The Power of Positive Thinking: Book Overview

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is The Power of Positive Thinking about? How can having faith, according to its author Norman Vincent Peale, help you live a happier and more fulfilling life?

In his book The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale outlines the practical techniques of applied Christianity to help you take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them. As a result of these methods, you can enjoy better relationships, a greater sense of well-being, robust health and energy, and a stronger sense of purpose in the world. 

Below is a brief overview of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

In his book The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer.

We’ve summarized his key ideas below.

Have Faith in Yourself

Having faith in yourself is important to a happy and successful life. Self-confidence leads to achievement and self-realization, helping you release your inner power. But not everyone has the power to believe in themselves. Too many people are hampered by feelings of inadequacy, often called an “inferiority complex.” 

To build up self-confidence, understand the root causes of your sense of inferiority and develop faith in yourself through prayer. Discipline your thoughts by filling your mind with “confidence concepts,” and keep an optimistic attitude in the face of difficulties. Remember that God is with you and helping you.

Cultivate a Peaceful Mind

Living with strain and anxiety is difficult, but living in a state of harmony makes for an easy, calm existence. There are several methods by which you can gain a mind full of peace, serenity, and calm attitudes: 

  • Empty your mind of fear, insecurities, regrets, and other negative emotions; you’ll experience relief and release. After you empty your mind, refill it with positive, healthy thoughts and peaceful images. 
  • Use peaceful words and engage in peaceful conversations during your daily life. 
  • Find time to sit in silence. 
  • Stop punishing yourself for some real or imagined sin. You can find peace of mind by releasing your guilt and putting it in God’s hands.

Stop Fretting

We often make life more difficult for ourselves by getting agitated and worked up about situations. Work stress, for example, is common. People have difficulty relaxing and this stops them from living a full life. Peale calls this “fuming and fretting.” To gain power and live our lives to the fullest, we have to stop this behavior. 

To reduce tension in your life, try:

  • Slowing down. Consciously do everything more easily, slowly, and without pressure. Sitting quietly and relaxing, getting yourself in tune with God, renews your power and gives you the energy you need. 
  • Control your physical reactions. You do this by keeping physically still. Don’t move, pace, wring your hands, or let yourself get worked up. A physical attitude can guide your mental attitude, diffusing all the emotional heat you may be feeling.

Stop Worrying

Worry is a destructive and unhealthy mental habit. Worry can cause health problems and even shorten your lifespan. Worry is dangerous also because when you fear something for a long time, you can actually draw it to you, helping the fear come to pass.

The good news is that worry is a habit, and because you can change any habit, you have the ability to break the worry habit. There are 3 steps to this process:

  1. Believe you can: With God’s help, you can do whatever you believe you can do.
  2. Empty your mind: Think of it as emptying a bathtub after removing the stopper, or you can imagine reaching into your mind and plucking out the worries one by one.
  3. Refill your mind with positive thoughts. Since your mind won’t stay empty for long, you have to refill it with positive thoughts, such as courage, faith and hope. 

Increase Your Energy

Our thoughts affect how we feel physically. When your thoughts tell you you’re tired, the body accepts this and feels tired. But when your mind and thoughts are engaged and interested in what you’re doing, you have the energy to keep going indefinitely. You can increase your energy by doing the following:

  • Get in sync with God’s rhythm. The unnatural tempo of modern life can deplete your energy. But when we’re in tune with God’s rhythm, our inner tempo is flowing as it should and energy flows freely to us. 
  • Find something that interests you. When people are too wrapped up in their personal concerns, nothing outside of themselves moves them. To fight this, get interested in something worthwhile outside of yourself. 
  • Get rid of guilt and fear. Guilt and fear drain your energy, making you tire quickly and lose the resources to do your work, but faith can help disintegrate these blockages and reopen your channel to receive power and energy.

Utilize the Power of Prayer 

Prayer can be a source of great power, helping to change your life positively, tapping forces and strength that aren’t normally available to you. Prayer can even restore physical health and well-being, and is used by therapists and other practitioners to help others. 

Prayer is a manifestation of energy, and there are ways to release spiritual energy through the mechanism of prayer. Prayer power can slow down the aging process, helping you keep youthful energy as you age. Prayer can help keep your spirits up, send you out each morning refreshed and renewed, guide you in solving problems, help you react properly to situations around you, and release power and keep power flowing freely.

Decide to Be Happy

We create our own happiness in this life. Happiness is achievable for us if we apply the right formula. One way of choosing happiness is to cultivate the habit of being happy. When you develop the happiness habit, life becomes more enjoyable every day. Because habits are something you can cultivate, you have the power to create your own happiness. 

You develop the happiness habit by thinking happy thoughts. Make a mental list of happy thoughts and run them through your mind throughout the day. If an unhappy thought pops in, eject it by substituting a happy thought.

Expect the Best and Get the Best

When you expect the best in life, you get the best. When you expect the worst, that’s what you get. When you change your mental habits to a state of constant belief instead of doubt, everything becomes possible. This requires faith. 

To boost your faith, try the following:

  • Absorb faith from the Bible. Read the New Testament and notice how many times faith is mentioned. Choose a dozen statements about faith; memorize each, saying them over and over again, allowing them to sink in. When you’ve absorbed these faith tenets, you’ll have new power to get what you truly want from life. 
  • Tell yourself every day that God gives you the power to achieve what you want. Never mention or even think about a poor outcome.

Your thoughts are powerful; they dictate the type of life you lead, the kind of person you are, and the experiences you have. Positive thoughts create positive outcomes; negative thoughts lead to negative outcomes. 

If you’re unhappy with your current circumstances, you can remake your life by getting rid of your old, negative thoughts and filling your mind with new thoughts that reflect faith, creativity, love and goodness. When you start thinking differently, the conditions around you will change. 

Defeat Is Not an Option

When you think about defeat, you tend to get defeated. Instead, adopt a mindset where you don’t believe in defeat. The first step is not to be afraid of whatever obstacle you are facing; instead, stand up to it. Practice believing God is with you, and together you can handle any problem. When you stand up to your obstacles, they don’t seem as strong.

If your subconscious has been fed negative attitudes in the past, it will give them right back to you when you’re trying to overcome obstacles because it doesn’t like change. Speak to your subconscious with positivity. Tell it you do believe you can do all things, and eventually, feeding it these positive thoughts — the truth — will turn things around.

If there’s something in your life that has been a long-standing obstacle, it’s likely because you’ve told yourself for a long time that there’s nothing you can do about it. But when you adopt the “I can do all things through Christ” mentality, you gain the conviction that you can do something about your difficulties, and amazing results can occur.

Solve Your Personal Problems

Problems will always come up in life, but with faith-based techniques, you can solve your problems in a correct manner that brings you the best outcome. You can do this by:

  • Putting your problems in God’s hands. When two or more people pray about a problem and put it in God’s hands, often greater clarity is the result.
  • Imagine God as your partner. Talk over your problems with God, knowing he hears you and is thinking about your problem. Know that you will be guided to the right actions.
  • Develop an attitude of faith. The Bible tells us that if we have faith, we can overcome any problems and rise above any defeat.

Heal Health with Faith

Faith can be a powerful factor in overcoming health obstacles. From readers and listeners, Peale received numerous examples of healing in which the element of faith is present. In each of these instances, the best resources of medical and psychological science are utilized in combination with spiritual science resources.

In the cases of faith-enhanced healing Peale has investigated, he found certain factors to be present. First, the patient is willing to surrender their health into God’s hands. Second, they let go of sin and want their soul cleansed. Third, they believe in the combination of medical resources and the healing power of God. Fourth, they are willing to accept whatever answer God has for them. Finally, they have an unquestioning faith that God can heal.

Cure Heartache

Grief, sorrow and other forms of heartache and inner suffering are part of being human; it happens at some point to everyone. But there are concrete things to do when you are hurting emotionally, such as getting back to your normal routine, being physically active, and staying  busy. It’s also important to feel your grief; it’s natural and helpful to cry when sorrow comes. 

There is no greater heartache than the death of a loved one. One way to live with this heartache is to understand the deeper meaning of life and death. When you carry with you the faith that all life is connected—and when you die, you merely continue your journey in another form—you gain a deep peace and comfort about the loss of a loved one. 

Learn How to Be Liked

Being liked is more important than just boosting your ego. It’s important to your success in life and in relationships. Striving after popularity won’t work, and no matter what you do, you won’t get everyone to like you. 

Still, there are ways to make yourself into a pleasing person who gets along well with others:

  • Be easygoing and natural, someone other people can be around without a sense of strain. Peale calls this being a “comfortable person.” 
  • To get other people to like you, you have to like them, and this isn’t always easy. When you get to know anyone, even someone who isn’t likeable on the surface, you’ll find admirable and even loveable qualities. 
  • Build up other people’s egos. Everyone wants to feel important. When you build people up, they’ll feel respected and they’ll love you for it. 

Call Upon a Higher Power

Many people are depressed and unhappy, but they don’t have to live that way. The answer is to draw upon the Higher Power. Here’s how:

  • First, state your problem in prayer to God, then ask for a specific answer. Believe you will get that answer and believe you are gaining the power to deal with your problem. 
  • Relax and rest into the Higher Power.
  • Stay positive; keep an optimistic attitude toward every problem. 

No matter what your problem is, drawing upon the Higher Power can help heal you. There is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer.

The Power of Positive Thinking: Book Overview

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Power of Positive Thinking summary:

  • That there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer
  • The practical techniques of applied Christianity
  • How to take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them

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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