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This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you looking for Psycho-Cybernetics quotes by Maxwell Maltz? What are some of the most noteworthy passages worth revisiting?

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz is a recognized classic in the field of self-help books. The book’s key premise is that you can program your mind to achieve success and happiness in the same way that you’d program a machine to achieve certain goals. 

Below is a selection of Psycho-Cybernetics quotes with explanations.

Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life

In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz explains the mechanisms at play when you successfully achieve a goal. He argues that your self-image (how you perceive yourself) is the main reason why you tend to succeed or fail in achieving the goals you set for yourself.

The following Psycho-Cybernetics quotes highlight some of his key ideas.

“Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between a real experience and one that is vividly imagined.”

According to Maltz, visualization is a vital step to changing your self-image because when you form a clear mental picture of how you intend to perform and how successful you’ll feel, you can improve your skills almost as much as if you really practice. Maltz provides scientific evidence that supports the benefits of using your imagination to practice the feeling of success: he cites one research experiment that analyzed the effect of mental practice on improving basketball free throws. The first group of participants practiced throwing the ball every day. The second group of participants only imagined throwing the ball into the hoop every day. The results revealed that after 20 days, the group engaged in physical practice had improved by 24%, whereas the group engaged only in mental practice improved by 23%. This experiment helps explain why elite athletes and musicians often place as much emphasis on their mental training as they do on their physical training. 

This research has held up well over time. A 2018 study tested the effectiveness of mental practice on basketball free throws: The results confirmed that mental practice does significantly improve participants’ motor skills and their ability to successfully make the shot.

“A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment…For imagination sets the goal ‘picture’ which our automatic mechanism works on. We act, or fail to act, not because of ‘will,’ as is so commonly believed, but because of imagination.”

Maltz argues that one’s self-image (what they imagine true about themselves) is the key determinant of their success potential. The first step to reprogramming your self-image for success is becoming conscious of whether you’re using your imagination constructively (to create positive thoughts and feelings) or deconstructively (to create negative thoughts and feelings).

If you’re using your imagination deconstructively, Maltz argues that you need to make a conscious effort to instead use it to form a clear mental picture of yourself as successful—this will allow you to practice feeling successful, and will ultimately improve your approach to life. To replace existing negative beliefs with new successful beliefs, you need to create equally strong impressions in your mind—that is, you need to create positive feelings of excitement and desire. These positive feelings must outweigh your negative feelings so that your self-image can take notice of them and begin to accept them.

  • For example, you have a job interview coming up. You start to worry about all of the bad things that could happen. The more you think about these bad things, the more anxious you feel. You create such a strong impression in your mind associating your anxious feelings with the job interview. The result is that as soon as you think of your job interview, your mind immediately imagines a negative outcome—your subconscious expects you to feel anxious and uncomfortable at this job interview. To reverse this, you need to create a strong positive impression in your mind so that your subconscious expects you to feel confident and successful at this job interview.

“It is common knowledge among psychologists that most of us underrate ourselves, short-change ourselves, sell ourselves short. Actually, there is no such thing as a superiority complex. People who seem to have one are actually suffering from feelings of inferiority; their “superior” self is a fiction, a coverup, to hide from themselves and others their deep-down feelings of inferiority and insecurity.”

According to Maltz, both inferiority and superiority are manifestations of feeling insecure; however, people with an inferiority complex tend to try and make themselves “invisible,” while people with a superiority complex over-inflate their sense of self-importance to cover up their insecure feelings.

In both cases, your feelings of discomfort make you feel self-conscious and overly sensitive to the feedback you receive—you misinterpret your environment and get caught up in negative feedback loops.

Psycho-Cybernetics: Quotes by Maxwell Maltz

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Here's what you'll find in our full Psycho-Cybernetics summary:

  • How to program your mind in the same way you’d program a machine
  • How your self-image and patterns of thinking impact everything you do
  • Five methods you can use to improve self-image and create success

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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