The Power of Thought Authors

images-2In keeping with my intention to write about my favorite self-help authors, I will start with the overall idea that was so profoundly suggested in James Allen’s book title, As a Man Thinketh.

The idea that you can think up something and shoot it out to the Universe and have your wildest dreams realized was not the sole property of Rhonda Byrne, author of  The Secret. The well-known name for the phenomenon she illustrated in her book is the Law of Attraction, and that idea goes back a long time–some would say as far back as the Old Testament.

I couldn’t even begin to list all the influential authors and thinkers who have written about this basic principle, but I’d love to know why we don’t practice more of it.  

One of the things that has always put me off some Law of Attraction books is that they sometimes are packaged as a Genie in a Bottle, or as Dorothy’s ruby slippers.   All you have to do is click your heels three times and you get anything you wish for–a veritable Christmas morning of wealth, health and happiness.   Some evangelical Christian preachers exhort their congregations to open up their arms, or their purses, and wealth and prosperity will be theirs, like manna in the desert.  As my friend Dolores used to say, “Ahhhhh don’t think so.”

I can’t help but think that this is a abuse of power.  Do we have the power?  Yes, I believe we do.  I believe I’ve experienced it myself, when I went from being a timid sheep of a worker in the typing pool to Vice President of a major market research company, and ultimately to owner of my own company.   I went from an “I can’t” kind of gal to a “I can” one, and with the help of some of the authors I will present in this blog, those two words literally changed my life.

So, do I believe in the power of thought, or the Law of Attraction?  Undoubtedly.  “What man can believe, he can achieve.”  But let’s not use it the same way the fisherwoman used the magic fish in the fable–simply ordering good fortune without  gratitude or purpose.  Let’s use it to open up a channel to hear God within and trust that the divine intention will power the Law of Attraction to the benefit of the Universe and its inhabitants.   

So, here are three of my favorite Law of Attraction books, and I’m not going to include the Secret because it’s gotten its fair share of deserved notoreity.  I’d like to highlight some oldies but goodies:

booksJames Allen:  As a Man Thinketh:  Free eDowloads are available, or there are all kinds of printings of it.  This is a classic, and is beautiful in its simplicity and brevity.    Amazon’s Editor’s Review says,

“In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen reveals how our thoughts determine reality. Whether or not we are conscious of it, our underlying beliefs shape our character, our health and appearance, our circumstances, and our destinies. Allen shows how we can master our thoughts to create the life we want, lest we drift through life unconscious of the inner forces that keep us mired in failure and frustration.”

James Allen quote:  “For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?”

Charles F. Haanel’s The Master Key System:   I have to be honest.  I just recently downloaded this classic.  You can open it immediately with this link, thanks to The Secret website.  But I’ve read all the classics, and I’ve constantly read references to the Master Key System.  It was written way back in 1912, but it is far from irrelevant.  I read recently that Bill Gates read it in college and that’s when he dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft.   

Charles F. Haanel quote:  “And as the most powerful forces of Nature are the invisible forces, so we find that the most powerful forces of man are his invisible forces, his spiritual force.”

books-1Catherine Ponder, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity.  Catherine wrote prolifically about the “Laws” of all good things:  health, prosperity, goodwill.   I like her books, and I read them, but I have to admit that her books smack a little too close to the Genie in the Bottle approach.  She has scads of stories of people whose lives turned around by following her “laws,” and that may be so, but her sales pitch is a little strong–probably because she wrote for people just emerging from the Great Depression.  However, I find the ideas themselves good reinforcement–she promotes visualization, prayer, self-confidence, and hard work and persistence.   Plus, I am happy to recommend a good female self-help author.

Catherine Ponder quote:  “The forgiving state of mind is a magnetic power for attracting good.” 

These authors built the foundation for Rhonda Byrne and Wayne Dyer and all the other more recent notable Law of Attraction authors.  The language is a little different from what we’re used to–they were a far cry from the language-barren world of Twitter!  But if you can get past that, they have the power to help you change your thinking–and thus, your life.

Self-Help on Breaking the Self-Help Addiction

NOTE:  I’m going to start some entries on some of my favorite self-help authors, so I’m kicking it off with this essay I wrote in 1996.   Because it was written over 10 years ago, some of the references to specific authors are a bit outdated, but you’ll get the point.

Every dummy needs a "Dummies" sometimes

Every dummy needs a "Dummies" sometime

In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was the only self-help book around, for at least a few thousand years, anyway.

But 20th Century Americans, in the spirit of free enterprise, have noticed that if the Bible could consistently break all sorts of best-selling records, just maybe they could profit by copying the winning formula of motivation and inspiration, with a few good proverbs thrown in.

And thus begat the mega-trend of self-help which shows no sign of slowing down.  As for me, I may just be at my saturation point.

I’ve ridden out all the advice from doctors on diets ranging from grapefruit to zero fat and from psychologists telling me how to get uncodependent and feel O.K. about myself.  Robin Norwood told me I love too much; Leo Buscaglia told me I don’t love enough.  John Bradford told me that 99% of all families aren’t working; Dr. Dobson told me how to be part of the 1% that is.  I’ve been colored beautiful and have put first things first in my life.

And so, having reaped the benefits of all this wisdom, I must be the most perfect person alive.  But I’m not.  Millions of self-help addicts like me must be equally disillusioned, because now the publishers have come out with advice that won’t be over the heads of its readers–advice in a series of books for “dummies” like me.  Personal Finance for Dummies. Time Management for Dummies.  Even Sex for Dummies.  In spite of all the reading I’ve done on self-esteem, I’m still heading for the books written for dummies.  Perhaps I could rectify this by reading a book called Self-Esteem for Dummies.

My husband thinks my obsession with self-help books is ridiculous.  He constantly tells me, “Just get off your _ _ _ and DO all this stuff you’re reading about.”  He does have a point.  Once I bought a book on decluttering which I never read because it got lost among the clutter under my bed.  It is somewhat ironic that in order to read the book Do It Now you have to stop doing “it.”  There should be only one chapter in any self-help book on procrastination:  “Chapter One:  what are you doing lying around reading this book?  Get off your lazy butt and get busy!  Now!”

So, instead of buying the next level of books for the improvement-impaired, I’m going to quit the self-help thing altogether.  Here’s my advice for others addicted to words of advice:

  1. Say this affirmation daily:  “My parents taught me just as much, if not more, as M. Scott Peck ever could.”  My life has never been significantly impacted by any single self-help book.  Did Martin Luther King need motivation from Normal Vincent Peale to lead his March on Washington?  Did Kennedy rely on Dale Carnegie to boost his charisma?
  2. Realize that in this age of recycling, the one thing that gets recycled the most is advice.  An article on improving your love life by any other name is still the same old stuff on improving your love life.
  3. In a moment of weakness, when you are compelled to run to Barnes and Noble for the latest opportunity to become a perfect human, go back to the beginning.  Read your Bible, or your Koran, Torah, or just your own gut.  Read classics, where self-help abounds.  After all, Shakespeare never said “To thine Wayne Dyer be true.”  It’s to thine own self he said to be true to, whether you’re a man from Mars, or a woman from Venus, or just a typical self-doubting earthling.