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The Emergent Leader: How Self-Image Helps Determine Your Success

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

You may have heard of the best-selling book, Psycho Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S. I remember reading a copy back in the early 1980s. Today’s field of psychology considers the book to be one of the most important ever written. It’s a refreshing look at self-image and how you can change your life by re-programming the mechanism in your brain that controls your behavior – and thoughts.

Maltz’s theory is that there is a vivid distinction between the brain and the mind – the brain being the “machine” that causes you to function and the mind being a life force that compels you to use your brain and body to achieve goals and rise to success.

Maltz's Cybernetics

“Cybernetic” is taken from the Greek word for “steersman” and today the term is usually used to refer to how machines and animals control and communicate. For example, a computer is a sophisticated machine that organizes itself to perform a function. Maltz maintains that you can’t reduce yourself to a machine because you have the ability to know yourself and what makes you tick.

Tip #1: Those with low self-esteem rarely rise to the top rungs of success...usually.

If on the rare occasion they do, it could be because somebody wanted to make that person someone else’s problem.

Tip #2: Nip low self-image in the bud.

Unless you recognize when you’re being overly critical with your thinking process, the low self-image will continue plaguing you throughout your life and keep you from the success you could have had.

Understanding how your low self-image developed will help you know how to rid yourself of the negative thoughts and actions so that you’ll feel more accepting of yourself.

"Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one's better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk, and to act." --Maxwell Maltz

Tip #3: Lots of available resources to boost your self-image.

Combating a lifetime of self-criticism isn’t easy, but with books such as Psycho Cybernetics and other help available online and in other books and counseling today you can overcome low self-esteem by the method of alternative thoughts.

Negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities are habits that are self-defeating and need to be separated from who you really are. You can learn to replace them with a better and more uplifting image of yourself.

Tip #4: No one size fits all.

There are many methods that can help you with your quest to improve your self-image. One method doesn’t fit all, so take your time to look over the various ways that you can begin to enjoy a more vital self-image and perhaps combine several to see which works best for you.

It won’t happen overnight – like any bad habit, self-defeating thoughts must be dealt with every moment of every day until the bad habit is replaced with a good one – and one that will improve your self-image.

Another great book I recommend

Throughout my career I've dealt with a variety of people who had lots of talent and desire, yet some never attained more than a modicum of success. What they lacked was a sense of self-direction. They were easily derailed by the slightest setback or obstacle along their path.

In Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Martin Seligman, Ph.D. explains that the crucial difference is what people think when they fail; it's the type of negative self-talk (pessimism) that sends people into a paralyzing downward spiral and sometimes into depression. Changing the destructive things people say to themselves when they go through setbacks or failures that life hands out is the focused skill of optimism. And optimism can be learned.

I've watched Dr. Seligman's interesting lectures on learned optimism and to clarify: learned optimism is not about reciting positive affirmations; it's a much deeper cognitive process that produces amazing changes.


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