Book Summary of ‘PsychoCybernetics’​ by Maxwell Maltz

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon. As he was treating his patients, he noticed something very interesting.

Many of his patients left his care not only with a new face, but a new life. Suddenly, with a scar removed or a facial feature changed, their entire personality changed. Immediately.

Other patients he treated showed no change in personality at all. They continued to feel inadequate, and continued to act and behave as though they still had an “ugly” face.

It was if, Maltz recounts, as if personality itself had a “face.” As he began to research this, he uncovered what would later form the outline of this book.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as I take a look at how self-image is the key to your potential in your business and in your life.


Maltz tells us that one of the most important discoveries of this century is the discovery of the “self-image.” It’s the mental blueprint we carry around of ourselves – your belief of “the kind of person” you are.

It’s something you might not even be consciously aware of, but it directs your every waking thought and action.

Most of these beliefs come from our past experiences. Our successes and failures over time build up a detailed picture of who we think we are, and then, on day, we treat it as fact.

There are two things about your self-image that are important to understand.

First, all of your actions, feelings, and behaviour are consistent with your self-image. You will always act like the person you believe yourself to be.

Second, your self-image can be changed. And as soon as you change it, you can have a new life.

Your Creative Mechanism

Maltz suggests that we each have something inside us he calls a Creative Mechanism. It’s a goal-striving machine that works automatically and impersonally to achieve whatever goals you put in front of it.

The most powerful thing it works on, without you even knowing it, are the mental pictures you present it. Which means that the key goal of this mechanism is to fulfill whatever self-image you have of yourself.

Tell yourself you are a failure and this mechanism will get to work to make sure you are a failure. Tell yourself you are a success and it will get to work to make sure you are a success.

Here is the key idea from the entire book: your self-image prescribes “the area of the possible.” You can only achieve in your life what you believe you can achieve.

This is one of those blatantly obvious statements that also has the ability to completely change your mindset about something.

The rest of the book is about how to change your self image, so you can enlarge your area of possibility and thus change your life.

The Success Mechanism

The first insight into the “success mechanism” is that it is something that you use, not something that happens to you. You have control over what you direct it to do.

There are 5 basic principles you need to understand about it how it works.

  1. It must have a goal or a target. It operates by steering you toward a goal that is already in existence.
  2. It operates on end goals, regardless of whether or not you have the means already figured out.
  3. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Much like a torpedo finds its target by making hundreds of small adjustments along the way, so will you in the pursuit of your goals.
  4. Success is achieved by keeping what works and getting rid of what doesn’t. Remembering your past successes and forgetting your past errors keeps you pointed in the right direction.
  5. You need to figure out how to let your mechanism do its work and not force it by too much conscious effort.

Imagination and Success

If you are in control of the thoughts you bring to mind, the thoughts you bring to mind determine your self image and your self image determines what is possible for you to do, it follows that you are in completely control over your destiny. Or at least in what is possible for you to accomplish.

That’s because you will always act and fee in accordance to what you believe to be true about yourself and your environment.

Science now knows that there is very little difference between an imagined experience and a real experience. To your mind, they are one and the same.

So, Maltz challenges us, if what we imagine to be true can ultimately drive what believe to be true, why not just imagine yourself being successful?

Multiple studies have shown that people who mentally rehearse themselves successfully completing an action (like free throws in basketball) ultimately end up performing at the same level as people who have actually practiced.

Here’s the point – until you can literally see yourself achieving your goal in your mind, you won’t allow yourself to do what is necessary in order to achieve it. You need to see it to believe it.

This is why visualising success is so important. You are literally changing your self image in the process, which changes your behaviours and actions, which ultimately is the only thing that’s going to get you from where you are today to where you want to go.

Dehypnotise Yourself from False Beliefs

Whether you like it or not, life is full of failures. How you deal with them makes all the difference.

You can either learn from your failures or you can let them define you. Along the way, it’s likely that you’ve picked up some negative beliefs about yourself because of your past failures.

That generates, in one way or another, a feeling of inferiority in those areas of your life. It’s important to note that there’s a distinction between inferiority (which implies a truth about you) and the feeling of inferiority (which does not).

The problem, Maltz suggests, is that we constantly compare ourselves to somebody else’s “norm” and when we do that, we always come out second best.

Here’s the insight – you are not inferior, any more than you are superior. You are simply you. There is nobody else on this planet that is in your exact circumstances, in the same stage of life, with the same surroundings, as you and as Jordan Peterson suggests in 12 Rules for Living (see one of my earlier book summaries), the only reasonable bar to hold yourself to account to is the one you set yesterday.

The key to letting go of your negative beliefs about yourself is that you do it without effort. Any effort you make resisting a negative belief only serves to reinforce it. You simply need to “let it go” and replace the old belief with a new one.

The Power of Rational Thinking

There’s a belief, Maltz says, that rational and conscious thinking has no power over unconscious processes or mechanism and that in order to change negative beliefs you need to spend a lifetime in a couch uncovering nasty secrets from your childhood.

However, this simply isn’t true. Your success mechanism is completely impersonal and has no will of its own. It’s only task is to work on the things that you put in front of it and you can do this with rational thinking.

In fact, you can think of your conscious thought as the “control knob” of your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind only works on the data you feed it – the ideas, beliefs, interpretations and beliefs you consciously give it.

You’ve likely heard the saying “act as if.” Unfortunately it usually comes in the form of somebody telling you that you can become a millionaire if you “act as if” you are a millionaire.

Regardless of whether or not that saying was co-opted by marketers preying on fragile egos is beside the point.

Here’s an example to prove the point. Let’s say you are nervous about public speaking and you are dreading an upcoming presentation you need to make. It’s within your control to say to yourself, “I’m the kind of person who enjoys public speaking and those butterflies in my stomach are a sign that I’m excited. Not only that, but I perform at my best when those butterflies are there.”

Ideas are changed, Maltz says, not by will, but by other ideas.

If the only mental picture you have to operate on is “I’m a bad public speaker and I’m nervous and afraid I’m going to lose my ability to speak,” your unconscious mind gets to work making it a reality.

Instead, you can replace that image with a different, better, one.

Sometimes it’s hard to break old habits and because you are so used to the old mental picture, it will still rear its ugly head from time to time. You can use rational thought to battle these thoughts too.

For instance, let’s say that you still have the belief that you are a bad public speaker. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Is there any rational reason for such a belief?
  2. Could it be that I’m mistaken in this belief?
  3. Would I come to the same conclusion about some other person in a similar situation?
  4. Why should I continue to act and feel as if this were true if there is no good reason to believe it?

Truly wrestle with these questions and you’ll almost always find that you are not dealing with facts, but with some irrational belief you have about yourself.

Freeing Your Creative Machinery

One of the things that your mind is great at is generating ideas. It does it by forming connections between previously disconnected ideas in your mind and putting them together in creative ways.

In order to be creative, though, you need to ensure that you produce the right environment. It’s no different than how a poet or a musician needs the right environment if they are going to create their best art.

Maltz tells us that there are five rules to ensure that you free up your creative machinery in order to do it’s work.

  1. Do the worrying before you place your bet, not after the wheel starts turning. That’s a roulette metaphor for those of you keeping score at home. Once an event is out of your control, worrying about the outcome is a waste of time. Do your worrying up front instead.
  2. Form the habit of consciously responding to the present moment. Your creative mechanism can only work right now – it doesn’t work in the past or the future. Focus your attention on the information that is in front of you, right now.
  3. Try and do only one thing at a time.
  4. Sleep on it. If you’ve ever woken up with a solution to a problem that seemed impossible the night before, you know why this is important.
  5. Relax while you work.

You’ll notice that all of these rules add up to creating a relaxed and distraction free environment for your mind (both your conscious and unconscious) to work creatively on whatever it is you want to work on.

Ingredients of the Success Type Personality

Finally, as we wrap up this summary, let’s cover what Maltz calls the ingredients of the “Success-Type,” which, not surprisingly, uses an acronym that spells SUCCESS.

These are the things you should consciously try and create in your day to day life to keep your success mechanism working towards your biggest goals.

S: Sense of direction. Your success mechanism needs to be pointed in a direction. Pick one.

U: Understanding. To deal effectively with a problem, you must have an understanding of its true nature. Be willing to see the truth, no matter how good or bad it might be. You can consciously eliminate bad beliefs, but you can’t eliminate bad facts, no matter how much mental power you think you have.

C: Courage. You need to have the courage to act out on your new beliefs.

C: Charity. Successful people have some regard for other people’s needs and interests.

E: Esteem. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to work building up an adequate self-image.

S: Self-Confidence. Confidence is built on an experience of success. Remember your past successes so that you can create more of them in the future.

S: Self-Acceptance. You are human and will make mistakes. Accept that. You are not your mistakes. You must correct them and learn from them, but you are not them.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

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