Recently I'd been having some problems applying for jobs. Every day I'd commit to applying and every day would come around and I'd find some excuse not to do it. In fact, I couldn't even get myself to take action and search websites or read want ads. I wouldn't even let job hunting enter my consciousness.
Realizing I had a problem, I first read Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns. This book seemed promising and according to the author was the #1 most recommended book on a list of 1,000 self-help titles. (I learned this in the follow-up: The Feeling Good Handbook.) Yet, every day I found excuses to avoid applying for jobs. It just seemed too painful to me to go apply for jobs I didn't want in the first place and then to get mercilessly rejected.
Feeling Good and Awaken the Giant Within approach the issue of self-esteem from exactly opposite positions. Feeling Good says that you should have self-esteem no matter how little you've achieved in life. Awaken the Giant Within admits that most of us base our self-esteem on how we're perceived by others, or at least, how we think we'll be perceived by others.
All I can say is the approach in Feeling Good didn't work for me.
But in Chapter 3 of Awaken the Giant Within Mr. Robbins discusses the forces of pain and pleasure, and shows that everything we do is a result of our trying to avoid pain and move toward pleasure. He says that most people don't achieve what they want in life because they focus on the short-term pain, rather than the long term pleasure. And I realized that this was exactly what I was doing. I was avoiding job hunting and applying for jobs because of the pain I imagined I'd receive from being rejected. Of course, by avoiding taking action, a larger pain would be waiting for me down the road: homelessness.
With a single concept, Awaken the Giant Within got me to take action, which the entire book of Feeling Good could not do.
A second concept that is going to change my life is in Chapter 4: "Belief Systems: The Power to Create and the Power to Destroy." The main concept in this chapter is that what you believe is irrelevant as far as its accuracy goes. (Not counting dangerous beliefs like I can heal my children with my thoughts, or I can fly if I jump off this building, of course.) What counts is whether the belief is motivating for you or not, whether the belief gets you to take positive action.
For example, let's pretend I'm a wannabe writer. But I'm a little conflicted about my talents. I have doubts about whether I'll ever make it or not. Sometimes I feel like the stuff I write is great and sometimes I believe I'll never succeed. So what happens when I waffle like this is that I go for long periods without writing at all. Thus, slowing the process down incredibly, taking years to complete a single novel.
But what if I changed my beliefs to: "This book is going to be a bestseller. As soon as I complete this book, my life is going to change dramatically. As soon as I complete this book, all my dreams are going to come true."
Of course, the odds are that it won't be a bestseller. There's a good chance it won't even sell.
But, by having this positive belief, I take action. I complete the book and at a decent pace. And it either sells or it doesn't, but the belief did what it was supposed to do, it got me to take consistent, daily action. And if that book doesn't sell, then I have the same belief for the next one: "As soon as I complete this book, my life is going to change dramatically. I can't wait to get this book written. I can't wait to get famous, etc. My life is going to be incredible." (Of course, keep your beliefs to yourself. Your friends will be very eager to pop your balloon. But when you keep writing books and they don't know why you're suddenly being so productive, they'll be eating their hearts out! )
Basically you want to believe whatever keeps you most motivated, whatever gets you to take action. Because in reality your success is determined by your consistent, daily actions.