Tony Robbins * Free Press * November 1, 1992 * 544 Pages
Awaken the Giant Within has been sitting on my shelves for a year. I’ve wanted to read it, but I knew it was dense and would take a while to finish, so I just kept putting it off. Well, it made the cut for my 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, and since it’s January and the New Year and resolutions, etc., I finally started reading it.
Well, I’m really glad I did, because it has been helping me out a lot so far—and I’m only about a third of the way through. It would be hard to review this book in one go, just because there is so much good information here. So I thought I’d break up a review into three or so parts. I’m not going to give a book report, but I’ll share one or two points at a time that I’ve found especially useful.
I picked up this book because I was already motivated to change my attitude. Over the past few months, I’ve been rethinking some stuff and trying to figure things out. What I’ve noticed is that even though I have a lot going right in my life, I still carry around with me this feeling of, well, sadness. I’ve been through some stuff, sure (and haven’t we all?), but even though I also have a lot to be grateful for, I still can’t shake this melancholy. And I’m tired of it, quite frankly. Even if I can find a million reasons to justify the sadness, who cares? I don’t want to feel justified; I want to feel over it. I want to feel content and peaceful and happy.
So the first thing that helped me was when Robbins said to make a list of things you will no longer accept in your life. I’ll just be embarrassingly honest and say some of what I wrote down:
- I won’t accept feeling like I’m unimportant.
- I won’t accept being labeled as anxious or moody or sensitive.
- I won’t accept feeling lonely or lost.
- I won’t accept being criticized for wanting to be treated with kindness and respect.
As Robbins says, “You have to set standards for what you consider to be acceptable behavior for yourself, and decide what you should expect from those you care about… Decide what you want, take action, notice what’s working or not, and then change your approach until you achieve what you want.” He cautions people to look beyond instant gratification and to set goals based on values and personal standards. Focus on what you want, not what you fear, and then (make like Elizabeth Warren and) persist.
He also talks about beliefs, which are really just the things we feel certain about—so certain that we no longer even question them. Beliefs are usually created through personal experiences that have a lot of attached emotion and then they’re supported through repetition. It’s pretty straightforward conditioning, and Robbins says we can use that process to train our brains to believe something more empowering. It doesn’t even have to be real at first; it can all start in our imaginations. “With enough emotional intensity and repetition, our nervous systems experience something as real, even if it hasn’t occurred yet.”
He says to make a list of your empowering and disempowering beliefs. I’ll go ahead and embarrass myself further and list my main ones.
- I’m smart.
- I figure things out.
- I learn from my mistakes—and usually quickly.
- I always manage to improve.
- I have the power to heal myself.
- All people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
- I’m not important to most people.
- People don’t like my personality.
- I care about other people more than they care about me.
At the end of these lists, Robbins asks you to choose two or three empowering beliefs and find ways to support them—either through emotional memories, current experiences (the more emotional the better), or even just repeating them as statements to yourself.
And then, of course, he has you choose one disempowering belief and come up with its opposite. So now I, no joke, have a note to myself on my phone that says, “Other people think I’m cool, and they want to be my friend.” Does it embarrass me to reveal this to you? It sure does! But this little mantra has helped me out a lot. Because now, when I start going down the path of “Why didn’t she return my email? It’s been five days. Maybe I was offensive? Maybe I said something dumb? Maybe she doesn’t like me. Oh, she probably isn’t even my friend. OH MY GOD, THIS WHOLE TIME I’VE BEEN ACTING LIKE WE’RE FRIENDS, AND WE’RE NOT EVEN FRIENDS!” Before I do that, I stop myself and just say, “I don’t know why she didn’t email me back yet, but I know I’m cool, and of course she wants to be my friend!” It really helps, honestly, and I genuinely feel like I’m changing how my brain filters my experiences.
I think that’s enough for now. It’s crazy though, because every time I pick up this book, I feel better about life. The guy is intense, but really honest and insightful. His words make me feel hopeful.