EQI.org Home | Personal Growth | Library and Bookstore | Other Important Authors

The Power of Positive Thinking
Norman Vincent Peale

Amazon page

I have paraphrased a lot of things, so these are not all word for word quotes, just in case you want to cite them somewhere else. My comments are often preceded by "---" Sometimes I have put them in grey. See some more of my personal notes about this page if you want..

First chapter summary

Chapter 2 " A peaceful mind generates power"

Peale's problem solving tips

Suggestions on Anger

EQI.org Home Page

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Intelligence | Empathy
Emotional Abuse | Understanding
Emotional Literacy | Feeling Words
Respect | Parenting | Caring
Listening | Invalidation | Hugs
Depression |Education
Personal Growth

Search EQI.org | Support EQI.org

Online Consulting, Counseling Coaching from EQI.org


............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . .............

The Power of Positive Thinking
Norman Vincent Peale

From intro: ...

This book is written to suggest techniques and give examples to demonstrate that you do not need to feel defeated by anything, that you can have peace of mind, improved health, and a never ceasing-flow of energy.

"I do not ignore or minimize the hardships and tragedies of the world, but neither do I allow them to dominate."

... assume control over circumstances rather than be directed by them.

.. simple, practical, direct-action personal improvement manual.

First sentence:

"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. But with self-confidence you can succeed. A sense of inferiority and inadequacy interferes with the attainment of your hopes, but self-confidence leads to self-realization and successful achievement."


".. to build up feelings of self-confidence the practice of suggesting confidence concepts to your mind is very effective. If your mind is obsessed by thoughts of insecurity and inadequacy it is, of course, due to the fact that such ideas have dominated your thinking over a long period of time. Another and more positive pattern of ideas must be given the mind, and that is accomplished by repetitive suggestion of confidence ideas. In the busy activities of daily existence thought disciplining is required if you are to re-educate the mind and make of it a power-producing plant. p8

"We build up the feeling of security or insecurity by how we think. p. 10. ... And what is even more serious is the tendency to create, by the power of thought, the very condition we fear.

List all the things you have going for you when you face a problem. (if you are religious think that some god is helping you. For if he/she/it is on your side, if this "god" is guiding you, you will be successful)

Go about your business on the assumption that what you have affirmed and visualized is true. Affirm it, visualize it, believe it, and it will actualize itself. Feelings of confidence depend on the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind. Think defeat and you are bound to feel defeated. Emerson said: "They conquer who believe they can... and "do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain". Practice confidence and faith and your fears and insecurities soon will have no power over you. p 15

First chapter summary:

1. Picture yourself as succeeding.

2. Whenever a negative thought comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought to cancel it out.

3. Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. Instead tear them down by tearing them apart

4. Do not compare yourself to others.

5. Get a competent counselor to help you understand why you do what you do. Learn the origin of your inferiority and self-doubt feelings which often begin in childhood. Self-knowledge leads to a cure.

6. Practice self-affirmations, for example, Yes, I can. or I can do all things through belief in myself

7. List all the things you have going for you.

Next page


page 2

p. 2

............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . ............................................


Chapter 2 " A peaceful mind generates power"

Go to bed with a mind full of peace, not trouble.

"The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence." p 19.

A primary method for gaining peace is to practice emptying the mind. p. 21

22: Definitely practice emptying your mind of fears, hates, insecurities, regrets, and guilt feelings. ... after you have emptied your mind of all the old, unhappy thoughts immediately start refilling it with creative and healthy thoughts. (pp) p.23

--- Take an inventory of all the things you have going for you and begin to
really appreciate your assets. Health, eyes, hearing, friends, family, son, house,
shelter, food, income, transportation, intelligence, etc. p. 12

--- Think of the factors supporting you. Not of those opposing you. p.14

Quote from Karl Menninger: Attitudes are more important than facts. p. 13

"Any fact facing us, however difficult, even seemingly hopeless, is not so important as our attitude toward that fact. How you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it." 13.

"Feelings of confidence depend upon the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind. Think defeat and you are bound to be defeated. But practice thinking confident thoughts, and you will develop such a strong sense of capacity that regardless of what difficulties arise you will be able to overcome them. Feelings of confidence actually induce strength." p. 15

"Affirm it, visualize it, believe it and it will actualize itself." p. 15

Emerson: "They conquer who believe they can... Do the thing you fear and death of the fear is certain."

"Practice confidence and faith and soon your fears and insecurities will have no power over you.... The secret is to fill your mind with thoughts of faith, confidence and security. This will force out or expel all thoughts of doubt, all lack of confidence.

"Never think of failing ... the mind always tries to complete what it pictures" p.

"When a negative thought ... comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought to cancel it out." 16

"Do not build up obstacles in your mind. Minimize them." 16

"Practice the technique of suggestive articulation, that is repeat audibly some peaceful words. Words have profound suggestive power, and there is healing in the very saying them. Utter a series of panicky words and your mind will immediately go into a mild state of nervousness... If, on the contrary, " you speak peaceful, quieting words, your mind will react in a peaceful manner." p.23

"Watch your manner of speech if you wish to develop a peaceful state of mind... It is important to eliminate from conversations all negative ideas, for they tend to produce tension and annoyance inwardly." p. 27

Peale also says to spend some quiet time each day relaxing, and not thinking about anything much. He says picture your mind as a pond and see if you can achieve the state of smoothness and no ripples. p.28

"Fill your mind with all peaceful experiences possible, then make planned and deliberate excursions to them in memory." p. 31

[ I have been doing this with my traveling. At any time I choose I can stop
to think about the pleasant experiences I had climbing mountains, watching the
sunset, wandering the streets of Paris, London, Brussels, meeting people, etc. All
of these pleasant experiences have been very good for me. I also know that I
can return to these places someday in the future, but because they are etched
in my mind I can actually return to them at any time. It probably would not be
a bad idea to set aside a certain amount of time each day, especially in times of
stress, to conjure up my pleasant memories to keep them near the top of my
mind. - SH]

Next page



p 3

p 3
............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . ............................................

He continues: "Saturate your thoughts with peaceful experiences, peaceful words, and ideas, and ultimately you will have a storehouse of peace-producing experiences to which you may turn for refreshment and renewal of your spirit. It will be a vast source of power."

On energy:

"You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind. Your mind gets bored and therefore tired doing nothing. You don't have to be tired. Get interested in something. Get absolutely enthralled in something. Throw yourself into it with abandon. Get out of yourself. Be somebody. Do something. Don't sit around moaning about things, reading the papers and saying, "Why don't they do something?" The man who is out doing something isn't tired. If you're not getting into good causes, no wonder you are tired. You're disintegrating. You're deteriorating. You're dying on the vine. The more you lose yourself, the more energy you will have. You won't have time to think about yourself and get bogged down in your emotional difficulties." p. 42

One reason fear and guilt are self-defeating:

"The quantity of vital force required to give the personality relief from either guilt or fear or a combination of each is so great that often only a fraction of energy remains for living. The result is that he tires quickly. Not being able to meet the full requirements of his responsibility, he retreats into an apathetic, dull, listless condition and is indeed even ready to give up and fall back sleepily in a state of enervation." p. 45

[From my own experience, I have found beyond a doubt that when I have things I want to accomplish during the day, it is easy to wake up, to get up and to stay awake and alert. When not much is going on, or I don't know what to do with myself, my mind does in fact get sleepy and feels tired. I am convinced that thoughts can create energy. - SH]

He goes on to talk about how we can not possibly sleep well if we go to bed burdened with fear or guilt. He says, "You must eradicate fear and guilt before you will ever be able to sleep and regain your strength." p.46

As he talks about prayers, I found the following interesting: "Spend most of your prayers giving thanks [not asking for things]" and "Only use positive thoughts in prayers, never negative. Only positive thoughts get results." p. 69

When they asked an obviously happy aged man his secret to happiness he said, "I haven't any great secret. It is as plain as the nose on your face. When I get up in the morning, I have two choices--to be happy or to be unhappy. And what do you think I do? I just choose to be happy, and that is all there is to it."

Abraham Lincoln also said, "People were just about as happy as they made their minds up to be." p. 70

Peale says, "You can be unhappy if you want to. It is the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. Go around telling yourself that nothing is going well, that nothing is satisfactory, and you can be quite sure of being unhappy. But say to yourself, "Things are going nicely. Life is good. I choose happiness," and you can be certain of having your choice.

Peale asked his daughter if she was happy. She said yes. He asked why. When pressed for an explanation she said, "I'll tell you what it is. My playmates make me happy. I like them. My school makes me happy. I like to go to school. I like my teachers. And I like to go to church. And I like Sunday school and my Sunday school teacher. I love my sister Margaret and my brother John. I love my mother and my father. They take care of me when I am sick, and they love me and are good to me." p. 71

[This reminds me of the song "My favorite things" from The Sound of Music.]

He tells a story of a man who seemed overly happy and someone said sarcastically, "You certainly seem to be happy this morning. Why all the cheer?" "Yes," the man answered, "I am happy. I make it a habit to be happy." p. 74

So Peale says, "The happiness habit is developed by simply practicing happy thinking. Make a mental list of happy thoughts and pass them through your mind several times each day. If an unhappiness thought should cross your mind, immediately stop, consciously eject it, and substitute a happiness thought.

[personal note from 1995 --- For me there are several things that I repeat on a regular basis. That I am happy to be alive to have another day to do what I choose and want to do. That I am happy to be in Florida. That I am happy I am getting my condo. That I am fortunate to be healthy and to have the time to do what I want. My time is so much more valuable to me now than it was before I realized how much choice I had in how to spend it. And before I really started to appreciate being alive and realizing that it is a very temporary state. And that each day gone is gone forever. So I feel it is more important now how I spend my time. And now I have so many things I want to do. I am much, much more motivated than ever before. My days are fuller, and I sleep better at night. If I can think of nothing else to be thankful for, I can always be thankful that I am single again! It is truly like being let out of prison. I appreciate my freedom so much more now, if I think about it. -- Note from 2006: now this is not so easy to do. I feel depressed and too negative to even try these suggestions. But they did help me back then. And maybe they would help if I read them over a few more times or made a tape of them and listened to it.]

Next page



p 4

p 4
............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . ............................................


He says, each day when you wake up, think of things to be thankful for, happy about. Think about things you want to accomplish. See yourself accomplishing them.

[1994 or 1995 note...I have practiced this and it works very well for me. Also at night for a while I was in the habit of telling myself why that day was a good day. So each morning I would say, "Today is going to be a good day because..." And each night I would say, "Today was a good day because". I can still remember some of these from this summer. It really did help me sleep and get up.]

A little quote Peale likes:

"The way to happiness: keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Fill your life with love. Scatter sunshine. Forget self, think of others. Do as you would be done by. Try this for a week and you will be surprised." p. 79

Then he goes on to say that many will say "there is nothing new in that." But he says, "what is the value in knowing these principles all your life if you have never made use of them? Such inefficiency in living is tragic. For a man to have lived in poverty when all the time right on his doorstep is gold indicates an unintelligent approach to life. (!)

"... what you are determines the world in which you live, so as you change, your world changes also." p. 83

William James said, "Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that insures the successful outcome of the venture." p. 107

Peale tells the story about a baseball team that was in a slump. Then a famous preacher came to town and the coach took the bats away, came back and told the players the preacher blessed the bats. Of course the next day, the team won easily. And then won the league. For many years, it was said, other players would pay a large sum for one of these bats. p. 108 --- A quaint little example of the power of suggestion and perception! (And of people's gullibility!)

Another coach advises his high jumper, to "throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow." p. 111

Peale recommends we think about what we want to do if we could do anything. And to think about what we are good at. p. 117

--- This is pretty much the way I decided what I would do in FL.

Combining what we want to do with what we think we are good at. Then we are able to "throw ourselves into something because not only do we want to do it, but we think we will be successful at it. He says that faith and belief supply staying power.

[1994/5- I have tried to convince myself to believe in myself and my powers just as religiously as many believe in gods of varoius sorts. Just the repetition of the thought has definitely increased my self-confidence. And I have had good results, which further reinforce my confidence It is a cycle.]

He says that if you talk to your subconscious, you can convince it to change its mind about things. But that it is naturally very reluctant to do this. So you must be firm and persistent. p. 132

He says to remember that "mighty oaks from little acorns grow". I like that.

He says that as a clean engine delivers power, so too a clean mind.(--- Free from negative thoughts, guilt, hate, bitterness, fear, etc) p. 133

He says that Thoreau believed the secret of achievement is to hold a picture of a successful outcome in mind. p. 137

Jefferson said, "Always take hold of things by the smooth handle."


Next page



p 5

p 5
............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . ............................................


Peale said (in 1952!) that physicians found worry to be a factor in arthritis.He goes on to talk more about the link between mental and physical health.

He mentions how a child responds to the game of kissing away a hurt or throwing away a fear. Partly because of childrens "superior imaginative skill". p. 145

So he says to "visualize your fears being drained out of your mind and in due course the visualization will be realized." p. 145

--- a modern tape I just listened to says exactly the same thing!

"Worry is a destructive process..." p. 151

He, as well as other authors, suggests we surround ourselves with positive people and friends. And that we "never participate in a worry conversation" p. 155

He says "do not let hate creep in because not only does it corrode the soul, but disorganizes thought processes as well." p. 157

Peale's problem solving tips: p. 169

1. Believe that for every problem there is a solution.

2. Keep calm. Tension blocks the flow of thought power. Your brain
cannot operate efficiently under stress. Go at your problem easy-like.

3. Don't try to force an answer. Keep you mind relaxed so that the
solution will open up and become clear.

4. Assemble all the facts, impartially, impersonally, and judicially.

5. List these facts on paper. This clarifies your thinking, bringing the
various into orderly system. You see as well as think. The problem
becomes objective, not subjective.

6. Trust in the faculty of insight and intuition --- believe in your own
ability to come up with a satisfactory solution. Don't get paralyzed
by focussing on the idea that you must have the "perfect" or the
"best" solution. Probably several solutions would somehow work out.

Suggestions on Anger:

"Since irritation, anger, hate, and resentment have such a powerful effect in producing ill-health, what is the antidote? Obviously it is to fill the mind with attitudes of good will, forgiveness, faith, love, and the spirit of imperturbability. Here are some practical suggestions:

1. Remember that anger is an emotion which is always warm, even hot. Therefore to reduce an emotion, cool it. When a person gets angry, the fists tend to clench, the voice rises in stridency, muscles tense, the body becomes rigid.(--- & the mind) Psychologically you are poised for a fight, adrenalin shoots through the body. This is the old caveman hangover in the nervous system. So deliberately oppose the heat of this emotion with coolness-- freeze it out. Deliberately, by an act of will, keep your hands from clenching. Hold your fingers out straight. Deliberately reduce your tone; bring it down to a whisper. Remember that it is hard to argue in a whisper. Slump in a chair, or even lie down if possible. It is very difficult to get mad lying down.

2. Say aloud to yourself, "Don't be a fool. This won't get me anywhere, so skip it." --- I say to myself, "Everything is okay. It is not that big a deal. Everything is all right. It is ok."

3. --- Basically here he says to employ your mind with other thoughts. For example, try to name all 50 states in the USA.. Visualize a state that you have positive associations with. When you get to that state, relax. Or picture yourself doing something you enjoy in each state.

4/5 Anger is a great term expressing the accumulated vehemence of a multitude of minor irritations. These irritations, each rather small in itself, having gathered force by reason of the one being added to the other, finally blaze forth in a fury that often leaves us abashed at ourselves. --- Then he says to make a list of all the minor irritations. And find a reason for them not to irritate you anymore. Then cross them off. Do not leave any irritations uncrossed off.

"The purpose of doing this is to dry up the tiny rivulets that feed the great river of anger... In this way you will weaken your anger to the point where you can control it."

6. Train yourself so that every time you feel the surge of anger you say, "Is this really worth what it is doing to me emotionally? I will make a fool of myself. I will lose friends (--- & respect from others & for ourselves)." Practice saying, "It is never worth it to get worked up or mad about anything." It isn't worth it to spend $1,000 worth of emotion on a five- cent irritation."

[--- In my family we were unfortunately somehow trained to think that everything is very important, so it very hard for us to realize that it really isn't worth it. We think we are teaching someone else an important lesson in principle. We think that we are better than everyone else, so we feel we must carry the torch, be martyrs, etc. We simply were not taught to accept that others are different from ourselves and always will be. (As Bach says, "Only we live in our world.") This "higher than thou" attitude has gotten me in trouble time and time again. I could not begin to add up all the wasted pain and wasted time this belief has cost me in my life. Or how many relationships it has cost me.- SH)

7. When a hurt-feeling situation arises, get it straightened out as quickly as possible. Don't brood over it for a minute longer than you can help. Do something about it. Do not allow yourself to sulk or indulge in self-pity. Don't mope around with resentful thoughts. The minute your feelings are hurt, do just when you hurt your finger. Immediately apply the cure Unless you do so the situation can become distorted out of all proportion. So put some spiritual iodine on the hurt at once, [by using a healing thought.]

8. Apply grievance drainage to your mind. --- He gives the example of pouring out your feelings to someone you trust, or to yourself on paper, until "not a vestige of it remains within you. Then forget it."

9. --- For those who believe in power of prayer he offers this technique: Pray for the person who you feel caused the hurt. Over and over and over until "... you feel the malice fading away."

--- I would say find something loving to say to yourself about the person

Next page



p. 6

p 6
............................................................................................... ............................ ................................... ....................... . ............................................


Peale tells us that Emerson also said: "A man is what he thinks about all day long." p. 204

"To change your circumstances, first start thinking differently." p. 204

--- Later he offers more facts on how worry, hate, guilt cause ulcers and other physical illness (p. 219) and other authors and doctors corroborate the psychosomatic link. So our bodies actually like us better when we are happy as well as other people liking us more.

"... The laws are so precise and have been so often demonstrated when proper conditions of understanding, belief and practice are applied that religion may be said to form an exact science."

"Self-knowledge is the beginning to self-correction." p. 221

Chap 14

In this chapter he talks about the importance of relaxing in order to be able to cope and deal with things better. He says, "we must remember what Carlyle called the 'calm supremacy of the spirit over its circumstances'" p. 222 And he talks more about draining the mind and about relaxation techniques.

He quotes someone who said " I have learned one important fact and that is in any situation be relaxed, keep calm, take a friendly attitude, have faith, do your best. Do this, and usually you can make things come out all right." p.229

His summary at the end of the chapter:

1. Don't get the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your
shoulders. Don't strain so hard. Don't take yourself so seriously.

2. Determine to like your work. Then it will become a pleasure not drudgery.

[--- I tell people who complain about their jobs and things that the do
have a choice. When they think it through they almost always realize that
they really do want to do whatever they are doing. They just haven't
thought the alternatives through to their conclusion.]

3. Plan your work--work your plan. Lack of system produces that "I'm
swamped" feeling.

4. Don't try to do everything at once. Try to do one thing well.

5. Get a correct mental attitude, remembering that ease or difficulty in your
work depends upon ow you think about it. Think it's hard and you make
it hard. Think it's easy and it tends to become easy.

6. Be efficient.

7. Practice being relaxed. Take things in stride.

8. Discipline yourself not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Accumulation of undone jobs makes your work harder. (--- & causes stress
just thinking about all the things we want to do or feel we "should" have
done) Keep your work up to schedule.

Chap 16 ... "Prescription for Heartache"

He talks about the importance of keeping active, not brooding. Form new associations, get into new activities, lose your self in a worth-while project, help others.

"Another profoundly curative element in the prescription for heartache is to gain a sound and satisfying philosophy of life and death." p. 249

[--- This is actually what I have been doing this year and it has definitely helped get over my pain from the divorce and deception.]

Another interesting comment he makes: "I arrived at this positive faith gradually, yet there came one moment when I knew." p. 249

A final interesting note is that even thought Peale is very religious he puts a lot of emphasis on man's role in his own happiness.

A method for "drawing upon that Higher Power is to learn to take a positive, optimistic attitude toward every problem. In direct proportion to the intensity of the faith you muster will you receive power to meet your situations." --- I interpret this to mean that the more we believe in ourselves, the more power we will have to solve our problems and be create happiness. And in fact, only about 10% of what Peale says has much religious connection.




More personal notes

I read this book in the Spring (in the USA) of 1994 while I was going through my divorce with "the Russian", as I called her back then. I wrote that the book was "very helpful at the time". It is now Feb of 2006. I am in Argentina. I had no idea back then I would ever come to South America. Now I feel kind of stuck here. I am going to go through the notes again, cleaning them up a little and formatting the text to make it a bit easier to read.

I am going to save the original file, or rather with just a few of my new edits in this file, just for the record... I guess I want people to see how much work I do on this site. I don't feel very appreciated lately. I doubt that showing people the before and after will help get me much sign of appreciation, but it's worth a try.

(The original file was pealeorig.htm - it is missing now.)