tool at your disposal. Using it only requires harnessing the power of your subconscious mind through the repetition of positive thoughts.

Just take Enrico Caruso, the Italian opera tenor. In the late nineteenth century, he performed at famous opera houses throughout Europe and the United States. However, he used to suffer throat spasms and would find himself drenched in sweat moments before he was supposed to sing.

Why?

Well, his mind was filled with negative thoughts; he always imagined the crowd laughing him off the stage or heckling a poor performance. Nonetheless, he got over this stage fright by telling his “small me,” or conscious mind, to stop interfering with his “big me,” or subconscious mind. By repeating this meditative practice, he eventually gave his subconscious mind the ability to ignore his fears, freeing up more energy for his powerful voice box.

In other words, the subconscious mind is tremendously powerful. In fact, it can absorb and manifest any idea that you suggest to it.

For instance, psychologists have done a number of experiments in which a seasoned hypnotist puts his students into a hypnotic state before suggesting to them that they are cats. The students then go on to act the part with total authenticity; their subconscious minds simply accept whatever their conscious minds believe to be true.

Or consider the Scottish surgeon, Dr. James Esdaille. Between the years 1843 and 1846, he performed some 400 operations, including amputations, well before the development of anesthesia. The mortality rate for his procedures was incredibly low, at just two or three percent, and it was all thanks to his technique of hypnotically suggesting to his patients that they would not contract an infection. This hypnotic tool was sufficient to prompt a response on the part of their subconscious minds and, in turn, their bodies.

You can use the power of positive thinking and visualization to realize your dreams.

Back in the eighteenth century, priests would heal the sick by convincing them that God would make them well. Incredibly, this approach often worked. But it wasn’t the work of some mysterious deity; the subconscious mind was the real healer.

This seemingly supernatural effect can be explained by the fact that positive thoughts give your subconscious the power to heal diseases. For example, after one of the author’s relatives developed tuberculosis, the man’s son became determined to heal him. He told his father that he bought a cross from a monk who recently visited a healing shrine in Europe – but, in reality, it was just a piece of wood he picked up off the sidewalk.

He said that simply touching the cross had already healed countless people. So, his father gripped the object, praying with it in his hand as he fell asleep. The next morning, he was completely healed.

In fact, the father was so convinced that he was healed by the cross that nobody ever told him the truth; breaking this illusion would likely have caused the disease to resurface.

In a similar way, simply imagining something you desire can help make it a reality. A good example here comes from the author’s teachings at the Church of Divine Science, which became a weekly radio show with millions of listeners.

In one segment on this show, the author discussed the mental movie method while advising people on the process of selling their homes. In this method, visualization is used to create and hold a mental image until the subconscious mind makes it real.

For a home seller in the example above, the first step was to build confidence that she had set a reasonable price. Then, while in a sleepy state, she would envision celebrating the day the sale finally closed. As she dozed off, keeping this image in her head, her subconscious mind would connect her with the buyer.

This process worked so well that a number of listeners sent in letters, thanking the author for helping them sell their homes.

Visualization and passion can help you achieve tremendous results.

You now know how visualization can help you sell your house – but that’s just the beginning. This powerful tool can do much more. It can even help attract money and, for it to do so, you need only picture your desired result and rely on your subconscious to make it happen.

Just take the story of an Australian boy who dreamed of becoming a doctor and a surgeon, despite lacking the money he needed to start on the path toward this dream. Every night for months, before he fell asleep, he would imagine a medical diploma hanging on his wall with his name written on it.

Eventually, a doctor who knew the boy saw potential in him and trained him to sterilize instruments, give injections and eventually paid for his medical school tuition.

Another way your subconscious can help you is by overcoming envy, a feeling of inferiority that can obstruct your path to wealth. For example, seeing another person cash a huge check might make you feel envious, but you can easily defeat this response.

The solution is to wish greater wealth upon others, which will signal to your subconscious that you deserve the same for yourself. If you instead remain envious, you’ll only preclude your own potential affluence.

And finally, you can reap tremendous benefits by pairing visualization with passion. For instance, the author knew a young pharmacist who was in love with his work and often dreamed of having his own pharmacy.

He focused his mind on conjuring images of himself distributing prescriptions and, one day, began a new job at a major chain store, where he worked with the passion he had always imagined. Eventually, he became the manager and, after four years, he had saved enough to open his own pharmacy. Through passion and visualization, he rose through the industry and was able to realize his ambitions.

Use your subconscious to guide your choices and attract the kind of partner you want.

Did you know that humans spend a full third of our lives asleep?

But that’s not to say this is all lost time. In fact, lots of things happen while you sleep; your body restores its energy, heals faster and digests properly. With your physical body so active during rest, you better believe that your subconscious is working through the night as well, striving to protect you.

Incredibly, these intuitive powers of your subconscious can help guide you. Just take one of the author’s Church of Divine Science radio show listeners, a woman from Los Angeles. She was offered a job in New York City at double her current salary but couldn’t decide whether or not to take it. In the end, she sought guidance from her subconscious, trusting that the answer would come to her in her sleep.

She practiced meditation as she dozed off and the next morning had a strong feeling that she shouldn’t take the job. Months later, her choice was validated when the company filed for bankruptcy. Her subconscious mind’s intuition had guided her to the correct decision.

And that’s not all your subconscious can do for you in your sleep; it might even be able to find you your dream partner by simply focusing on the qualities that you desire in a better half.

For instance, the author knew a teacher who had three ex-husbands, all of whom were passive and weak, despite her attraction to the opposite qualities. What was happening?

Her masculine, dominant personality had subconsciously attracted submissive partners. However, by mentally constructing her ideal husband every night, she succeeded in breaking the pattern. She took a job as a receptionist in a doctor’s office and immediately knew that the physician was the healthy, successful man she had been imagining. To make a long story short, they got married and had a happy life together.

You can choose to be happy, and lose the negative thoughts that stand in your way.

Just about everyone has known the glee you can experience upon finding a great deal at a flea market or a $20 bill on the street. But we also know that such happiness is fleeting. Luckily, there are ways to get more happiness into your life. It begins by changing your thoughts.

In order to be happy, you need to choose happiness. For example, a salesman once asked the author for advice because, despite consistently outperforming his colleagues, he had never received recognition for his work.

He blamed this discrepancy on a belief that the sales manager disliked him and therefore treated him poorly. His mind was full of hostility and anger toward his boss and, eventually, these thoughts began to obstruct his progress.

However, he realized that he had the power to choose happiness instead by switching to a positive mind-set. He began wishing health and success upon his boss and practiced visualizing his manager congratulating him, going in for a friendly handshake and shooting him a beaming smile.

One day, his boss called him up and promoted him to sales manager, giving him a huge raise in the process.

The takeaway here is that negative thoughts are highly detrimental and can even prevent you from attaining peace of mind. Just take one of the author’s associates, who worked every day until one in the morning, neglecting his wife and two sons and causing himself to suffer from high blood pressure.

Why was he such a workaholic?

Well, it wasn’t immediately clear. But when he dug a little deeper, he found that he felt remorse for not doing right by his deceased brother, who had passed away many years earlier. Because he was racked by such guilt, he was punishing himself by working ceaselessly and preventing himself from seeing his family.

To finally end this suffering and heal himself, he first had to forgive himself. Now, he makes plenty of time for his family and works regular hours.

Replace fears with positive thoughts to overcome obstacles and stay young.

When you were a kid, were you scared of monsters hiding under the bed?

If you were, as many children are, you probably remember that feeling of relief when your mom turned on the light, revealing that everything was safe. The truth is, all fears are built upon such false thoughts and terror can be eased by countering them.

Some of the most common fears are of failure and powerlessness. Just take the story of Mr. Jones, who couldn’t control his impulse to drink excessively. He would at times remain drunk for two weeks on end.

His constant failure to quit drinking had left him feeling powerless, and the fear that he would fail again made him give up trying. Finally, only after losing his family did he decide to face these fears. He put himself into a relaxed state and imagined his daughter praising him for getting sober. Through this process, he was able to gradually give up drinking and eventually reunite with his family.

Another common fear is that of aging, which can also be overcome by modifying your thought processes. After all, you only age when you stop dreaming and learning new skills, which means staying young is really just about staying active.

Consider an executive who lived close to the author. He retired at the age of 65 after spending the vast majority of his life studying and working. Rather than fearing his later years, he saw retirement as an opportunity to pursue the things he had always wanted to; he took photography classes, travelled the world taking photos and eventually became a lecturer on the subject.

His simple enthusiasm for this hobby drove him to continue learning, keeping him young at heart and prompting his mind and body to follow suit.

Or take the author’s father who, at 65, learned French and became a specialist on the language by the age of 70. After that, he studied Gaelic, teaching the language until his death at the ripe age of 99.

Final summary

The key message in this book:

Your subconscious mind is constantly at work, and you can harness its power for your own benefit. This dormant force can help you tackle any issue in your life, improving the way you feel both emotionally and physically. Ultimately, this entire process hinges on visualizing success and banishing negative thoughts.

Actionable advice:

Use a simple technique for overcoming fear.

If you struggle with a fear, no matter what it is, try a simple approach to overcome it. Take five or ten minutes, three times a day, to sit down and imagine doing the thing you’re afraid of. Vividly picture the experience as a joyous one, with people cheering you on. By mentally practicing overcoming your fear in this way, the idea will take root in your subconscious mind, even when you’re not imagining it, and eventually the fear will disappear.

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Suggested further reading: Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill

Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude (1960) shows how to achieve the life of your dreams by developing a positive mental attitude. Near the turn of the twentieth century, at the behest of Andrew Carnegie – one of the wealthiest men of his time – Hill interviewed hundreds of famous and successful people in an attempt to uncover the secret to success. This book is one of the outcomes of his findings.