I happened to pick up the book Psycho-Cybernetics 2000 by Maxwell Maltz Foundation and Bobbe Sommer a couple of months ago. It says on the cover that it has helped millions find greater self-esteem and fulfillment and the premise of the book is “by expanding your self-image you expand the limits of your talents and capabilities.” Bottom line is when you develop positive inner goals you will be able to create positive outer goals. It asserts you’ll never change your behavior until you change your self-image.
You may wonder why I read these books if my focus is on helping entrepreneurs. Shouldn’t I be more concerned about marketing, business plans, financials, etc? While those are all important to a business,what I’ve discovered is none of that matters if you can’t get past your own fears and self-limiting beliefs. That is why I spend so much time learning about how we think and exploring our mindset. The first step to creating a successful business is believing you can.
Much of what the book said resonated with me. As a coach, I think the most valuable part of my training was becoming aware of and questioning the validity of my own thoughts and beliefs. We tend to live with them as if they are unchangeable truths, when in fact, we can choose to change them at any time. But the problem is most of us are unaware of what we think and believe because they’ve become so ingrained and habitual. So we react instead of respond and get tripped up by our own negative thinking or as psycho-cybernetics would explain it, a poor self-image.
What does psycho-cybernetics mean anyway? Maltz believed the mind/body connection regulates our self-concept or image. Cybernetics, according to Wikipedia, is “an approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints and possibilities … Cybernetics is used when a system displays a closed signaling loop – a ‘circular causal’ relationship. The action in the system creates a change in the environment and that change is reflected in the system and triggers a system change.”
In English, cybernetics refers to an automatic guidance system. Maltz believed that our brain and nervous system function as a “servomechanism” or goal seeking device. According to Maltz, it is our self-image that determines whether we are successful or not. And what determines our self-image? Our thoughts and beliefs. We always act in a way that is consistent with our self-image.
Like computers (but so much more complex), our brains follow whatever directions we give it. We have a conscious and subconscious mind. Our conscious mind looks at its options and chooses the one it sees best. When it makes its choice, all other options are eliminated at that moment.
The subconscious mind will move in the direction and do whatever the conscious mind tells it.
Our experiences, upbringing, religion, socializing, schooling, etc have all played a huge part in creating our thoughts and beliefs. Through repetition, those thoughts and beliefs have become ingrained and habitualized in our subconscious. Problems in our self-image occur when we internalize negative thoughts and beliefs and we are unable to move beyond them. We think we are bad at math, hence any other options cease to exist so our subconscious mind follows orders – bad at math. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point.
Psycho-Cybernetics is about becoming aware of these habitual patterns of thought and self-limiting beliefs and reprogramming your brain for success.
Psycho-Cybernetics consists of six steps:
- Program yourself for success.
- Imagine your way to success
- Set goals
- Use negative feedback for course correction
- Disinhibit your personality
Step one is about being aware of our thoughts. Are they serving or hindering us? Does the belief that you are bad at math serve you when you are trying to look at the financials of your business or do they hinder you, resulting in overspending, low margins, etc. Negative thoughts and beliefs equal negative outcomes.
Our thoughts and beliefs aren’t unchangeable truths. You have a choice. Your subconscious mind will follow whatever you choose, good or bad.
What do you do about those negative thoughts? Maltz offers CRAFT – you become aware and challenge the negative thoughts/ beliefs and replace them with positive ones –
- Cancel the negative data (actually say “cancel” out loud),
- Replace it with a positive thought,
- Affirm your new image to yourself,
- Focus on the image of a successful you and
- Train yourself for lasting change (acting as if).
Visualization is also a powerful tool used in psycho-cybernetics. Our brain can’t distinguish between a real or imagined event. By visualizing a successful outcome, you are, in essence, training your brain. Athletes do it all the time with mental rehearsal. It’s the ol’ “fake-it-till-you-make-it” concept.
Programming yourself and imagining success is essentially bringing your thoughts and beliefs into your awareness and challenging those that aren’t serving you and creating a new vision of how you want to be, rewriting a new script, telling a different story, through visualization.
The next step is to learn to relax.The whole point of these books is to take control of your life and create it on your terms. Unfortunately, it can be hard to think clearly or creatively when we are stressed. We actually have three brains. One is our primitive brain – it operates strictly on instinct, one is for emotions and the neo-cortex is what gives us our distinct advantage over other primates. It’s all about higher reasoning and critical thinking. However, when we are stressed, our primitive brain takes over. We are in survival mode. We react, we’re operating on instinct. It overrides all critical thinking. There’s no time for that – we’re in danger.
Managing stress is imperative to being able to achieve our goals.
The key to a lot of modern day stress is to understand most situations are neutral. It is our response to it that creates stress. We also tend to take ownership of problems that aren’t ours.
Can you depersonalize the situation? Mistakes or problems do not define you. Do not identify with your disappointments. There is a big difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a failure”. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a failure.
What’s a guiding system without a target, right? Goals give us direction, otherwise we’ll just be drifting along like flotsam in a river, at the mercy of the current. It’s important to choose goals that are yours – not what your parents want, your spouse, your best friend, etc. (I specifically address the goal setting process in my book Stop Dreaming About Your Life and Start Living It). Goals force you to stretch outside of your comfort zone so take small steps. Give yourself time to grow into your goals. And while you should have a plan, remain flexible and take consistent action. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t get caught in the trap of “trying harder”. You didn’t make a mistake, it’s not you. Consider it feedback and do something different. Keep moving forward.
My take on psycho-cybernetics is when we quit buying into our negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs and replace them with positive, productive ones, we are on the path to achieving our goals.