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What’s Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne W. Dyer about? Are you getting in your own way of being happy?

In Your Erroneous Zones, Wayne W. Dyer argues that self-sabotaging practices called “erroneous zones” are preventing you from being happy. He further explores where erroneous zones come from and why eliminating them is crucial for living your best life.

Read below for a brief overview of Your Erroneous Zones.

Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne W. Dyer

In Your Erroneous Zones, Wayne W. Dyer writes that you can be happy—if only you’d stop getting in your own way. Dyer argues that the only things standing between you and your happiness are your “erroneous zones”: self-defeating practices that paralyze you and keep you from living a fulfilling life. By recognizing these internal hurdles and understanding why you have them, you’ll be able to eliminate them and start living the life you want.

Dyer began his career as a professor and therapist. His lectures on positive thinking and speaking strategies caught the attention of a literary agent, who convinced Dyer to put his ideas down on paper. The result was Your Erroneous Zones, published in 1976. The book sold millions of copies and launched Dyer’s career as an author and speaker. He went on to write dozens of books, many of which were New York Times best sellers. These include Pulling Your Own Strings, The Power of Intention, and Excuses Begone!. Dyer passed away in 2015.

Erroneous Zones Keep You From Being Happy

Happiness may seem elusive, but Dyer asserts that you can choose to be happy at any moment, regardless of what’s happening around you. The problem, says Dyer, is that you prevent yourself from being happy by allowing unproductive emotions to rule. 

Dyer argues that feelings aren’t passive occurrences; rather, they’re active reactions within your control. While anger, disappointment, or other emotions may seem valid, you should look at them through one lens: Do these emotions fulfill you or defeat you?

If the feelings defeat you by leading you to self-sabotaging behaviors—if they prevent you from taking action that leads to your growth and fulfillment—then Dyer says you’ve run into an erroneous zone. Some examples of erroneous zones that we’ll discuss in detail later are: needing to please other people, being unable to focus on the present, and procrastination. 

Why You Have Erroneous Zones

Dyer says that even though erroneous zones keep you from growing and becoming a better, happier person, you still hold onto them for two reasons: You derive some benefit from them, and you don’t love yourself enough.

You Benefit From Erroneous Zones

Dyer writes that you benefit from erroneous zones because they give you something or someone else to blame, allowing you to avoid accountability. They provide you with an excuse to stay where you are instead of taking risks and having to endure change, discomfort, or failure to find happiness.

For example, say you’re stuck in a job you don’t like. You might convince yourself it’s your parents’ fault for insisting that you get a degree in a field you’re not interested in, or you might blame your family for relying on you for financial support so you can’t quit your job. By assigning responsibility for your situation to someone else, you have an excuse to stay in the job rather than face the risks of resigning and finding a new job that you like.

Another benefit of holding onto your erroneous zones, says Dyer, is that you gain sympathy, concern, and even approval from others. For example, instead of breaking up with a partner who treats you badly, you might rehash every incident of poor treatment to your supportive friends. Staying in your situation gives you an audience who showers you with attention, comforts you, and maybe even compliments you for being strong enough to endure it all.

You Don’t Love Yourself Enough

Dyer writes that the second reason you hold onto erroneous zones is a lack of self-love—you wallow in negative self-talk and don’t value yourself enough to do what you want. If you love yourself, Dyer argues, you’ll want to go after what you want rather than remain stagnant, which means breaking free from behaviors that hold you back from having a fuller, happier life.

How to Eliminate Your Erroneous Zones

Now that you know what erroneous zones are and why you hold onto them, we’ll discuss specific erroneous zones in detail and Dyer’s tips for eliminating them.

Erroneous Zone #1: Relying on Other People’s Approval or Permission

The first behavior that keeps you from being happy is relying on other people’s approval or permission. Dyer explains that there’s nothing wrong with asking for other people’s input, but it becomes detrimental when you trust their opinions more than your own and can’t act without someone else’s go-signal. By behaving in this way, you give more value to what others want or believe than what you want or believe.

According to Dyer, we’re trained to need other people’s approval and permission from an early age: At home, well-meaning parents may solve problems for us because they don’t like to see us struggle; thus, we grow up conditioned to ask for their input or consent before doing anything. For example, when deciding on a career path, you might choose something that your parents think is practical (such as engineering) instead of pursuing something they deem impractical even though you’re passionate about it (such as art).

Other institutions likewise condition us to seek approval, says Dyer. At school, we’re given high marks for following the rules; in church, we’re expected to adhere to norms and traditions. When we behave in ways other than what’s expected of us, we’re called disruptive or self-absorbed. Thus, we learn to stay within the bounds of what’s “appropriate” so we don’t upset others, even if it runs counter to what we want or believe. This stays with us as we grow up. 

For example, you might not want to chip in for a birthday gift to a coworker you’re not close to, but you contribute anyway because your coworkers might think you’re selfish if you don’t. Or you might keep going to church service every Sunday just to please your religious mother even though you no longer believe.

Dyer says you rely on other people’s approval or permission because it’s the path of least resistance—it’s easier to go along with something you don’t want than it is to fight for what you do want. In the earlier examples, becoming an engineer might be easier than dealing with your parents’ disappointment if you choose to become an artist; spending money on someone you don’t care about or spending an hour in church seems easier than saying “no” and ruffling people’s feathers.

How to Stop Relying on Others’ Approval or Permission

To free yourself from the need for approval or permission, Dyer has the following tips:

1) Accept that not everyone will be happy with your choices. There’s no pleasing everyone, so you might as well do what makes you happy. Dyer says that one way to train yourself to accept this reality is to make decisions without asking someone else. If another person expresses disapproval over your choices, reflect on their concerns; if they’re valid, use their comments for self-improvement. Otherwise, just ignore them. 

2) Focus on your thoughts and emotions. When you worry that your actions will upset another person, you’re taking away that person’s agency, says Dyer. Do what you want to do, and let the other person take control of how they react—it’s out of your hands.

3) Communicate your needs. If you tend to go along with someone who has a more dominant personality, discuss how you feel. Dyer also recommends arranging a visual cue—such as tugging on your earlobe—to let the other person know when you’re feeling pressured into something you don’t want to do. 

Erroneous Zone #2: Playing It Safe

The second common erroneous zone is playing it safe. Dyer writes that one way you play it safe is by sticking to what’s familiar. You value security over spontaneity, preferring a well-worn path over something new or unusual. You refuse to take risks that lead to unpredictable results because you’re afraid of having to figure things out or hearing what other people might say if you don’t succeed. 

For example, you might get a job that earns you enough money to buy a house because that’s what’s expected of you, do things you’re good at instead of trying something new because you’re afraid to fail, and hang out only with people who are similar to you because they won’t challenge your views. Living in this way takes any excitement out of life and keeps you from difficult situations that challenge you and help you grow. 

Another way you play it safe, says Dyer, is by being a prisoner of protocol. You adhere to “shoulds” and “musts” dictated by society because you don’t want to rock the boat, even if those rules and expectations don’t make sense and stifle your freedom, growth, and happiness. For example, you agree to be a bridesmaid because you think it would be rude to say no—even if saying yes would strain your finances and add to your stress.

Dyer contends that rules are dictated by outside sources, which means you’re ceding control over your choices to an external force. While he says that laws are necessary to impose order, some rules are nonsensical, and you should trust your judgment to determine which rules are sensible and worth following. For instance, you might question why a woman “should” wait for a man to make the first move.

How to Break Free From Rules and Expectations

Dyer has the following tips to help you take more risks and break illogical rules:

1) Challenge norms and accept the consequences that come with living by your principles. If you find that things you “should” do end up making you unhappy, assess where this pressure to conform is coming from, free yourself from it, and deal with the backlash. For example, if wearing white after Labor Day makes you happy, then put on that white outfit—but be prepared to handle criticism from your busybody aunt. 

2) Introduce spontaneity and rule-breaking in small doses. You don’t have to immediately do anything drastic like quitting your job and pursuing an unconventional career. Instead, start with small acts like trying a new coffee shop instead of going to the same one every morning, having lunch with a coworker who seems very different from you, or (as in the previous example) wearing white after Labor Day. Doing so can push you out of your comfort zone, help you become more open and flexible, and introduce more excitement into your life. 

3) See failure in a different light. Try something new without putting pressure on yourself to do it successfully or perfectly, especially if it’s not crucial to your goals. If you don’t accomplish what you set out to do, just accept that it’s the way things turned out and that this doesn’t reflect your value as a person.

Erroneous Zone #3: Being Unable to Stay in the Present

The next erroneous zone is being unable to stay in the present and instead being trapped in the past or overwhelmed with worries about the future. 

Dyer argues that you trap yourself in the past by holding onto self-limiting beliefs and memories that don’t serve you. You may have self-imposed labels (for example, you’re scatterbrained) or believe you are bad at doing some things (like math or art) because these were the messages you heard as a child. Dyer says these labels end up being self-fulfilling prophecies that prevent growth and present-moment happiness—they keep you from new experiences and opportunities that can help you overcome those labels.

Aside from holding onto self-limiting beliefs, you may be locked in the past because you carry guilt, says Dyer. You may feel like you must do penance for things you’ve done. But Dyer asserts that guilt is useless because no amount of it can change what’s already happened. While he says self-reflection and learning from the past are important, wallowing in guilt is destructive because you allow your past to dictate your present, derailing your fulfillment and happiness.

While guilt leaves you stuck in the past, writes Dyer, worry casts your gaze forward, paralyzing you with fear about the future. Although Dyer says that planning for the future is a constructive and practical use of the present, thinking too much about it can make you overly anxious about events that may never happen. He points out that most worries revolve around things that are out of your control, leading to unnecessary stress, wasting your emotional and mental energy, and robbing you of the opportunity to find joy in what’s happening right now.

How to Stay in the Present

To stay firmly rooted in the present instead of being preoccupied with the past and the future, Dyer recommends that you:

1) Accept that the past is unchangeable. Stop dwelling on it, except to reflect on how you can deal with a similar situation in the future so that you won’t feel regret.

2) Deliberately do something guilt-inducing. This helps you develop your tolerance for guilt until you learn not to be controlled by it. For example, say no to extra work or spend money on getting your nails done.

3) Reflect on your past worries. What were some things you worried about in the past? Did these worries come to pass? Examining your worries in this way can help you see the times when worrying was unhelpful and can encourage you to put your anxieties to rest.

4) Allow yourself to worry for a fixed time. Tell yourself that you’ll only worry about something for the next 10 minutes, shortening the time period each time a new worry crops up. 

5) Prepare for the worst-case scenario. Dyer says the best way to ease your worries is to prepare for them, so think about the chances that what you’re worried about will happen, then if chances are high, make a plan for dealing with it. 

Erroneous Zone #4: Procrastination

Another erroneous zone is procrastination, or intentionally delaying something you’re supposed to do. Dyer contends that procrastination in itself isn’t harmful—it only becomes an erroneous zone when it leads to feelings of distress. He adds that among all the erroneous zones, procrastination is the most common; most of us put things off even when we know that doing so isn’t good for us. More than just avoiding tedious tasks such as, say, doing your taxes, procrastination can manifest in more impactful ways. 

For example, you might procrastinate on living a healthier lifestyle (“I’ll start on Monday”) or getting out of an unhealthy relationship. 

Dyer says the reason you succumb to procrastination is that it absolves you of responsibility to venture into unfamiliar territory and take action. It also allows you to fantasize that things will sort themselves out—for example, you might stay in an unhealthy relationship because you tell yourself it will get better once your partner realizes they need to change.

How to Stop Procrastinating

Dyer says that to stop procrastinating, you should: 

1) Reflect on why you’re delaying something. For example, is it because you’re afraid of failing? Consider the worst possible outcome if you do what you’ve been avoiding—being clear about what you’re avoiding will help you face up to it. 

2) Take action, whether that means taking the first step, devoting just five minutes to a task, or finally getting it out of the way. 

Erroneous Zone #5: Seeking Fairness

The next erroneous zone is seeking fairness. Dyer says that seeing something as unfair comes from comparison: You think you’re getting less or more than what others are getting and feel the need to even it out. He contends that it’s commendable to work toward fairness, but it becomes self-defeating when it makes you feel negative emotions like rage, apprehension, and bitterness—these all get in the way of your happiness. For example, you might be miserable at work because you think it’s unfair that your coworker gets the same pay as you despite working fewer hours. Or you might be exhausted trying to repay every favor friends do for you.

Dyer argues that people hold onto this erroneous zone because it gives them an excuse to seek revenge to right an injustice, even if it means doing something wrong. For example, you might be upset that your partner dumped you for someone else, so you seek “fairness” by spreading private messages between the two of you without their consent—you justify your bad behavior with their bad behavior. 

How to Stop Seeking Fairness

Here’s how you can overcome this erroneous zone, according to Dyer:

1) Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to someone else means you’re placing your happiness in the hands of an external force—you can only be happy if you feel like you have what they have. Recognize your unique value, embrace your strengths, and work on your weaknesses so you can advance toward your goals without the distraction and negative feelings that come from comparison. 

2) Be comfortable with scales tipping to one side. Rid yourself of the “eye for an eye” mindset, whether that means revenge or repaying someone’s kindness.

3) Act. Rather than wallow in misery about unfairness, do something. For example, if you’re unhappy that your coworker is paid more than you are, ask for a raise or look for a higher-paying job.

Erroneous Zone #6: Anger

The final erroneous zone is anger. According to Dyer, you get angry when things don’t go your way, whether it’s because people don’t behave as you’d like them to (for example, your spouse doesn’t do their share of the housework) or you’re faced with a frustrating situation (such as losing your luggage). You may show your anger by lashing out, being sarcastic, or giving others the silent treatment. Dyer says that anger isn’t conducive to communication, and it erodes relationships, yet you may still hold onto it because it enables you to instill fear in others and get them to do what you want to do.

As with other erroneous zones, you might use anger as the easy path, writes Dyer: Instead of doing the hard work of keeping your anger in check, you might tell yourself that being angry is a normal and valid human reaction. While Dyer accepts that letting off steam might be healthier than bottling up your rage, he argues that anger isn’t natural. To him, the best option is to not be angry at all. 

How to Stop Being Angry

Dyer offers tips so you can stop letting anger control you:

1) Delay your anger. Dyer says that when you feel the urge to have an outburst, give yourself a few seconds before you lash out, building up the time each time something triggers you. In time, he writes, you’ll be able to get your anger under control.

2) Have an anger accountability buddy. This person can either call your attention to your anger or hold your hand when your temper flares up—Dyer says that linking hands with a loved one can have a calming effect.

General Strategies for Eliminating Erroneous Zones

In addition to the strategies for eliminating specific erroneous zones, Dyer has general tips that can apply to any erroneous zone:

1) Keep a journal. Being aware of your erroneous zones allows you to overcome them. To become more aware, Dyer recommends keeping a journal where you take note of instances when you fall into an erroneous zone. For example, write down when you get angry, anxious, or guilty. Reflect on your triggers, and resolve to be more aware of them. (

2) Love yourself. If you embrace yourself and see your worth, you won’t act in ways that are self-destructive—instead, you’ll base your decisions on your wants and needs, let go of negative emotions that don’t serve you, and do things that will nurture you and help you grow.

Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne W. Dyer: Book Overview

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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