Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins (Book Overview)

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What is Tony Robbins’s Unlimited Power about? What is the key message to take away from the book?

In his book Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins claims that the key to this is ensuring that your actions, beliefs, and goals all work together and complement each other. He believes that doing so will allow you to harness a level of energy and conviction that will enable you to achieve all of your goals in life. 

Below is a brief overview of Tony Robbins’s Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement.

Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement

Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins is a classic self-help book that teaches you how to take control of your life. Tony Robbins is a world-famous life coach, motivational speaker, and business strategist. Unlimited Power, published in 1986, was his first big hit as an author. The book has enjoyed largely positive reviews praising its insights and straightforward, actionable ideas. 

This guide will start by teaching you how to harness your thoughts and beliefs and turn them into purposeful action. Then, once you understand how to achieve your personal goals, we’ll discuss how you can find even greater success through cooperation and leadership. Finally, we’ll briefly examine how you can use your successes to help others and improve the world around you. 

Note that, since its 1986 publication, some of Unlimited Power’s core principles—especially those based on psychology—have fallen out of favor or been refuted outright. Therefore, our commentary will explore how those theories have evolved since the 1980s, including how Robbins himself has updated some of the ideas he presents here. We’ll also draw connections to other prominent self-help books like Flow and Extreme Ownership, offering clear and actionable advice on achieving your goals and living a happy, productive life.

Harness the Power of Your Mind

Robbins believes that taking control of your life starts with taking control of your mind. 

Many people find themselves wasting enormous amounts of time and energy because their thoughts and beliefs aren’t aligned with their goals—their mental gears grind against each other instead of meshing smoothly. For example, imagine someone wants to lose weight but spends a lot of time thinking about food and believes that he lacks the self-control to eat healthily. He’ll waste a lot of energy fighting against those thoughts and beliefs and berating himself for his perceived lack of willpower. 

The first step toward achieving your goals is to eliminate that internal resistance; in other words, to make sure that what you think and what you do are really getting you closer to what you want. 

Let’s discuss three of Robbins’s tips for how to gain power over your mind by aligning your goals, thoughts, and beliefs.

Tip #1: Reprogram Your Mind

One way to take control of your mind is through a practice called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). 

Robbins says that all people’s nervous systems—meaning both the brain and the body—work in more or less the same way. Nervous systems are like computers all using the same operating system. Therefore, whatever one person can do, any person can do; it’s just a matter of running the right mental “programs.” This theory is known as NLP. 

Robbins believes that NLP provides a method to accomplish anything you can imagine. Furthermore, because people’s minds all work with the same programming, you can figure out which programs to run by observing and imitating people who have already done what you’re trying to do. 

For example, someone who wants to become a better martial artist might study Bruce Lee: how he moves, how and when he strikes, and even how he breathes during a fight. Robbins calls this process modeling.

However, there’s more to NLP than just copying the person’s physical actions. Robbins says you have to copy that person’s mental state, intentions, beliefs, and values. If you want to achieve what someone else has achieved, then you must—at least for a short while—think and act exactly like that person. 

Tip #2: Control Your Mind by Controlling Your Body

Another way to take control of your mind is by stimulating your body

Robbins says that mental and emotional states are closely linked to what your body is doing. For example, someone who’s afraid will probably be tense, have an elevated heart rate, and breathe quickly and shallowly—these are all physical responses to the emotion of fear. However, the connection goes both ways. This person can bring his fear under control by relaxing his muscles, sitting up straight, and taking slow, deep breaths; a physical state associated with calmness and confidence.  

The same goes for any mental or emotional state: You can create the state you want by recreating the physical cues that go along with it. For instance, if you want to improve your focus, you could lean forward; if you want to feel happier, you could force a smile. Just as your body naturally reacts to what you think and feel, your brain naturally reacts to what you do

Robbins adds that, while you can influence your emotions with short-term bodily mastery as explained above, a major part of taking control of your life is through long-term bodily mastery—or in simpler terms, physical fitness. A strong body is a source of endless energy, both physical and mental; you can use that energy to help you accomplish your goals.

Tip #3: Control Your Beliefs

A crucial part of taking control of your mind is to make sure that you have powerful beliefs rather than disempowering ones. 

Robbins says that everyone has a belief system that they’ve built—largely without realizing it—based on their upbringing, personal experiences, and knowledge. Those beliefs create the boundaries, or the lack of them, that person operates within. 

In other words, you can do whatever you believe you can; conversely, you can’t do what you believe you can’t. 

For example, suppose two scientists each get the chance to present their work at a large and prestigious conference. One believes that he doesn’t deserve the chance—that his work isn’t important enough, and that he’s not experienced or knowledgeable enough to stand in front of a room full of famous scientists and teach them something new. He believes that he can’t do it, so he declines the invitation and remains in obscurity. This scientist’s beliefs got in the way of him achieving his goals. 

The other scientist believes that she’s as good a scientist as anyone else at that conference, that her work is as important and as well-done as anything the other attendees produced, and that all she needs is the chance to prove herself. Therefore, where the other scientist saw a frightening and overwhelming event that he wasn’t prepared for, she sees an opportunity. She presents her work, her name spreads through the scientific community, and she gets a large influx of funding to continue her research. This scientist’s beliefs drove her to achieve her goals. 

Choose Powerful Beliefs

The good news is that you can replace your disempowering beliefs with powerful ones. According to Robbins, changing your beliefs is as easy as simply deciding to do so: You can identify a disempowering belief, pick a powerful belief that you’d like to replace it, and then act according to that new belief. 

To help with this process, Robbins suggests that you imagine what life will be like once that new, empowering belief is in place. Envision, as clearly and specifically as possible, a situation in which you act according to that new belief. This will put you in the right mindset to go forward and make your imagined life a reality.

Determine What You Value Most

Robbins adds that values are a particularly important subset of beliefs: They’re beliefs about what’s right and wrong, or what’s good and bad. Values are important because while other beliefs determine what you can do, your values determine what you will do. For example, someone who values wealth will work hard at a profitable career, while someone who values friendship will work hard at relationships instead. Someone who values joy will seek it out; someone who values health might forgo momentary joys like junk food and alcohol to stay fit. 

Just as people have numerous beliefs, they have numerous different values. Furthermore, sometimes those values can oppose each other—for instance, someone who values both honesty and self-esteem might experience some confusing feelings if someone else’s honesty damages his self-esteem. 

That’s why Robbins suggests creating a list of values and then ranking them by importance. Doing so serves two purposes: First, it allows you to see what’s important to you and decide what’s most important. Second, if you find yourself caught between conflicting values, you’ll know which one should take precedence. 

Finally, remember that it’s possible to pick and choose values just like any other beliefs, so make sure that your personal values are beneficial and empowering.

Align Your Beliefs, Values, and Actions

Robbins concludes by saying that you can achieve incredible energy and focus by aligning your beliefs and values with bold, confident action. He calls this congruence: a state in which you’re able to bring all of your mental and physical abilities to bear on whatever task is at hand. 

The trick to reaching this state is making sure that all of your thoughts, desires, and actions are working toward the same objective. That’s why it’s crucial to take control of your mind—you must make sure that you’re not obstructing yourself with disempowering beliefs or conflicting values. 

For example, someone who talks about what he “wants” to do, or what “might” happen, is getting in his own way; he doesn’t fully believe that he’ll achieve his goals. Therefore, he won’t be able to fully harness his energy and his conviction. 

Take Power Over Your Life

Now that you know how to create energy and momentum by controlling your body and your mind, it’s time to learn how to harness that energy to achieve your goals. Based on Robbins’s ideas, we’ve created a four-step process to accomplish anything you can imagine. We’ve included some of Robbins’s essential tips to help you through the steps.

Step 1: Decide What You Want

Before you can start working, you need to know what you’re working toward. Robbins says that an effective goal must be clear, ambitious yet achievable, and most importantly, inspirational. That last point is crucial because, no matter how much energy you have, you won’t want to put any of it toward a goal that doesn’t excite you.

Step 2: Get Started

Once you have a goal in mind, figure out a course of action that seems likely to get you closer to that goal, then take that course. Robbins emphasizes this step very strongly; no matter how much you want something or how carefully you plan, you’ll never get closer to your goals unless you take action. 

Step 2.5: Fearlessly Work With Others

There are few goals, if any, that you can accomplish completely on your own. Somewhere along the way, you’ll need support, advice, or approval from someone else, and any interaction with another person carries the possibility of being rejected. That’s why one of Robbins’s essential tips is: Don’t fear rejection. 

Rejection can be painful, but you mustn’t let the fear of it stop you from doing whatever’s necessary to reach your goals. Remember: Some of the world’s most famous artists, actors, and musicians spent years experiencing rejection after rejection before they finally found success. 

Step 3: Gauge Your Progress

Once you’ve started your plan of action, regularly review your progress toward your goal and consider whether each action so far has served you well. Whether it was a simple conversation, a business investment, a workout, or just a daily habit, determine whether each action got you closer to your goal or farther from it. 

Robbins adds that, in many cases, other people’s responses to your actions will be the best indicator of whether or not you’re getting closer to your goals. Did people respond positively or negatively to what you did?

Step 4: Change What’s Not Working

If you determine that an action got you closer to your goal in some way, then continue doing it. However, if it didn’t, then you must be flexible enough to change your approach. Reexamine your actions and see if you can determine what went wrong; if necessary, recheck your mental program against the person you’re imitating to make sure it’s accurate. Keep evaluating and adjusting your actions however many times it takes to start getting the results you want. 

This brings us to another of Robbins’s essential tips: Learn to cope with aggravating setbacks. Nothing great was ever achieved smoothly and easily. The world’s top achievers in any field—business, sports, science, art, and so on—went from mistake to mistake and defeat to defeat on their way to success. So, no matter how many times you have to adjust your plan and try again, remember that the only true failure is giving up. 

Another of Robbins’s essential tips is that you mustn’t let yourself stagnate. Once you accomplish a goal, start thinking about the next one—use the momentum you’ve built to keep improving yourself, rather than resting on your laurels and losing the energy you worked so hard to create. 

Other People Multiply Your Power

So far, you’ve learned how to create incredible energy by aligning your thoughts with your actions and how to use that energy to take control of your own life. However, no matter how empowered and motivated you are, there will always be limits to what a single person can achieve. That’s why Robbins says that you can only achieve the titular Unlimited Power through leadership and cooperation. 

Learn People’s Motivations

Robbins says that to effectively work with people, you need to understand their motivations. Even if you have a motivating, inspiring goal, you won’t be able to get others to cooperate in achieving it unless you can communicate it in a way that motivates them. Note that Robbins doesn’t mean that you need to find out people’s specific goals and desires—although that can help. Rather, try to understand how they interact with the world around them. You can use this understanding to find the most effective way of motivating someone.

For instance, one person might be highly motivated to get what she wants. You’re likely to convince this person with promises of what she could gain by listening to you: perhaps a new job, the chance to make a difference in the community, or the respect of her peers. However, another person might be more motivated to avoid what he doesn’t want—for someone like this, you’d have to tell him what he might lose by ignoring you (like missing out on an exciting opportunity, losing money, or ending up with an inferior product from your competitor). 

This is just one example—people can have countless different motivations. Robbins’s point is that getting people to work with you requires observing them, speaking with them, and finding clues about what motivates them. Whether you’re trying to resolve a problem with a loved one, make a sale, or bring in a new business partner, finding the right way to communicate with the other person is crucial.

Use Your Power to Help Others

Now that you know how to create and harness unlimited energy to achieve your goals, Robbins warns that you mustn’t let your personal successes define you or control you. In other words, stay true to your own beliefs and values even after you successfully transform your life. 

For example, don’t start believing that you’re better than others because of what you’ve accomplished. Similarly, don’t fall into the trap of believing that your only worth is in what you accomplish or how much money you have so that you become obsessed with working. 

Others may try to define you or stereotype you based on superficial things like your job title or your income; don’t accept their judgments either. The only one who defines you is yourself.

This brings us to Robbins’s last essential tip: Be generous—since only you can decide who you are, make sure to be a good person. 

Robbins recommends taking 10% of your income and donating it to good causes. Furthermore, he suggests starting this practice today, rather than waiting until some undefined point in the future when you’re “successful.” However, Robbins adds that generosity isn’t just about money; you can be generous with your time, with your skills, with your love, or with anything you have that others need. 

Finally, give more than you think you’ll ever get back—the happiness and fulfillment you’ll get from doing so are worth more than anything you could possibly give away. In short, Robbins believes that true success in life doesn’t come simply from creating unlimited power or even from achieving your personal goals. Rather, success comes from using your unlimited power to help others.

Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins (Book Overview)

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Tony Robbins's "Unlimited Power" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Unlimited Power summary:

  • How to harness your thoughts and beliefs and turn them into purposeful action
  • How to find even greater success through cooperation and leadership
  • How you can use your successes to help others and improve the world

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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