Psycho-Cybernetics Book Summary and Review (2024)

Need a Psycho-Cybernetics summary? You’re in the right place.

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz is the first book I read after graduating college, and it was one of the best investments I ever made.

The book helped me shift my thoughts about life and what’s possible.

Don’t get freaked out by the strange title, either.

Psycho-Cybernetics is worth investing in if you’re serious about optimizing your life.

Skip around:

  1. Work on how you perceive yourself
  2. See and experience your goals before they happen
  3. Take the first step (even if it’s small)
  4. Remember that you compete against yourself
  5. Set YOUR standards
  6. Make mistakes
  7. Reframe how you think about projects
  8. Live and act in the moment
  9. Be happy now
  10. Set goals for yourself, not other people


Self-image plays a pivotal role in your life.

How you perceive yourself will dictate how well you navigate the labyrinth of life. If you’re interested in self-help and development or in changing any aspects of your personality or behavior, you must first change the deeply ingrained idea of who you believe you are.

After graduating from college, the world seems like yours for the taking, but the possibility is a double-edged sword. As thrilling as the world of opportunity is, it can also be crippling.

Too many options and very little direction can easily stray a young adult off their path.

After graduating from college, I stumbled upon a book that would guide me and continue to guide me through life.

One of the self-help classics and bestsellers, Psycho-Cybernetics, was written by Maxwell Maltz in 1960.

Maltz, an American cosmetic surgeon, and a psychologist, wanted to answer a question he kept stumbling upon during his practice.

After performing countless plastic surgeries (typical ones to fix deformities), he realized that even though he changed a person’s physical appearance, their life didn’t fundamentally change.

Neither did the way their mind works regarding their mental image.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz realized that patients who changed their lives could do so because their idea of who they were also changed. An “emotional face-lift” did more than any physical surgery ever could.

Luckily, the book helped me find a direction for developing my self-esteem without visiting a plastic surgeon.

Here are the key takeaways and most actionable insights from the Psycho-Cybernetics book review:

The Ultimate Psycho-Cybernetics Summary

1. Work on how you perceive yourself

In Chapter 1 (The Self Image), you learn that the person you believe yourself to be is reflected in every action, experience, and, eventually, the outcome of your life.

For example, if you believe you are great at math, chances are you ARE good at math.

That belief compounds every time you get the correct answer or easily solve a problem in your head.

The same applies to the opposite belief.

If you think you are terrible at math and get caught in a loop of negative feedback, you will either avoid it at all costs, never develop your ill-perceived math abilities, or convince yourself you are every time you aren’t able to solve the problem.

It all comes down to positive self-talk.

Positive self-talk is the first obstacle in developing your desired quality of life.

Positive Self-Talk vs Positive Thinking

Don’t confuse positive thinking with positive self-talk. Positive thinking doesn’t work beyond superficialities. Self-image improvement begins with the way you speak to yourself.

If your mental blueprint comprises negative beliefs, you’re making it difficult to have a positive self-image.

I learned about “self-talk” while trying to improve as a baseball pitcher in college.

After reading a few books, I discovered that my pitching struggles had nothing to do with my physical ability and everything to do with my internal self-talk.

When things didn’t go well, I was devastatingly brutal on myself, not only after the game but also while playing.

The negative self-talk would cause my pitching to get progressively worse throughout the game, and by the end, I didn’t believe I had any pitching abilities.

For a while, my self-image was “someone who can’t throw strikes.”

To improve, I picked up a few baseball pitching books.

I was shocked to discover that most of these books focused very little on technique or the physical aspects of pitching. Instead, they focused on the mental game of the sport.

This epiphany changed everything for me.

I realized that to improve at pitching, I had to develop new habits by changing my internal dialogue with myself. Through the power of rational thinking and intentional self-improvement strategies, I created a positive yet realistic self-image.

After a while, I started to pitch better, and that successful response convinced me that I was a better pitcher. Eventually, my self-image changed to someone who can and does throw strikes.

This leads us to the next insight of Psycho-Cybernetics…

2. See and experience your goals before they happen

The human mind doesn’t know the difference between an imagined and a “real” experience. If you’ve seen the movie Inception, you know what I mean.

So, here’s a little existential question for you:

Are you living in a dream right now?

Most people answer with a confident “No” (silently asking themselves if they’re mentally all there), but let’s think about this for a moment. How often have you been “dreaming” (what we define as dreaming anyway), and your nervous system felt it was real?

That’s the power of the human brain’s mind and creative imagination. Dr. Maltz, in Psycho-Cybernetics, argues that a human being can tap into our subjective reality for the better.

The first key to your success mechanism—also known as your creative mechanism—is imagination and the ability to paint different mental pictures in your mind.

Spend a few minutes each day visualizing your goals. I know you’ve heard this advice hundreds of times, but that’s for a reason – it works.

Do not underestimate how powerful this practice is.

You need to see and feel your goals before you can achieve them.

“If we picture ourselves performing in a certain manner, it is nearly the same as the actual performance. Mental practice helps to make perfect.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 35

Visualizing my goals helps me imagine what it looks like when I’ve achieved whatever goal I was chasing. How do I feel? What does this achievement mean for me? How do I utilize this success to pursue the next goal?

The clearer you can see the goal, the better your subconscious mind can work towards achieving it.

3. Take the first step (even if it’s small)

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Do the thing and you will have the power.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 29

Most quality goals seem impossible when looking at them on the surface.

One of your goals is to write 12 3,000-word blog posts.

Immediately, you are overwhelmed by all the work that would entail. And in most instances, that is enough reason to abandon the seemingly impossible task.

Feeling overwhelmed, your failure mechanism kicks in.

That’s why it’s critical to set a high-level goal first. Then, break down that goal into smaller, easier goals. It’s much easier to write 100 words per day than 36,000.

4. Remember that you compete against yourself

You are not inferior or superior to any other human. As Maxwell Maltz says:

“You are simply You.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 57

Focus on how the “you” of tomorrow will be better than the “you” of today. If you aren’t beating what you were yesterday, you’re not moving in the right direction to find your best self.

Personal growth is the best way to achieve happiness.

5. Set YOUR standards

We are conditioned to believe that other people’s standards are our own. Social norms and pressures have ingrained these ideas well into our psyche, and when we fail to meet them, we feel like failures.

The only standard that matters is your own.

We all have different ideals and different perspectives from each other on what makes a good life.

Trusting yourself and your vision for yourself and your life will make the standards of others seem unrelated. Letting go of social norms leads to a better and more productive state of mind.

“Stop measuring yourself against “their” standards. You are not “Them” and can never measure up. Neither can “they” measure up to yours – nor should they. Once you see this simple, rather self-evident truth, accept it and believe it, your inferior feelings will vanish.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 58

6. Make mistakes. The more, the better.

Maxwell Maltz writes that our mistakes are building blocks for personal success. You’ve heard this a million times before, but it’s true.

The more mistakes you make, the more experiences you attain, which means more knowledge.

Maltz states that those experiences transcend many areas in your life, and the knowledge from a seemingly unrelated “mistake” becomes incredibly useful and gives you unlimited power.

It acts like scar tissue that builds up over time.

Your mistakes don’t make you less of a person because you’ve made them. No one who tried to accomplish something great did it on their first try. I wouldn’t take back a single mistake or “failure” because they were all necessary (however painful they were at the time) steps for getting me to where I am today.

I also know that I’m not done making mistakes. I will most likely make a few up until the end, and I welcome them all. I know I’ll feel as if I “lost” or “failed” on the surface.

But those are signals that I’ll need to break through plateaus and reach new goals.

Embrace failure, even if it may seem scary at first. Making mistakes requires courage, but the result will be worth it.

7. Reframe how you think about projects

Persuade yourself to believe that what you must do today is easy, and you will be more likely to accomplish it. Putting things into perspective takes away the anxiety and dread you feel for the day.

When I have a big project, I always ask myself, “Is it that hard to verbalize my thoughts in this document?”

The answer is not really. But the more important question is, is it easy to do so because I’ve conditioned myself to believe that? I believe so.

Remember when you were given a really big project, maybe a shared one? And you expressed your anxiety and the pressure you felt on them. If that person told you it would be a piece of cake, you’ve done many of these before –you would feel more at ease and start to think the same.

Become that person for yourself. There’s no need to psych yourself out; everything you must do today can easily be done. You’ve done it before.

This is a perfect example of the cybernetic mechanism.

This phrase is derived from the Greek word for ‘steersman.’ It refers to the automatic guidance system we all possess.

By recalibrating our internal guidance system with positive self-talk, we make it easier to reach success.

8. Live and act in the moment

You can’t change yesterday’s emotional scars, and you can’t control what tomorrow brings. The only thing you have any power over is the present moment. I can choose to continue writing this article, or I can choose to clean my desk. I’m writing because I know it’s a higher-impact action.

I know it can make a positive impact on other people’s lives.

Cleaning my desk will only impact my wife’s life. Plus, the mess isn’t going anywhere. It will be there for me to clean after I’ve completed the higher-impact task.

This flows into the next insight…

9. Be happy now

I’ve often struggled to “be happy” despite having everything I would ever want.

It wasn’t until I realized that “to be happy” is a terrible goal.

You will never “be happy”. You have to be happy now.

Happiness is a habit. You must practice it at every moment. Luckily, the desire to be happy is a life force. It’s something inherently ingrained in every one of us.

The cliché “smell the roses’ comes to mind. It’s the little things that bring simple joys and happiness.

No person, accolade, or material object will bring me any more happiness in the future than you or I have right now. Be happy right now, at this precise moment. But don’t listen to Psycho-Cybernetics, and don’t listen to me; listen to a man much wiser than me.

Abraham Lincoln said:

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Psycho-Cybernetics, Page 99

10. Set goals for yourself, not other people

Some “goals” are nothing more than an attempt to impress others. People believe that by setting and achieving goals, they’ll impress others.

This is a terrible motive and awful for your mental health. It will bring you emptiness, not happiness.

The only reason to set and work towards any goal is to impress yourself. Knowing that you put all your heart and soul into making your dreams a reality will give you a deep sense of purpose and give meaning to your life.

You flexed your creative muscles, took control of your life, and steered it towards something tangible and quantifiable.

The most important thing is setting and accomplishing goals for YOU.

“Success” isn’t defined by other people. Create your definition of success, and then attain a successful personality.

Psycho-Cybernetics Book Summary & Review

I hope you enjoyed learning about the principles of Psycho-Cybernetics. I believe it’s a book worth investing in and incorporating into your life.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without reading Psycho-Cybernetics.

Yes, it’s that serious.

Thank you so much for reading this summary of Psycho-Cybernetics, and let me know what you think about the book!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Psycho-Cybernetics worth reading?

Psycho-Cybernetics has been widely popular and well-regarded as a self-help and personal development program since its publication in the 1960s. Many people (including myself) have found the techniques and principles outlined in the book beneficial for improving self-image, achieving goals, and well-being.

This book explores the power of self-image and introduces a new way to use rational thoughts to gain new creative opportunities in your life. You can always listen to the audiobook if you don’t consider yourself a big reader.

What is Psycho-Cybernetics about?

Psycho-Cybernetics expands on key ideas originally theorized by Prescott Lecky and Norbert Wiener. The book emphasizes the importance of self-talk and provides practical techniques for fixing a negative self-image and false beliefs that can hold you back.

It also introduces the concept of ‘mental rehearsals,’ which helps with visualization techniques and goal setting. This has proven to be a very effective way to achieve success and a positive, new self-image.

I implemented these techniques when I was senior playing college baseball, and my performance improved on a massive scale.

What is Servo-Mechanism?

In short, it’s what guides you towards your goals. If your mindset and thinking are strong, they will push you closer to your goals. If the opposite is true, they will push you further away.

What should I read after Psycho-Cybernetics?

If you are looking for similar self-help and personal development books after reading Psycho-Cybernetics, here are a few options you may consider:

Think and Grow Rich

“Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill is considered one of the most influential books on personal development and success. It teaches the principles of success and the power of positive thinking. I read this one on an annual basis.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey is a best-selling book that teaches the essential habits and principles for personal and professional success. It provides practical and effective strategies for improving productivity, communication, and relationships.

7 Habits is my favorite self-help book. It’s life-changing, especially the section on prioritizing actions using quadrants.

In short, you should invest the most time in “Quadrant 2” activities that are “Important but Not Urgent.” These are usually proactive activities like writing a blog post or recording a YouTube video.

The 80/20 Principle

“The 80/20 Principle” by Richard Koch explores how concentrating our efforts on the 20% that counts allows us to be more efficient with our time when building a successful life.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie: This book explains how showing a genuine interest in other people and their passions makes them feel appreciated. If you want to influence others, you shouldn’t resort to arguments or let others take credit for your work.

The Law of Attraction

“The Law of Attraction” by Esther and Jerry Hicks: This book teaches the principles of the Law of Attraction, which states that like attracts like, and how to use it to manifest the things you want in life.

These books will help you deepen your understanding of the mind-body connection and how you can use your thoughts and beliefs to create a better life for yourself.

Transformation requires more than just willpower, and I’ve found that the various cybernetic principles are the best way to achieve peace of mind and self-improvement.

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