Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

Rating: 9/10

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High-Level Thoughts

Any book on self-improvement or harnessing your own psychology written since this one is merely a footnote. You could forego every other pop-psych book, just read this one, and you’d be set.

Summary Notes


“Most people fail in life simply because they major in minor things.”

“Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming.”

“You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action.”

“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year— and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”

How to create lasting change:

  1. Raise your standards
  2. Change your limiting beliefs
  3. Change your strategy

Decisions: The Pathway to Power

“How am I going to live the next ten years of my life? How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to? What am I going to stand for from now on? What’s important to me right now, and what will be important to me in the long term? What actions can I take today that will shape my ultimate destiny?”

“Ten years from today you will surely arrive, the question is, where?”

“The answer, of course, is what I’ve been alluding to all along: the power of decision. Everything that happens in your life— both what you’re thrilled with and what you’re challenged by— began with a decision. I believe that it’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”

“As you look back over the last ten years, were there times when a different decision would have made your life radically different from today, either for better or for worse?”

“My whole life changed in just one day— the day I determined not just what I’d like to have in my life or what I wanted to become, but when I decided who and what I was committed to having and being in my life.”

“If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in your life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve.”

“Right now you can make a decision: to go back to school, to master dancing or singing, to take control of your finances, to learn to fly a helicopter, to turn your body into an inspiration, to begin meditating, to enroll in ballroom dancing, to attend a NASA space camp, to learn to speak French, to read more to your children, to spend more time in the flower garden, even to fly to Fiji and live on an island. If you truly decide to, you can do almost anything.”

“The most exciting thing about this force, this power, is that you already possess it.”

“…I call “The Ultimate Success Formula,” which is an elementary process for getting you where you want to go: 1) Decide what you want, 2) Take action, 3) Notice what’s working or not, and 4) Change your approach until you achieve what you want.”

“So how do we strengthen these muscles? Give them a workout! The way to make better decisions is to make more of them.”

“But for some reason, this is the time it finally sinks in and you begin to use it. Remember that repetition is the mother of skill.”

Three decisions that control your destiny:

  1. What to focus on
  2. What things mean to you
  3. What to do to create the results you desire

“Remember: Success truly is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is the result of experience, and experience is often the result of bad judgment!”

“The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if: 1) You clearly decide what it is that you’re absolutely committed to achieving, 2) You are willing to take massive action, 3) You notice what’s working or not, and 4) You continue to change your approach until you achieve what you want, using whatever life gives you along the way.”

“Deciding to commit yourself to long-term results, rather than short-term fixes, is as important as any decision you’ll make in your lifetime. Failing to do this can cause not only massive financial or societal pain, but sometimes even the ultimate personal pain.”

“Know that it’s your decisions, and not your conditions, that determine your destiny.”

Harness the Power of Decisions:

  1. Remember the true power of making decisions
  2. Realize that the hardest step in achieving anything is making a true commitment, a true decision
  3. Make decisions often
  4. Learn from your decisions
  5. Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach
  6. Enjoy making decisions

Pain and Pleasure: The Force that Shapes Your Life

“After all, what is procrastination? It’s when you know you should do something, but you still don’t do it. Why not? The answer is simple: at some level you believe that taking action in this moment would be more painful than just putting it off.”

“For most people, the fear of loss is much greater than the desire for gain.”

“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t life controls you.”

“We’ve all experienced those times in our lives when we’ve said, “I’ve had it— never again— this must change now.” This is the magical moment when pain becomes our friend.”

“One decision that has made a tremendous difference in the quality of my life is that at an early age I began to link incredible pleasure to learning.”

“…if we link massive pain to any behavior or emotional pattern, we will avoid indulging in it at all costs. We can use this understanding to harness the force of pain and pleasure to change virtually anything in our lives, from a pattern of procrastinating to drug use.”

““If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” —MARCUS AURELIUS”

“But if we fail to direct our own associations to pain and pleasure, we’re living no better than animals or machines, continually reacting to our environment, allowing whatever comes up next to determine the direction and quality of our lives.”

“Though we’d like to deny it, the fact remains that what drives our behavior is instinctive reaction to pain and pleasure, not intellectual calculation…Although we’d like to believe it’s our intellect that really drives us, in most cases our emotions— the sensations that we link to our thoughts— are what truly drive us.”

“If you don’t have a plan for your life, someone else does.”

“But for now, consider this: any time we’re in an intense emotional state, when we’re feeling strong sensations of pain or pleasure, anything unique that occurs consistently will become neurologically linked. Therefore, in the future, whenever that unique thing happens again, the emotional state will return.”

“Simply by linking pain to the behaviors we want to stop at such a high level of emotional intensity that we won’t even consider those behaviors any longer… Then, simply link pleasure to the new behavior you desire for yourself.”

“it’s not actual pain that drives us, but our fear that something will lead to pain. And it’s not actual pleasure that drives us, but our belief— our sense of certainty— that somehow taking a certain action will lead to pleasure. We’re not driven by the reality, but by our perception of reality.”

Make Some Changes:

  1. Write down 4 things that you’ve been putting off
  2. Under each thing, write down “Why haven’t I taken action on this? In the past, what pain have I linked to taking action on this?”
  3. Write down all the pleasure you’ve experienced in the past by indulging in this negative pattern. Why does it feel good to put these things off? What short term pleasures are motivating you to ignore the long term pains?
  4. What will it cost you if you don’t change now? Be honest with yourself, what will it cost over the next month, year, decade if you don’t change this pattern.
  5. Write down all the pleasure you’ll receive by taking action on these right now.

Belief Systems: The Power to Create and Destroy

“It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.”

“We need to remember that most of our beliefs are generalizations about our past, based on our interpretations of painful and pleasurable experiences.”

“With enough emotional intensity and repetition, our nervous systems experience something as real, even if it hasn’t occurred yet.”

“If you’re going to make an error in life, err on the side of overestimating your capabilities”

“Achievers rarely, if ever, see a problem as permanent, while those who fail see even the smallest problems as permanent.”

How to Change a Belief

  1. Get your brain to associate MASSIVE PAIN with the belief.
  2. Create doubt. Aren’t there some old beliefs of yours that you used to defend that you’re embarassed of now? What happened? Doubt crept in and pushed them out, so you need to start doubting this newer belief that you want to get rid of.Kaizen : “The core belief, simply, is this: a constant, never-ending commitment to consistently increase the quality of their business every single day would give them the power to dominate the markets of the world.”

“The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way, that you are increasing the caliber of who you are and that you are valuable to your company, your friends, and your family.”

“I don’t worry about maintaining the quality of my life, because every day I work on improving it.”

“…at the end of each day I ask myself these questions: What have I learned today? What did I contribute or improve? What did I enjoy?”

“So right now, stop everything else you’re doing and take the next ten minutes to have some fun. Begin to brainstorm all the beliefs you have, both those that empower you and disempower you: little beliefs that don’t seem to matter at all and global beliefs that seem to make a big difference.”

Break down existing disempowering beliefs:

  1. How is this belief ridiculous or absurd?
  2. Was the person I learned this belief from worth modeling in this area?
  3. What will it ultimately cost me emotionally if I don’t let go of this belief?
  4. What will it ultimately cost me in my relationships if I don’t let go of this belief?
  5. What will it ultimately cost me physically if I don’t let go of this belief?
  6. What will it ultimately cost me financially if I don’t let go of this belief?
  7. What will it cost my family/ loved ones if I don’t let go of this belief?

Changing in an Instant

“Why is it that most people think change takes so long? One reason, obviously, is that most people have tried again and again through willpower to make changes, and failed. The assumption that they then make is that important changes must take a long time and be very difficult to make. In reality, it’s only difficult because most of us don’t know how to change! We don’t have an effective strategy. Willpower by itself is not enough— not if we want to achieve lasting change.”

“Once we effect a change, we should reinforce it immediately. Then, we have to condition our nervous systems to succeed not just once, but consistently.”

“What are the two changes everyone wants in life? Isn’t it true that we all want to change either 1) how we feel about things or 2) our behaviors?”

“The first belief we must have if we’re going to create change quickly is that we can change now… You and I both know that when people finally do change, they do it in a moment, don’t they? There’s an instant when the change occurs. Why not make that instant now? Usually it’s the getting ready to change that takes people time.”

“The second belief that you and I must have if we’re going to create long-term change is that we’re responsible for our own change, not anyone else.

  1. First, we must believe, “Something must change”— not that it should change, not that it could or ought to, but that it absolutely must.
  2. Second, we must not only believe that things must change, but we must believe, “I must change it.”
  3. Third, we have to believe, “I can change it.” Without believing that it’s possible for us to change, as we’ve already discussed in the last chapter, we stand no chance of carrying through on our desires.”

Any time you experience a significant pain or pleasure, your brain looks for the cause:

  1. It looks for what appears to be unique
  2. It looks for what’s happening simultaneously
  3. It looks for consistency and patterns to tie that pleasure or pain to

Neuro-Associative Conditioning: How to Change Anything in Your Life

  1. Decide what you really want and what’s preventing you from having it right now
  2. The more specific you can be, the better.
  3. You have to know where you want to be in order to point yourself in the right direction.
  4. Get leverage by associating massive pain with not changing now and massive pleasure with changing now
  5. The only way we’ll make a lasting change is by creating a sense of urgency that we must change now.
  6. If you can’t find a massive source of potential pain from not changing, you need to create one. (Stakes)
  7. If you’ve tried many times to make a change but have failed in doing so, that just means that your level of perceived pain from not changing is not high enough
  8. Use pain inducing questions like “what will it cost me if I don’t change?” to highlight the consequences.
  9. Use pleasure associating questions like “what will I gain if I make this change?” to further motivate yourself to make it
  10. Interrupt the Limiting Pattern
  11. We can be highly motivated to change, but if we keep doing the same things and running the same patterns then nothing will happen. We’ll just get more of the same pain and frustration.
  12. “If you overeat on a regular basis and want to stop, I’ll give you a technique that will definitely work, if you’re willing to commit to it. The next time you find yourself in a restaurant overeating, jump up in the middle of the room, point at your own chair and scream at the top of your lungs, “PIG!” I guarantee that if you do this three or four times in a public place, you won’t overeat anymore! You’ll link too much pain to this behavior! Just remember: the more outrageous your approach to breaking a pattern, the more effective it will be.”
  13. Create a New, Empowering Alternative
  14. We have to consciously choose the new behaviors that are going to replace the old one.
  15. What eventually leads to relapse for smoking, drugs, is usually a large amount of stress.
  16. Condition the New Pattern Until it’s Consistent
  17. Your brain cannot tell the difference between something you imagine strongly, and something you experienced.
  18. Create a schedule to reinforce and reward your behavior. How can you feel good each time you get it right?
  19. Whatever pattern of behavior is constantly reinforced will become habit. Anything we fail to reinforce will dissipate.
  20. Reinforcement needs to happen immediately after the behavior occurs.
  21. Test it!
  22. If your attempt didn’t work for fixing the behavior, then you need to go back to step 1. Are you crystal clear on why you want this and how much better your life will be when you do it?

How to Get What You Really Want

“What do you really want in life?… In short, then, isn’t it true that what you really want is simply to change the way you feel?”

“The difference between acting badly or brilliantly is not based on your ability, but on the state of your mind and/ or body in any given moment.”

“There are two primary ways, then, to change your emotional state: by changing the way you use your physical body , or by changing your focus .”

“The key to success, then, is to create patterns of movement that create confidence, a sense of strength, flexibility, a sense of personal power, and fun.”

“The number-one fundamental they teach in driving is: Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.”

“You can now change your state in so many ways, and they’re all so simple. You can change your physiology immediately just by changing your breathing. You can change your focus by deciding what to focus on, or the order of things you focus on, or how you do it. You can change your submodalities. If you’ve been consistently focusing on the worst that could happen, there’s no excuse for continuing to do that. Start now to focus on the best.”

“The challenge for most people is that they have only a few ways to change their state: they overeat, overdrink, oversleep, over-shop, smoke, or take a drug— none of which empower us, and all of which can have disastrous and tragic consequences.”

“The first skill you must master is to be able to change your state instantly no matter what the environment, no matter how scared or frustrated you are.”

“The second skill is that you should be able to change state consistently in any environment— maybe in an environment that used to make you uncomfortable, but in which you can now change your state time and again, conditioning yourself until you feel good no matter where you are.”

“The third skill, of course, is to establish a set of habitual patterns of using your physiology and focus so that you consistently feel good without any conscious effort whatsoever. My definition of success is to live your life in a way that causes you to feel tons of pleasure and very little pain— and because of your lifestyle, have the people around you feel a lot more pleasure than they do pain.”

“The fourth goal is to enable others to change their state instantly, to change their state in any environment, and to change their state for their whole life.”

Changing How You Feel

  • “Sit down right now and write down a list of things that you currently do to change how you feel… How to make yourself feel good immediately.”
  • “Make this list a reality; develop a plan for pleasure for each and every day. Don’t just randomly hope that pleasure will somehow show up; set yourself up for ecstasy. Make room for it!”

Questions are the Answer

“I realized that the main difference between the people who seemed to be successful— in any area!— and those who weren’t was that successful people asked better questions, and as a result, they got better answers.”

““Why me?” rarely produces a positive result, while “How can I use this?” usually leads us in the direction of turning our difficulties into a driving force to make ourselves and the world better.”

“Remember, it’s not only the questions you ask, but the questions you fail to ask, that shape your destiny.”

You need to develop a pattern of consistent questions that empower you.

Problem Solving Questions:

  1. What is great about this problem?
  2. What is not perfect yet?
  3. What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
  4. What am I willing to no longer do to make it the way I want it?
  5. How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?

The Vocabulary of Ultimate Success

“…the words you habitually choose also affect how you communicate with yourself and therefore what you experience.”

“Simply by changing your habitual vocabulary— the words you consistently use to describe the emotions of your life— you can instantaneously change how you think, how you feel, and how you live.”

“If an assemblage of words you’re using is creating states that disempower you, get rid of those words and replace them with those that empower you!”

Changing Your Vocab:

  1. Write down 3 disempowering words you use that make you feel lowsy, and three new empowering words that can interrupt the pattern and make you feel better.
  2. Find new empowering words to add to your regular vocabulary that can pump you up.

The Power of Metaphors

“What color is the squirt gun?”

“Some business people I know use global metaphors like “my assets” for the businesses they own and “my liabilities” for the people they employ. How do you think that affects the way they treat people? Others look at business as a garden where every day you have to maintain and improve it so that eventually you will reap a reward. Still others see work as a chance to be with friends, to join a winning team. As for me, I think of my businesses as families. This allows us to transform the quality of the connections we share with each other.”

“Just realize that changing one global metaphor can instantly transform the way you look at your entire life.”

“With all the power that metaphors wield over our lives, the scary part is that most of us have never consciously selected the metaphors with which we represent things to ourselves.”

Changing Your Metaphors:

  1. What is life like? What metaphors do you use for life right now?
  2. Make a list of all the metaphors you link to relationships or marriage. Are they empowering or disempowering?
  3. Pick another area of your life that impacts you most, your business, health, family, and discover your metaphors for this area.
  4. Create new more empowering metaphors. For each area you’ve considered, strike out the old metaphors and create new, more empowering ones.
  5. Decide that you’re going to live with these new empowering metaphors for the next 30 days.

The 10 Emotions of Power

Six steps to emotional mastery:

  1. Identify what you’re really feeling
  2. Acknowledge and appreciate your emotions, knowing they support you
  3. Get curious about the information this emotion is giving you
  4. Get confident that you can handle this emotion
  5. Get certain that you can handle this emotion in the future as well
  6. Get excited and take action by turning it into the more useful version of itself

Creating a Compelling Future

“Most people’s goals are to “pay their lousy bills,” to get by, to survive, to make it through the day— in short, they are caught up in the trap of making a living rather than designing a life.”

“It’s not just the setting of goals that matters, but the quality of life you experience along the way.”

“The direction we’re heading in is more important than the individual result.”

  1. Personal Development Goals
  2. Write down everything you’d like to improve in your life that’s related to your personal growth.
  3. Brainstorm for at least 5 minutes, don’t stop writing!
  4. This includes: things you’d like to learn, skills to master, traits to develop, physical improvements, conquer fears,
  5. Add a timeline to each of the goals, how long you want to give yourself in years to accomplish it.
  6. Choose your single most important 1-year goal from this list
  7. Career / Business / Economic goals
  8. Write down anything you want for your career or professional life
  9. How much do you want to earn? What goals do you have for your company? What net worth do you want? When do you want to retire? When do you want to reach financial independence? What do you want to invest in? What do you want to save for?
  10. Give a time line to each one again
  11. Pick your biggest, most important 1yr goal
  12. Toys / Adventure Goals
  13. Write down everything you could ever want to have, do, or experience in your life
  14. What kind of houses? Trips? Cars? Services? Experiences?
  15. Again give a timeline
  16. Again pick your most exciting 1yr goal
  17. Contribution Goals
  18. Write down every way you want to contribute and help others
  19. Give timelines
  20. Pick your most exciting 1yr goal

“To ensure the absolute attainment of your goals, you must condition your nervous system in advance to feel the pleasure they will surely bring. In other words, at least twice a day, you must rehearse and emotionally enjoy the experience of achieving each one of your most valued goals.”

“Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it’s who you become, as you overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve your goals, that can give you the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfillment. So maybe the key question you and I need to ask is, “What kind of person will I have to become in order to achieve all that I want?” This may be the most important question that you can ask yourself, for its answer will determine the direction you need to head personally. Please take a moment now, and write a paragraph describing all the character traits, skills, abilities, attitudes, and beliefs that you would need to develop in order to achieve all of the goals you’ve written down previously.”

Life Values

“The only way for us to have long-term happiness is to live by our highest ideals, to consistently act in accordance with what we believe our life is truly about.”

“Anytime you have difficulty making an important decision, you can be sure that it’s the result of being unclear about your values.”

“I remember a man I counseled at one time who was constantly feeling this push-pull. He consistently sought autonomy, but when he achieved it, he felt alone and craved intimacy. Then, as he pursued intimacy, he became fearful he would lose his freedom, and so he’d sabotage the relationship. One particular relationship was continually on-again, off-again while he cycled between these two values.”

Resetting your values:

  1. “Step 1. Find out what your current values are, and rank them in order of importance. This will give you insight into what you want to experience most— your moving-toward values— and what you want to avoid most in your life— your moving-away-from values. It will give you an understanding of why you do what you do. It will also offer you the opportunity, if you’d like, to consistently experience more pleasure in your life by understanding the pain-pleasure system that’s already built within you.
  2. Step 2. If you’re willing to take the bull by the horns, you have an opportunity to redirect your destiny. Ask yourself a new question: “What do my values need to be in order to achieve the destiny I desire and deserve?” Brainstorm out a list. Put them in order. See which values you might get rid of and which values you might add in order to create the quality of life you truly want.”

Rules: If you’re not happy, here’s why!

“as long as we structure our lives in a way where our happiness is dependent upon something we cannot control, then we will experience pain.”

“Most of us have created numerous ways to feel bad, and only a few ways to truly feel good.”

“Like the CEO who wasn’t meeting his own rules, you could be winning and feel like you’re losing because the scorecard you’re using is unfair.”

How to tell if a rule empowers or disempowers you:

  1. It’s a disempowering rule if it’s impossible to meet.
  2. It’s disempowering if something you cannot control determines whether it’s been met or not.
  3. It’s disempowering if it only gives you a few ways to feel good and lots of ways to feel bad

“All we have to do to make our lives work is set up a system of evaluating that includes rules that are achievable, that make it easy to feel good and hard to feel bad, that constantly pull us in the direction we want to go.”

“Now, here’s an assignment for you: based on the new values you’ve set up for yourself in the last chapter, create a set of rules for your moving-toward values that makes it easy to feel good, and a set of rules for your moving-away-from values that makes it hard to feel bad. Ideally, create a menu of possibilities with lots of ways to feel good.”

Realigning Your Rules

  1. Write down your answers to the following questions:
  2. What does it take for you to feel successful?
  3. What does it take for you to feel loved— by your kids, by your spouse, by your parents, and by whoever else is important to you?
  4. What does it take for you to feel confident?
  5. What does it take for you to feel you are excellent in any area of your life?
  6. Look at the rules and ask yourself if they’re appropriate, do they make it easy to feel bad or good?
  7. If necessary, change your rules so that it’s easy to feel good and hard to feel bad.

References, the Fabric of Life

“References are all the experiences of your life that you’ve recorded within your nervous system— everything you’ve ever seen, heard, touched, tasted, or smelled— stored away inside the giant file cabinet of your brain. Some references are picked up consciously, others unconsciously. Some result from experiences you’ve had yourself; others consist of information you’ve heard from others, and all your references, like all human experience, become somewhat distorted, deleted, and generalized as you record them within your nervous system.”

“Could it be possible that what seem like the worst days in our lives are actually the most powerful in terms of the lessons we can choose to learn from them?”

“I believe in the old computer term GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Each day that we live, we’re taking in new information, ideas, concepts, experiences, and sensations.”

“Take a moment now and write down five of the most powerful experiences that have shaped who you’ve become as a person.”

“think about some new references that would be very valuable for you to pursue. What are some new experiences you need? A good question might be, “In order to really succeed at the highest level, to achieve what I really want for my life, what are some references I need?””

“Once you’ve brainstormed a list of great references to acquire, put a time line and a date on each. Decide when you are going to do every one. When are you going to learn to speak Spanish or Greek or Japanese? When are you going to take that hot-air balloon ride? When are you going to go to the local old folks’ home and sing carols? When are you going to do something unusual and new?”

“Remember, it’s the moments of our lives that shape us. It’s up to us to pursue and create the moments that will lift us and not limit us.”


“Time and again, researchers have shown that students’ capabilities are powerfully impacted by the identities they develop for themselves as the result of teachers’ belief in their level of intelligence.”

“He doesn’t have a drug addiction; he is a drug addict. Remember from Chapter 4 that once a person has a conviction about anything, he will ignore and even defend against any evidence that’s contrary to his belief. Unconsciously, this person will not believe that he can change long-term, and this will control his behavior.”

“As we develop new beliefs about who we are, our behavior will change to support the new identity.”

“I’m not that kind of person, that’s who I used to be.”

“Let your mind be curious— not fearful, not concerned, not looking for perfection or for anything in particular. Just ask yourself, “Who am I?” Write down the answer, and then ask it again. Each time you ask it, write down whatever surfaces, and keep probing deeper and deeper.”

“Often, if you don’t create this safe and curious state, all of the fears and hesitations about identity will keep giving you inadequate answers.”

Reinventing Yourself

  1. Make a list of all the elements you want your identity to have.
  2. If you’d truly like to expand your identity and your life, then, right now, consciously decide who you want to be. Get excited, be like a kid again, and describe in detail who you’ve decided you are today. Take a moment now to write down your expanded list.
  3. Now develop a plan of action you could take that would cause you to know that you’re truly living consistently with your new identity.
  4. The final step is to commit to your new identity by broadcasting it to everyone around you. The most important broadcast, however, is to yourself. Use your new label to describe yourself every single day, and it will become conditioned within you.

““If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” —THOMAS A. EDISON”

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