Tom Butler-Bowdon: 50 Self-Help Classics Book Summary






  • The greatest discovery of my generation is that human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. (William James)
  • Habits of thinking need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last 20 years is that individuals can choose the way they think. (Martin Seligman)
  • You can change your life by changing your thoughts and your mental habits.
  • The real revolutions happened inside people’s heads.
  • I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. (Walt Whitman)
  • Self-knowledge is the path to maturity.
  • The self knowing and the self creating person are, of course, only abstractions; a person will always be an interesting combination of the two.

Chapter 1: James Allen – As a Man Thinketh 1902

  • That you are the master of your thought, the mould of your character, and the maker and shape of your condition, environment and destiny.
  • Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results.
  • Law, not confusion, is a dominating principle in the universe.
  • We don’t attract what we want, but what we are. Only by changing your thoughts will you change your life.
  • The conscious mind generates as much action as the conscious mind.
  • Achievement happens because you as a person embodied the external achievement; you don’t get success but come it.
  • A person is what he thinks about all day long. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • Circumstances do not make a person, they reveal him.
  • That we have no one else to blame for our present condition except ourselves. The upside is the possibilities contained in knowing that everything is up to us.
  • Prosperity and happiness cannot happen when the old self is still stuck in old ways. People are nearly always the unconscious cause of their own lack of prosperity.

Chapter 2: Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner: NLP 1994

  • We do not respond to the world as it is, we act in accordance with their own mental map of.
  • We can model the thinking and behaviour of people who are already successful in order to achieve similar results.
  • Control your thoughts and you control your body.
  • We make choices based on experience. More and better experiences allow for more choices.
  • Everyone has a motivation direction, either toward pleasure and goals or away from pain.
  • If one person can do something, anyone can learn to do it.
  • Not all dreamers are achievers, but all achievers are dreamers.
  • Our specific thoughts, feelings, and actions have produced what we are today; by changing these imports you will get different results-a different you.

Chapter 3: Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

  • Don’t get caught up in a trivia or pettiness; appreciate your life within a larger context.
  • The effort to see through another’s eyes is nothing less than an extension of one’s world-and a unifying of it.
  • Excepting things and people how they are, not how we would like them to be.
  • The person who can see the world as it really is also carries the ability to see beyond that world.

Chapter 4: Martha Beck – Finding Your Own North Star

  • The key to finding our right life is to know the difference between the essential self and the social self.

Chapter 5: The Bhagavad-Gita

  • He whose peace is not shaken by others, and to be for whom other people find peace, beyond excitement and anger and fear-he is dear to me.
  • Seek peace inside yourself do the work that is yours, and wonder at the mysteries of the universe.
  • There is action motivated by a desire, and action undertaken out of a sense of purpose.
  • Purposeful action seems more complicated and obscure, but is in fact the most natural way; it is the salvation of their existence and even the source of joy. The word that this is Dharma.
  • You will know, you will live in it when your intentions are Noble and you feel peace in your actions. Your work is your sanctuary and you would do even for no reward at all.
  • Unless you were doing the work you love, you are darkening your soul.
  • The wise always have an outcome or result in mind, yet their detachment from it makes them all the more effective.
  • The Gita says that higher even than that piece of meditation is the peace that comes from the surrender of the fruit of one’s actions; in the state we are freed from the rigidity of set expectations, allowing the unexpected and remarkable to emerge.
  • One of the main routes to this level of being is meditation, which brings detachment from the motions like fear and greed.
  • With perfect meditation comes perfect act.
  • Though the universe may be in a constant state of flux, we can train your mind to be a rare fixed point.
  • Poetry, the language of the heart.

Chapter 8: Boethius – The Consolation of Philosophy 6th century

  • No matter what happens to you, you always have freedom of mind.

Chapter 9: Alain de Botton – How Proust Can Change Your Life 1997

  • Appreciate the rich experience of life, despite circumstances.

Chapter 10: William Bridges – Transitions 1980

  • Whether you choose your change or not, there are unlived potentialities within you, interests and talents that you have not yet explored.
  • All I transitions have a pattern, which it acknowledged will make tough times more comprehensible.
  • We can’t be the same person doing the same thing all our life.
  • To have a new beginning you need to acknowledge and ending.
  • There’s a Zen saying, after enlightenment, laundry.
  • Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Chapter 11: David D. Burns – Feeling Good 1980

  • Your emotions follow your thoughts just as surely as baby ducks follow their mother.
  • Negative thoughts have a snowball effect.
  • We tend to believe that our emotions reflect a self-evident truth that is beyond question. Emotions fool us into thinking that they are right, and bad feelings about ourselves or our abilities seem unchangeable. We’re told to trust our feelings. But if the thoughts feeding them are not rational, all are based on misconception or prejudiced, trusting our feelings is a very risky thing to do.
  • Your feelings do not determine your worth, simply your relative state of comfort or discomfort.
  • Your work is not your worth.
  • Most depression is usually only a case of having fallen into a rut and having forgotten the original purpose trigger.

Chapter 12: Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth 1987

  • Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
  • Always do what you love and appreciate your life as a wonderful journey.
  • Your current life is always waiting to yield to a greater story.

Chapter 13: Richard Carlson – Don’t Sweet the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff 1997

  • So many people spend so much of their life energy’ sweating the small stuff’ that they completely lose touch with the magic and beauty of life. When you commit to working towards this goal you will find that you have a far more energy to be kinder and gentler.
  • Learn to live in the present moment.
  • Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans. (John Lennon)
  • Ask yourself the question will this manner a year from now?

Chapter 15: Deepak Chopra – The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success 1994

  • There is an easier way to get what you want from life, involving attunement with nature and the universe.
  • When the veil of ego drops, knowledge is revealed and great insights are normal.
  • The first step is to practice acceptance.
  • This moment is as it should be.
  • Practice defencelessness.

Chapter 16: Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist 1993

  • We too easily give up on our dreams, yet the universe is always ready to help us fulfil them.
  • Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it-boldness has genius, power and magic in it. (Goethe)
  • Dream followers have a greater responsibility, that of handling their own freedom.

Chapter 17: Stephen Covey – The 7 habits of highly effective people 1989

  • Covey believed that outward success was not success at all if it was not the manifestation of inner mastery.
  • Private victory must precede public victory.
  • It is a daily habit of thinking and acting that other ground on which the greatness is built.
  • Sow a thought, and you reap an action; sow an action, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
  1. Be proactive.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.
  3. Put first things first.
  4. Think win-win.
  5. Seek to understand, then to be understood.
  6. Synergise.
  7. Sharpen the saw. We need to balance physical, spiritual, mental and social dimensions of life.

Chapter 18: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience 1990

  • Rather than being idle, doing what you love is a pathway to greater meaning, happiness, and a self of higher complexity.
  • The bringing of order to consciousness, control the mind, is therefore the key to happiness.
  • Goals so it’s enjoyable to pursue: they bring order in awareness, irrespective of the feeling one may get in a seeing a goal actually achieved. An ordered mind itself is a source of happiness.

Chapter 19: The Dalai Lama – The Art of Happiness 1998

  • We each have a physical structure, a mind, emotions. We’re all born in the same way, and we all die. All of us want happiness and do not want to suffer.
  • Achieving happiness does not have to depend on events. A mental practice we can form the ability to be happy most of the time.
  • The real source of happiness is control of your consciousness. A calm mind, for instance, or one engaged in meaningful work equates to happiness.
  • A positive state of mind is not merely good for you, it benefits everyone with whom you come into contact, literally changing the world. No matter how difficult it is, reduce negative states of mind and increase the positive ones.

Chapter 20: Buddha’s Teachings – The Dhammapada

  • Sorrow arises from what is dear, as the fear. For someone freed from liking, there is no sorrow, so how could there be fear?
  • Being in the world but not of the world.
  • For hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law external.
  • You can never please everyone! The main thing is to concentrate on your own work, your integrity-to be independent of the good opinion of others.
  • All is transient, all is sorrow. When one sees this, one is above misery. This is a clear path.
  • The eightfold path involves:
  • Accurate perception
  • Accurate thinking
  • Accurate speech
  • Appropriate action
  • Appropriate way of making a living
  • Precise effort
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation.

Chapter 21: Wayne Dyer – Real Magic 1992

  • When you are aligned with your higher self and your purpose, miraculous things happen.
  • The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to live with purpose.
  • We create a miracle mindset through: withholding judgement, developing intuition, knowing that intentions create your reality, surrendering to the universe to provide for your needs.
  • All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.

Chapter 22: Ralph Waldo Emerson – Self-Reliance 1841

  • Whatever the pressures, be your own person.
  • We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of its represents.
  • Happiness was ultimately self-generated.

Chapter 24: Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning 1959

  • The meaning of life is the meaning you decide to give it.
  • He who has a why to live can bear with almost anyhow.
  • He defines happiness is a by-product of forgetting ourselves in a task that draws on all the imagination and talents.

Chapter 25: Benjamin Franklin – Autobiography 1790

  • Constant self-improvement and a love of learning form your tickets to the unusual success.
  • The individual was not a fixed proposition at all, but self-creating.

Chapter 27: Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence 1995

  • The truly successful person will always have achieved emotional self-mastery. (Daniel Goleman)
  • Through the application of intelligence to a emotion, we can improve their lives immeasurably. (Daniel Goleman)
  • Emotions are habits, and like any habit can undermine our best intentions.
  • By unlearning some emotions and developing others, we can gain control of their lives.

Chapter 29: Louise Hay – You can heal your life 1984

  • You will only begin to change your life when you will learn how to love yourself properly.
  • Disease (or “dis-ease,” as Hay calls it) is the product of states of mind.
  • Whatever we concentrate on increases, so don’t concentrate on your bills. You will only create more of them. Gratefulness for what you do have makes it more abundant. Become aware of the limitless supply of the universe — observe nature! Your income is only a channel of prosperity, not its source.
  • If you have the ability to steal your mind and invoke feelings of peace by realising you are not alone, you can never really feel insecure again.

Chapter 31: Susan Jeffers – Feel the fear and do it anyway 1987

  • Are you a victim what are you taking responsibility for your life? So many of us think we are taking responsibility for our lives when we simply are not. The victim mentality is subtle and takes many forms.
  • The presence of fear is an indication that you’re growing and accepting the challenge that is.
  • People sleeping in totally the wrong way. Rather than being an indicator that you were reaching your limits, it is a green light to keep going. If you’re not feeling any fear, you may not be growing.
  • Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes with a feeling of helplessness.
  • In other words, those who never take any risks ironically live with a dread of something going wrong.

Chapter 32: Richard Koch – The 80/20 Principle 1998

  • By identifying what you’re good at, then doing more of it, success will come easily.
  • Most people try too hard at the wrong things.
  • Instead of being always short of time, the author notes, the dangerous truth is that we are actually awash with but “profligate in its abuse”.
  • The more we love doing something that better way will be at it, increasing the likelihood that it will benefit others.
  • The greatest rewards never go to merely excellent, but to the outstanding.

Chapter 34: Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching 5th-3rd Century BC

  • Follow around obstacles, don’t confront them. Don’t struggle to succeed. Wait for the right moment.
  • Stop clinging to your personality, and see all beings as yourself. Such a person could be entrusted with the whole world.
  • Make your life easier and more effective by attunement with the natural flow of the universe.

Chapter 35: Maxwell Maltz – Psycho-Cybernetics 1960

  • Man is by nature a goal-striving being. All because man is built that way he is not happy unless he is functioning as he was made to function as a goal striver. Thus true success and true happiness not only go together but each in enhances since the other.
  • We acquire our self image through our beliefs about ourselves, which grow and have past experience of success and failure and of how others see us.
  • The self-image was changed by experiencing, not by intellectual means.
  • The brain is not great at telling difference between an actual experience and one imagine in full in vivid detail the.

Chapter 36: Abraham Maslow – Motivation and Personality 1954

  • Full mental health is not the absence of neurosis but the fulfillment of our potential.
  • Maslow identified 19 characteristics of the self-actualised person
  • Clear perception of reality, acceptance, spontaneity, problem centeredness, solitude seeking, autonomy, peak or mystical experiences, human kinship, humility and respect, ethics, sense of humour, creativity, resistance to enculturation, imperfections, values.

Chapter 39: Joseph Murphy – The Power of Your Subconscious Mind 1963

  • By understanding how the subconscious mind works, you can learn how dreams become reality.
  • That we can make ourselves a new simply by controlling the thoughts and images with which we feed.
  • Along with relaxed faith, that these with which the subconscious accomplishes things increases with the emotion. An idea or a thought alone may excite the rational, conscious mind, but the subconscious like things to be emotionalized. When a thought becomes a feeling, and imagination becomes desire, it will deliver what you want with speed and abundance.
  • The power of the subconscious mind and faith. The idea that you can change your life by changing the landscape of your mind.
  • The law of your mind is the law of the belief itself. What we believe makes us who we are.
  • Whatever people expect to be true will be so, irrespective of whether the object of their belief exists.

Chapter 40: Norman Vincent Peale – The Power of Positive Thinking 1952

  • Faith is the one power against which fear cannot stand. Day by day, as you fill your mind with faith, there will ultimately be no room left in fear. This is the one great fact that no one should forget. Master faith and you will automatically master fear.
  • Expect the best and get it. Fearful creatures that we are, we tend to expect the worst. By and expectation of the best has a way of organising forces in your favour.
  • Doubt closes the power flow. Faith opens it.
  • New thoughts can remake you.

Chapter 42: M. Scott peck – The Road Less Travelled 1978

  • There are four disciplines: delaying of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing.
  • Once you accept responsibility, you can make better choices.
  • Self-discipline at the top of the list values for a good life.
  • Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems.
  • A person who has the ability to delay gratification has the key to psychological maturity, whereas impulsiveness is a mental habit that, in denying opportunities to experience pain, creates neuroses.
  • Discipline is not only about growing up in terms of accepting reality, but in the appreciation of the tremendous range of choices before us.
  • If you are loving and diligent, you may do whatever you want.
  • Discipline opens the door to limitlessness in our experience of life.

Chapter 43: Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged 1957

  • Forge your own destiny, create something of value, enable a higher form of humankind by daring to think.
  • A person’s greatest duty to be the appreciation of joy of being alive.

Chapter 44: Anthony Robbins – Awaken the Giant Within 1991

  • Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is write your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, and things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspire to becoming.
  • Raise your standards, change the rules.
  • Make decisions rather than wishes about what you are and take action.

Chapter 45: Florence Scovell Shinn – The game of life and how to play it 1925

  • An individual can achieve the square of life, the four points of health, wealth, love, and perfect self-expression.
  • Faith is what links you to the universe: it expends your cosmic footprint, while fear can be only shrinking.
  • We need to demonstrate to our subconscious that we seriously expect to receive.

Chapter 46: Martin Seligman – Learned Optimism 1991

  • Optimism involves a set of skills that can be learned.
  • Cultivation of an optimistic mindset significantly increases your chances of health, wealth, and happiness.

Chapter 47: Samuel Smiles – Self-help 1859

  • History is full of people who achieved amazing thing by sheer will and persistence.
  • It is in eminent talent that is required to ensure success in any pursuit, so much as purpose — not merely the power to achieve, but the will to labour energetically and perseveringly. Hence energy of will may be defined to be the very central power character in a man — in a word, it is the man himself.
  • Genius is patience.
  • Education, wealth, or noble family does not come close to replacing character.

Chapter 49: Henry David Thoreau – Walden 1854

  • Make sure that you have time in your life just to think.
  • Prison that people did not know they were in, enslaved by materialism and conformity. The mass man in the lives of quiet desperation.
  • If one advances confidently in the direction of his own dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.
  • I know of no more encouraging fact that the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour.
  • If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.

Chapter 50: Marianne Williamson – A Return to Love 1994

  • Miracles start to happen when we resolve to depend fully on God and decide to love ourselves.
  • Unconditional love may be hard to cultivate, but it brings rich rewards, being the only way we stay at peace with ourselves.
  • Goal setting is all very well, but it is the prime example of the ego trying to shape the world according to its pleasing.





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