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.

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.

Paul McKenna Change Your Life In 7 Days Book Review

Paul McKenna, Change Your Life In 7 Days

Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP, sounds like one of those pseudo-scientific, new-age dark arts and most of us would avoid getting into something that sounds so technical and weird all at the same time.

Paul McKenna however in his book "Change Your Life In 7 Days" uses NLP and a self-hypnosis CD to teach you the tools that you need to change your life. He sees Neurolinguistic Programming as software for the brain and he gives you access to the source code to reprogram yourself. He runs through a range of NLP tools and sets them within a seven-day programme. He gives you lots of different ways of thinking about yourself to break your old patterns of thought and literally reprogram your habitual patterns of thinking.

He talks about your pretend self, your self-image, and how to changing your 'inner you' can change your life. How you can literally " change your mind" about your life. In changing your mind you're able to take control of your life. Withou you, anyone and anything could end up being in control of your life and Paul McKenna in this book gives you the tools to get you back into the driving seat.

Paul McKenna explains your emotional state and where feelings come from, using good NLP techniques like making movies in your mind and changing what's called the 'submodalities' of them. In English this means changing how the 'movies' look and sound in order to change the way that you feel about them.


McKenna also introduces a technique called 'anchoring' in order to boost your confidence. He calls this the confidence switch and it is a way of associating all the feelings of confidence that you have ever had with a physical gesture, such as squeezing your fist, so that when you feel in need of a confidence boost, you simply squeeze your fist, or whatever you have chosen to associate it with, or "anchor" it to.  You then feel all the feelings of confidence that you have had in the past, thereby enabling you to tackle the situation that now presents itself with confidence.


Like all good NLP practitioners and life coaches, Paul McKenna suggests some useful questions to ask ourselves, which prompts us to think new thoughts and start to make changes about the way we think. These changes in the way that we think can begin to change our emotional responses, our habitual patterns of thinking and behaving and even to simply transform our lives as a new reality dawns upon us, as we try and answer a question that we have never heard before.

McKenna focuses on success and sets out 7 key beliefs of successful people, including several of the founding concepts of NLP and life coaching, such as 'there is no such thing as failure, only feedback', chunking down large tasks that seem difficult into small achievable chunks and to keep trying something else until it works.

Goal Setting

When we have the tools, we then need to know what it is we're trying to build with them. In day four of Change Your Life In 7 Days, Paul McKenna introduces us to dream setting, his version of goal setting. He encourages us to dream big dreams to brainstorm and commit them to paper. He takes the well-known business approach of setting SMART targets (where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and with a Timeframe) and applies it to our own lives, so that we set goals which we can achieve and so we will know when we are succeeding.

Another highlight is day five when he talks about health with an excellent exercise on imagining your immune system at work and how effective a power nap can be to make you more productive.

The last two days of the week review money and happiness to round off an intensive seven days of personal growth and development using Neuro-Linguistic Programming tools and techniques. Paul McKenna provides a very accessible mainstream book with the bonus of a CD to reprogram your mind and it is a great introduction to personal development and NLP.