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Share Guide: We are focusing this issue on Self-Actualization. Wasn’t
this term originally coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow?
Tracy: Yes. Maslow set psychology on its head. It managed to recover,
but never fully. At the time he began studying psychology,
everyone was studying sick people--the people who were mentally unwell,
angry, frustrated, unhappy, psychotic, neurotic, and so on. And he
said, “What about studying healthy people?” What he found was that
every unhappy person is unhappy for a hundred different reasons, but
happy people, what he called self-actualizing people, were happy
because they did certain things in a certain way. So he began to
teach the psychological structure of the fully functioning human
being. And that became the model which has basically triggered
the entire human potential movement. Human growth, the revolutions in
management, everything that we see in the modern world that is aimed at
bringing out the very best in people, was triggered by Maslow.
Share Guide: Self-actualization is a broad term. What does it mean to
Each person goes through five different levels. As Maslow said, the
first level of motivation is pure survival. Once you’ve satisfied
your survival needs, especially physical needs, you move up to
security--financial security, emotional security, sociological
security, so that you feel secure in your place. Then the next need is
for belonging, because we want to be involved with other people, we
want to work with them, have a mate, and so forth. The fourth level up
is self-esteem. We want to feel valuable and important, we want
to like ourselves, and feel that we are unique individuals. Finally,
the fifth level is self-actualization, where we become all that we are
capable of becoming. My job, throughout my entire speaking life, has
been to help people, get them focused, and move them rapidly up those
stairs, to the point where they feel terrific about themselves, and are
self-actualized. My program, The Psychology of Achievement, is aimed at
this. Self-actualization comes from setting and achieving goals.
And nothing can be more important than this--having a very, very clear
idea of what you want, making plans to accomplish it, and then working
on those plans every single day. This is a real skill, but because it’s
so simple to explain, most people think it’s really not important and
they just discard it. They say “I’ve already got goals; I want to be
happy, I want to be healthy, I want to be fit.” But these aren’t goals,
these are merely illusions. What I do is I teach people in business how
to set strategic goals and objectives. I work with Fortune 500
companies. I also work with individuals through my books, audio
programs, and training seminars, to teach them how to achieve financial
independence, lose weight, improve their lives, improve their work,
business, and so on, by setting goals and working on those goals.
Share Guide: So setting goals is the practical step toward grounding
the vision into action?
Absolutely! One of my favorite quotes is “Pray, then move your feet.”
In other words, once you have a very clear mental image, an idea of
what you want, and you have complete faith that you will achieve it,
then what you do is take action. You take the very first step that
comes to you, then you take the next step, and the next step. The major
reason that people in the self-actualization movement fail, is because
they do the praying, and the visualizing, and the meditating, and the
affirming, and the calming, and the centering--and then nothing else.
So not a darn thing happens!
Share Guide: There is a quote of yours that I love: “Hope is not a
strategy for success.”
Yes. Unfortunately, there are a lot of charlatans in the human
potential movement who tell people that’s all you need to do--just be
clear about your goals and then relax and trust to the universe, and
the universe will bring you everything. But most of those people are
poor! It just doesn’t work like that.
Share Guide: So visualizing and praying will help, but those are not
the only tools you need.
That’s right. That is just the starting point. The very first thing
you’ll find on the road to any goal is obstacles, and detours, and
setbacks, and disappointments, and temporary failures. They go with the
territory. With most people, as soon as they come to a roadblock, they
quit. What successful people do is they go over, under, around,
through--they find a way. And if you keep doing that, eventually
you learn what you need to achieve your goals.
Share Guide: Napoleon Hill, the author of Think
and Grow Rich,
was like a grandfather to the human potential movement. His motto was:
“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe you can achieve.” What are
your thoughts on that?
It’s absolutely true, as long as you take the next step. If you
look at Napoleon Hill’s teachings, they are very rigorous. It requires
that you have organized plans of action, that you have specialized
knowledge, that you have a positive personality, that you take an
enormous amount of time to get along well with everybody in your world,
and that you have a burning desire, definite goals, use your time well,
and so forth. Napoleon Hill doesn’t say that it’s quick and easy. You
can conceive it and believe it, but he said that’s just a starting
point. But here’s an interesting point that holds people back: Most of
the things you try won’t work. They turn out to be partial failures or
total failures. You’ll embark on something and you’ll visualize it and
you’ll write it down, you’ll set it as a goal, you’ll make a plan, and
it won’t work. And you’ll end up with nothing. And what people don’t
realize is that life is a series of false starts. Nobody just goes
onward and upward with no failures. What you’ve got to do is pull
yourself back every single time that you miss the target. Ask yourself
“What did I learn from that,” and then clearly isolate the lesson and
then take the next step.
Share Guide: So we have to keep on going and not quit.
Right! One of the things that I teach over and over is that there is a
great power in the universe that wants you to succeed. And this great
power realizes that the only way you can succeed is if you learn
critical lessons on the way through life. If you want to get an
advanced degree in success and happiness, you are going to take a lot
of courses, you’re going to have to make a lot of mistakes, and you’re
going to have to pass a lot of tests. Now the good news is that every
single test you take, every single setback or difficulty, you gain a
lesson. So instead of becoming upset about what happened, you simply
focus on the lesson, and the potential gain. And the very seeking of
the lesson makes you more positive and focused person. One of Napoleon
Hill’s key principles is that in every problem or setback, there is the
seed of an equal or greater benefit or advantage. So what you do is you
take your situation in life today, and look at it this way. As a friend
of mine said, “If life is a school, what courses are you taking today?
And what lessons do you need to learn to get to the next level?” As
Galileo said, “We cannot teach a person anything that they do not know,
we can only bring what they do know to a higher level of awareness.” In
other words, if you have experiences and you do not reflect on them to
determine what you have learned, you will not gain from the
experiences. You will repeat the same mistakes. The great power in the
universe also knows that the only way that you will learn is if it
hurts. If it doesn’t hurt, you won’t learn.
Share Guide: You say it takes 10-21 days of a new positive daily
activity for it to become a habit. So this is the key to positive
thinking, practicing until it becomes natural?
There’s all kinds of scientific research on this but I think the bottom
line is pretty simple. Almost all of our thinking has been learned by
taking in information and repeating it over and over again. So if you
want to change the way you think about something, you’ve got to
practice it over and over again, until you override the old habit of
Share Guide: You’ve also said that we can only hold one thought at a
time, so we should focus on what we want to achieve, rather than
focusing on that which we have not yet achieved. Can you elaborate on
There’s a rule that says, “where your attention goes, your life goes.”
So if you are focused on a particular goal, you start to attract ideas,
inspirations, insights. You start to activate more and more of your
brain, almost like a big laser beam in a science fiction movie that
channels all the powers of energy into a single point. The more you
think about a particular goal, the more rapidly you move toward it, and
the more rapidly it moves toward you. The law of concentration says,
“whatever you dwell upon grows in your life.” Whatever you focus on,
more and more of your brain power is actually applied to the
achievement of that goal.
Share Guide: Can you recommend any visualization exercises for
People visualize all the time, so that’s not really the problem. The
problem is what they focus on. The key to success is very simple: think
about what you want and how to get it--all day long. Refuse to think
and talk about your problems or what you don’t want. Since you
can only hold one thought at a time, if you keep thinking about what
you want and how to get it, and then keep taking the steps that come to
your mind, eventually you won’t have time to think about all of your
problems. Pretty soon it becomes habit, and you develop a series of
neuro-connections in your brain that make it easy and automatic for you
to get up in the morning and think about what you want. Once it becomes
a habit, your whole life starts to move faster and faster toward your
Share Guide: It’s like developing the habit of expecting things
to be positive.
Right. Positive people think about what they want and how to get it;
negative people think about what they don’t want and who is to blame.
Share Guide: So if you want to be a part of that small percentage
that achieve lasting success, simply be amongst those who are the most
Right. If you want to build a successful business, you’re going to have
to work many, many hard hours to get established. If you want to be a
successful writer, or anything else--it will be hard before it’s easy.
Your responsibility in life is to find something that you really enjoy,
that uses your special talents and abilities, and then throw your whole
heart into doing that really well.
Share Guide: What are the basic steps for goal setting?
Start with writing out a list of ten goals. I do that every day. And
then select your most important goal, and make a plan to achieve it.
Then work on that plan every day. It’s a real simple technique--anybody
can do it in about five minutes.
Share Guide: You’ve written that “self-discipline is persistence in
action.” You put a lot of stress on persistence. Can you talk about
Not everything you try in life is going to work. And sometimes it’s not
going to work over and over again. Nature sets up a little test, and
the test is to see how badly you want it. The way that you demonstrate
to the universe that you really want something, is you keep persisting
in the face of setbacks and difficulties and obstacles and
disappointments. You just keep on keeping on. Every great success is a
triumph of persistence. Phil Knight of Nike once said, “All you have to
do is succeed the last time.” If you succeed the last time, it wipes
everything else out.
Share Guide: You write about stimulating super-conscious creativity.
How do we do this?
The very best way is to take any goal you have, and write it as a
question starting with the word “how.” In other words, “How do I
achieve this goal?” Discipline yourself to write 20 answers to that
question. The most amazing thing happens: as you write more and more
answers to the question, you get better answers! You rev up your mind
and you stimulate your creativity for the whole day.
Share Guide: What is the difference between brainstorming and
Mindstorming is what you do alone, such as writing down 20 or more
ideas to achieve a particular goal. Brainstorming is what you do with
other people. It’s the same sort of exercise, but done in a more
Share Guide: Is it possible to become too focused on the future and too
goal oriented? What about enjoying the present moment and what we have
Well, it’s not as if working on your goals is somehow a penalty,
something that makes you suffer. Working on goals makes you happy,
because you have a feeling of forward motion and success.
Share Guide: Please talk about the Golden Rule and achieving our full
I think the most important principle in all of human history is: do
unto others as you would have them do unto you. Because in the final
analysis, it is not what you have accomplished or achieved in life, but
the effect that you have on other people on the way through. Become
everything you are capable of becoming. Live your life as though your
every act is to become a universal law for all people. As Gandhi said,
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
learn more about Brian Tracy’s books, workshops and trainings, please
visit his website at www.briantracy.com.
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