Anthony Robbins, Awaken The Giant Within

Anthony Robbins wrote this book in 1991 to help people take control of their lives in every area. It is a very action focused book, very motivational and indeed a complete personal development manual. He draws heavily upon his Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) training to enable us to make changes in our lives and turn our dreams into reality.

His enthusiasm and passion for life - "live with passion" being one of Tony Robbins' favourite phrases - comes across in the book in a very conversational style. Tony tells a lot of his own story of personal growth and about the therapeutic transformations that he has made in many people’s lives.

One of Tony Robbins' most powerful personal development insights is about making a decision. He explains that making a true decision to change is actually about cutting off any other alternative possibility - the words ‘decision’ and ‘incision’ have a similar route and it is all about cutting. Anthony Robbins says that your life can be changed in a moment of decision. He goes on to talk about how we can make decisions to change our emotions and our beliefs and gives us tools to enable inner change to take place.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Anthony Robbins explains his tools, based upon Neuro-Linguistic Programming, to enable us to interrupt our patterns of thought and behaviour and create leverage to motivate us to stay on track with the decisions that we have made. Leverage, Robbins explains, is achieved by creating, in our minds, pain to move away from and pleasure to move towards. This is not so much personal development as personal transformation.

He draws heavily upon the work of John Grinder, who was one of the driving forces in the creation of Neuro Linguistic Programming. He explains some of the technical aspects of it, such as ‘submodalities’, in a way which are accessible and applicable to everybody.

A submodality, by the way, is simply a way that you represent in your mind the world around you, using your different senses. We can see this in our own lives by the words that we use. That last sentence was a case in point: it could equally have said "we can feel this in our own lives…" or "we can hear echoes of this in our own lives by listening to the words that we say". Some of us naturally talk about seeing and using visual sub modalities, others hearing, using auditory sub modalities and thirdly those more rooted in their body and feelings will use words that come from kinaesthetic submodalities. Tony Robbins provides interventions that enable you to change your state, change the way you feel about things and so change your life - even just by changing some of these sub modalities.

Life Coach

As with many life coaches - and Anthony Robbins was the original life coach - the ability to ask yourself the right question, or at least a better question, will lead you to a better quality of life. It can take a while to realise that the constant chatter in your mind - or what NLP practitioners call "self talk" - is going on virtually all the time. That chatter is probably reinforcing old patterns and keeping you stuck in a particular way of thinking. In "Awaken the Giant Within", Tony Robbins gives you the keys to a better quality of life by helping you to ask yourself a better type of question.

Words are more important in personal development than many of us at first realise. We can change the quality of our experience of life by changing the words that we use to describe it. For example, a common saying might be "this is a complete nightmare" when we could say "this is a problem". This small shift in words does not deny that there is an issue to be dealt with and does not deny that it is not welcome, but our emotional reaction to the words is quite different. It is not positive thinking mumbo-jumbo - i.e. saying that something is better than it is - it is simply not using words that make you feel worse than it actually is.

Tony Robbins teaches that we have the power to react to the world, events and other people in whatever way we want. Tony's mentor, Jim Rohn, said that it was not important what problems came into your life, it was important how you react to them and that rather than wishing your problems were easier or not accepting them, wish that your skills to deal with them were better.

In this book Tony Robbins gives alternative words to change your vocabulary, including those on the positive side. Many of us talk about things being "nice" but he suggests that we could talk about them being "fantastic" or "spectacular". Using these words helps exercise our "emotional muscle", to live and experience the full range of emotion rather than being constrained to the same tired patterns of thought and behaviour that we have lived with for many years.

In the second part of this book, Tony looks at values, rules and personal identity and finishes with a whistle-stop tour through each area of your life, physical, relationships and finances.

Tony Robbins clearly is one of the most sought after coaches, speakers and teachers in the world. Most people will not be able to have him as their life coach or even attend his big events like "Unleash the Power Within" and so it may be difficult to see what he has got to offer. Reading this book will start to give you an insight into why so many people seek to learn from him.

Being Not Doing - The Art of Being More Human

Being not doing - the art of being more human

Being more yourself is the key to a happy and fulfilling life. However, society expects us to be busy, always doing things and being completely action orientated.

So life is packed with action: at school we have lessons, then after school clubs and busy weekend activities, this continues at University with vacation work, worthwhile gap years and endless socialising. When we are not at work, when we could be relaxing and at leisure we fill the space with computer games, films and mobile phones. The internet just seems to add all the choices!

Though don’t get me wrong, it is a great time to live - with more opportunity than ever - rich and diverse - but we also risk losing the very thing that we’re trying to seek, which is very humanity.

Human beings not human doings

We are, as they say, human beings and not human doings. What does this mean?

One key element is, I think, being in touch with the ‘still small voice within’. The constant input from our hectic lives means that we crowd out that still small voice, it means that we cease hearing our very soul. The less in touch we are with ourselves the less likely we are to have a happy and fulfilling life. Ultimately without listening to ourselves, we cannot truly be ourselves. Without stopping to listen we cannot process the changes that are inevitably going on within us all the time. If we do not know how we are changing, how can we know who we are? If we do not know who we are, how can we have a happy and fulfilling life?

If we do not have some peace and quiet in our everyday lives then we cannot effectively reflect on the past and so we cannot see how we’ve changed. Now I’m not advocating that we all meditate every day - although evidence suggests that this is beneficial - but I am advocating that we occasionally take stock and listen to ourselves. This inevitably means carving out some time from our busy diaries and in the peace and quiet listening to the rumblings of our mind.

A lesson from business

Now maybe this sounds ‘airy fairy’ to some - however I do not think that it is. Consider a company or a large corporation: it is often pausing, stopping and reviewing the past and making decisions about the future. In management jargon they call this strategic planning - or maybe ‘blue sky thinking’. For example most companies will have at least monthly accounts to look at and at the least annual reports to publish to their stakeholders.

Most companies will have a vast array of other performance management information and they will use this in regular decision-making meetings and also in away days. These are chunks of time set aside for senior managers to consider the future based on the evidence of the past and their intelligence of the present. So if the macho bosses of large corporations know that they need to take to take time out to think and plan and make decisions, then why do we think that we can be different in our personal lives? Surely we are more invested in our own life than in any company that we might work for or invest in?

Take charge of your life

Nobody is likely to tell you to do this of course. It is not really seen as the western thing to do, but if you do not take charge of your own life, take stock and spend some more time being and a bit less time doing, how will you know that you are going in the right direction?

If you never take stock how will you know who you are? If you never reflect on where you’ve been, how do you know that you are going in the right direction that will ultimately bring you what you want: happiness and fulfilment? Consider why you are doing all the things that you are doing as I am sure you will agree that it is because you want to be happy and fulfilled - even thought you might be travelling there via wealth, success or personal relationships. However has it occurred to you that in spending more time being you may become more happy and fulfilled anyway simply by being connected to yourself more deeply and more often?

So at some point over the next week why don’t you treat yourself to a bit more being and a bit less doing? Set aside some time to be quite somewhere, maybe sitting outside looking at a wonderful view with a paper and pen for any thoughts and feelings that rise. Or maybe looking at a lighted candle will be your inspiration. A silent place is probably best so that you can hear the still small voice within - because that is how we tend to hear it, as a conversation in our minds.

The more time you give it and the more attentive you are to listening, the closer you will get to hearing some authentic messages from your soul. Do not worry if to start with all what happens is that you have a running commentary on all things that need to be done, you’ve been programmed for so long to do that. So expect it to take some while before you can get through all that chatter to the being.

This is where the paper and pen will help. Write down all the things that come to mind that need to be ‘done’. Tell your unconscious mind not to worry about them because you’ve now written them down and captured them, so you do not need to worry about remembering them. So you may write down an awful lot of things, as an awful lot of things may come up - things to do, things you’ve got to remember, people to speak to, children to worry about… Write it all down and notice how you are feeling - and write that down too.

When the ‘to do’ list has been written down and the chatter has started to calm down, be attentive to what bubbles up from the still small voice. Repeating this over a period of time will help you to build up a picture of the common messages that are bubbling up from your subconscious mind. In doing this you will start to get a steer from your very core, from the authentic you, who is calling you towards a life of happiness and fulfilment.

Identity Who are we

Identity: How Do You Define Yourself?

Identity: how do you define yourself?

Defining our own personal identity can take a lifetime and to complicate matters, our identity changes throughout that period whether or not we consciously undertake a process of personal development. So what do we mean by personal identity? How can we answer the question “Who am I?

The answer is more than just our given name of course – it is much deeper than that – it is a question about our personality and more. There are some obvious factors that we know from the outset just by looking at our circumstances. That we are male or female, whether we are young middle aged or old.

Identity from groups and community

We know our nationality – or at least most of us do, although some people who have migrated or have dual citizenship may even find this difficult to be certain of! In this world there is a wonderful opportunity for migration and travel, with the results that we can cease to feel part of our local community, or even our nationality and instead feel part of the global village. We cease to be surprised by the McDonald’s restaurant in a developing country – it feels like home. Identity even on this seemingly simple level quickly gets complicated as previously strong local identities get transformed.

In the UK, there is increasing emphasis on local, regional and devolved (national) government. The UK – the United Kingdom – is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Living here means that our identity can change depending upon the circumstances. An Englishman overseas may say he is British, if in Scotland he might say he is English, whilst a Scotsman may only feel that he is Scottish and never British. Within England, there are definite regions, North and South being the obvious ones and yet those in Cornwall may view themselves as a separate nation.

On a yet more local level we may view ourselves as a member of a local community, a housing estate, a school, an office, a company, a church or a town.

Each time we say we belong to one of those groups we identify with them and adopt some of the behaviours and beliefs of the wider group. Some of these groups that we are a part of are in conflict with each other, so even on the level of these most basic external circumstances, it can be difficult to come up with a definitive identity of who we are.

What groups are you a part of and how does that influence your identity?

Identity through roles

Identity Who are weIn our day-to-day lives we may define ourselves through the roles that we play. These roles may include being a mother or father, husband or wife, brother or sister, son or daughter, colleague, friend or even enemy! Again some of these roles may be in tension – consider a priest or doctor serving in the front line alongside soldiers, a certain level of internal processing needs to take place for someone who is committed to saving and preserving life to also be involved in taking life.

What roles do you have that form part of your identity?

Identity through our work or profession

We may define ourselves through our profession or our work. I am a teacher, I am an accountant, I am a lawyer, I am a plumber, I am an electrician, I am a chef … and so it goes on.

However if we define ourselves by what we do, our profession or work, then does this not oversimplify our complexity? Of course it does. There are many individuals who become lawyers, but they are not all the same, however they may describe themselves as a lawyer and this may be the main way in which they establish their own identity. But something is lost by doing this.

The problem of who we are

The problem therefore with all of these ways is the reduction in our identity to generalised groupings. There are two problems with this: the definitions are external to us and they are generalised.

Our identity surely is more than the generalised identity of the groups we are part of and more that what we do, how we behave and the roles that we adopt.

Our identity is who we ARE not what we DO.

So how do you define yourself?

Take a blank piece of paper and a pen and write down as many words, roles, groups and thoughts about your identity that you can think of. Take about 10 minutes over it.

Then sit back and consider whether these are really the things that define you – are you more than this?

Looking at that list, who is defining who you are? – is it you or those around you via these groups and roles?

And is that how you want to define your identity?

You can take back control of your identity today.

Eckhart Tolle The Power of Now Book Review

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

This relatively short personal development book by Eckhart Tolle, is a wonderful study on being more present - i.e. living fully in the present moment. It is written in a very accessible away and guides us through the typical conversation that we might have about living in the moment.

Eckhart Tolle uses an easy question and answer format which is very powerful. For example there were several times when a question arose in my mind when reading a particular point, only to find that my question was reproduced word for word on the next page with a complete answer!

The Power of Now comes from this living in the present. This means neither living in the past or the future. The past is merely a collection of memories, our impressions of things that happened in the past, filtered and changed by our perceptions and pre-judgements. The future exists even less! The future is merely a collection of hopes, dreams and anxieties and yet we live a lot of time in the future in our heads.

The Power of Now is to reclaim the reality of the present rather than the fiction of the future or the distortions of memories of past events. There is only one time that exists and that is NOW. Tolle draws from his experience of being homeless for a couple of years and spending every day just existing for the moment and this was clearly life changing for him. He challenges the great philosopher Descartes, who famously said "I think, therefore I am." He says that this is a basic error - and one that we all tend to fall into - which is that we define ourselves by our thinking, our identity is drawn from our mind and its activity rather than our being.

Observe your thinking

Consider whether you are in charge of your mind or whether you are enslaved to it. Try this little exercise: let yourself wonder what your next thought will be, and wait in anticipation for it. Inevitably after a short moment or two a new thought emerges and you notice this small voice with a new thought - but who is it that is observing this thought, if not your essential being? You are watching the thinker, being your mind's own independent observer. There is therefore a place of "no thoughts", of "no mind" where you can sit outside the day-to-day chatter.

Enlightenment is described as this rising above our thoughts, as opposed to falling back to the level of an animal who although they are also being, they have very little thought. Spiritual enlightenment, according to Eckhart Tolle, is accessed by observing our thoughts and indeed our emotions, listening to the message that they wish to convey, smiling inwardly and choosing how to react and indeed whether to react. This is instead of the chatter that drives us on constantly to do something new rather than simply to be.

Just another now

The Power of Now is to identify with your being more, in the here and now, and not with your ego which is wrapped up in fear of its own incompleteness and concerns for the future. Anthony Robbins in his personal development and coaching work often asks people the wonderful question "when would now be a good time?". At first this seems like gibberish, however after some consideration the point that he is making emerges. This point is that the future is just another now and the only time that anything can actually be done or that you can interact with the world is in the now and if not this now then why another now in the future? Ultimately it will only be another now!

The great thing about the now is that we have everything that we need in the now. At any particular point in time we have what we need (if we are in normal health). Our body and mind are operating, we have breath, which is all we need moment to moment and focussing outside ourselves means that the pain, fear, and often anxiety and general chatter, fades away - and that is the power of the now. Being more present is the key to enlightenment, listening to our true selves and experiencing real life in all its fullness. Time does not exist in the now and this links on seamlessly to discussions about being in flow which is other fascinating experience which has been written about a lot, although not a focus for Tolle's book.

In focusing on the now we are able to escape our mind and our doubt and accept that we are whole, complete and perfect in the now. We become present by realising when we are not present - that in itself is rising out of ourselves as a third-party observer. This is the pattern and the practice that we can grow more comfortable with day by day. Being more present requires us to accept what is there in front of us. To do otherwise is to retreat into our mind and start questioning and overlaying our prejudices onto the reality in front of us.


As we learn to be more present and accept what is, we no longer judge our situations and create labels, anxiety and stress. When we surrender to reality, we are sufficiently detached from it to decide how to react. The opposite of this is fear. Fear rises up in us as we have concerns about the future, always wanting to be somewhere else rather than where we are, so always focusing on a future destination and never enjoying the present. This is somewhat ludicrous of course because the place that we have arrived at now was in your past a destination your were striving for! The Power of Now is to be in the present and not to spend our lives looking forward to a future destination that never arrives, or if it does arrive is never appreciated because we are still looking into the future.

It is difficult to decide if this is a personal development book or a spiritual book. Calling it a spiritual book will put off several readers who are seeking happiness and fulfilment but do not see themselves as spiritual or religious. It is of course a personal development book because part of our personal development is to acknowledge and embrace the side of ourselves that some people call spiritual. Whatever we call it, there is a being that is us, that can observe our mind thinking and that learning that we can exist outside of our mind, or rather above our mind, brings a whole new dimension of control, peace and presence to our lives which otherwise seems impossible in our hectic western society.

The Power of Now does not mean becoming a hermit or a monk but it does mean that instead of thinking about changing what we do, we can think about changing how we do it, living more in our being and less in our thinking and so transform our everyday situations.

Robert Holden Be Happy Book Review

Robert Holden, Be Happy

Happiness  is a state that most of us say we want to experience more of and yet most of us do not have a definition of happiness, let alone know how to actually achieve happiness consciously. Happiness for many of us is little more than a fleeting emotion which we sometimes confuse with mere pleasure.

Robert Holden in his book Be Happy, sets out the essential components of his annual signature event, the eight week Happiness Course. Robert Holden founded the Happiness Project and was originally a psychologist, but quickly realised that psychologists were there to fix extreme conditions, rather than to study and encourage the personal development and growth of others in order to help everybody achieve happiness.

So what is happiness?

Happiness is not the mere absence of problems and unhappiness, but is a state which we can achieve by being more ourselves. The path to being more happy is the path to being more ourselves. Robert Holden talks a lot about our Self as being oour true nature underneath the ego that is constantly chattering in our ear. He talks about the fact that most of us "suffer from psychology" and that we suffer from having a personality - but the key point here is that our personality is not us.

Having read this book on happiness there is no danger that you will become a shallow, positive thinking, constantly smiling simpleton - on the contrary you will experience a deeper knowledge of yourself and a compassionate self-acceptance. Through that you will become happier, although you will still experience unhappy emotions from time to time! You will however be a more deeply content and happy version of yourself. You will learn to accept that happiness is your state of being. Holden says that you literally ARE happy.

Happiness Contract

Robert Holden looks at all the difference reasons that we might have that prevent us from being happy - one of the easy ones to relate to is the "Happiness Contract" - the place where we set out the ration of happiness that we allow ourselves and the preconditions for us to experience it. The point is that we are happy in our being, that happiness is free and accessible to all. We just need to be willing to receive it and acknowledge it. For example we may believe that happiness can only be earned - the great work ethic belief. This means that we have to do things in order to make us feel happy. Unfortunately, as Robert points out, the work is never done and so we never quite get round to experiencing that happiness!

Robert talks about being more present as being a key to happiness, for happiness can only be experienced in the now. He explores our desire for more of everything in order to feel happy and looks at the patterns of behaviour and belief that we have inherited from our families and help us to see where some of the clauses in our happiness contract have come from. This gives us the power to pick up the red pen and delete contract terms that no longer make sense!

In the world of personal development, there are many books that talk about having more and doing more and achieving more, but the main purpose for most of that is to feel a certain way and generally speaking, most people will talk about wanting to be happy. Robert Holden cuts to the chase and in his book Be Happy sets out the learning from his eight-week happiness course that has been running for many years and gives us the tools to set us on the road to being more happy.

Nick Williams The Work We Were Born To Do Book Review

Nick Williams, The Work We Were Born To Do

Personal development and career development go hand-in-hand. Career development may drive your own personal development. Yet in many cases the opposite can also be true: personal development can stimulate further career development.

Nick Williams is the author of this substantial book and draws heavily on his own experience as an IT consultant who changed career to become a coach, author, writer and speaker. He sets out a series of steps and principles - 12 principles in fact - to help each of us find the work that we were born to do.

The underlying belief of this book - and Nick Williams - is that life is about becoming the person that we were born to become. In other words life is about being more ourselves. To quote Spinoza, as Nick does, "to be what we were born to be, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life."

Whether we call it our career, our work, our job, or making a living, the main point is that we spend such a large chunk of time, energy and focus on making a living, that it would be good if we actually did something that was truly in line with who we really are. In The Work We Were Born To Do, the idea is that there is no real distinction between work and life - they are both expressions of ourselves. Take Richard Branson for example, he does not see any difference between work and non-work - it's all just life and he runs his businesses like that. His businesses are an expression of what and who he is.

If you were to do something productive and creative every day that you enjoy, what would it be? Once you have found out the answer to that question it is simply a matter of finding ways - sometimes very creatively - to generate income or get paid.

Making a contribution

This is called making your unique contribution to the world and we are able to make a living from that, to generate an income, when the unique contribution that we can make coincides with the needs of the world. The coincidence of these two tracks create a viable business and one that rewards the person and not just the personal bank account.

In The Work We Were Born To Do we discover that the self worth comes from self acceptance, that it is inspiration rather than compensation that we need in our work - that we need to let go of others' expectations of us and to listen to our hearts.

Work ethic

When I was reading this book I often laughed at how well my own experience and thought processes had been captured, distilled and explained in the book. A classic example is our beliefs about the protestant work ethic. The protestant work ethic says that everything is hard and a struggle, that hard work will produce its rewards and that a bit of self-sacrifice will reduce something of value. This restricts us from contributing our best to the world for the simple reason that the things that come naturally to us and easily to us do not feel like hard work or self-sacrifice and therefore we assume unconsciously that they have no value. 

Loving your work

Yet when we purchase a service from somebody who obviously loves their job, we find it inspirational and want to buy more, or at least we remember the service with a smile. Not the phony smile from a sales training course, but the genuine smile that can well up from within because the person genuinely enjoys what they are doing and contributing that to you as the customer. We see it and love it in others but do not give ourselves a permission to enjoy our work - or rather to choose to find and do the work that we enjoy. The word 'enjoy' here is too weak - as it is the work that expresses our unique being, the work that will we find fulfilling and an expression of ourselves.

This of course can create a fear that we will never find the one type of work that we will find rewarding for ever - that we will never find our "passion". A whole load of reasons spring up to prevent us from taking action. We constantly search for the perfect work for us without actually taking action or, for example, we invent reasons why we can't take any action, like we cannot afford to. In The Work We Were Born To Do, Nick Williams unpicks many of these beliefs, blockages and hurdles and helps us to find ways through them to discover the essence of our work.

Follow your heart

At the core of the book is that we should follow our hearts rather than our head, at least in terms of setting the strategic direction of our career development. By this I mean that it is our heart, our gut feeling, our instinct, our intuition - call it what you will - that pulls us towards work where we will be able to make our unique contribution. Once we have set the direction, our head can help us with the practical aspects of moving in that direction. This may mean trial and error - and so he talks of a portfolio career, a portfolio with a purpose. Within a portfolio with a purpose there may be activities that primarily generate income to meet our practical needs and other activities that truly express ourselves, or are as close to it as we can get for now. Over time our portfolio can change, evolve and become more focused and we might then find the strands that both generate income and fulfil us.

In The Work We Were Born To Do there are so many different principles, exercises and insights to help us on our path of personal development and career development that it is hard to do justice to this book in a short book review. For anybody who believes that their work could be 'more than this' or that their job could have more meaning, The Work We Were Born To Do is a thorough course which is well worth taking to help us get from the shadows into our authentic self in our career.