The Success Mechanism Within You

“It may seem strange, but it is nevertheless true, that up until [1950],

scientists had no idea of just how the human brain and nervous system worked ‘purposely’ to achieve a goal” 

Dr. Maxwell Maltz

Through his phenomenally successful 1960 book Psycho Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz changed the way psychologists, self-help authorities, athletic trainers, behavioral experts and the rest of us understand how the Success Mechanism in each of us works to achieve goals, large and small. As the computer took center stage in the late 50’s as mankind’s latest marvel of human invention, Dr. Maltz asked the question:

“Could it be that in making man, our Creator had provided us with a servo-mechanism more marvelous and wonderful than any computer or guidance system ever dreamed of by man, but operating according to the same basic principles?”

He went on to say that “every living thing has a built-in guidance system or goal-striving device . . . to help it achieve its goal, which is in broad terms – ‘to live.'” But in man, the goal ‘to live’ means more than mere survival. Goals require certain emotional and spiritual satisfactions as well. Hence, Man’s built-in ‘Success Mechanism’ “can help him get answers to problems, invent, write poetry, run a business, sell merchandise, explore new horizons in science, attain more peace of mind, develop a better personality, or achieve success in any other activity that is intimately tied to his ‘living’ or makes for a fuller life.”

We have something else the animals don’t have – Creative Imagination. “Thus man, of all creatures is more than a creature, he is also a creator,” says Maltz. Imagination is creative in all of us, not just poets and inventors. “Imagination rules the world” said Napoleon. “The faculty of imagination is the great spring of human activity, and the principal source of human improvement . . . Destroy this facility, and the condition of man will become as stationary as that of the brutes.” said Scottish philosopher Dugold Stewart.

Dr. Maltz demonstrates how our brain and nervous system (or subconscious) work together as a goal-striving mechanism that operates automatically to achieve any goal we set before it, automatically making directional corrections as needed, much like a self-guided torpedo operates. Below are the basic principles by which the Success Mechanism works:

  1. Your built-in Success Mechanism (SM) must have a goal or target. It must be conceived of as “already in existence now,” either in actual or potential form. Your SM either steers you toward a goal already in existence (like a torpedo) or it ‘discovers’ something already in existence.
  2. Your SM is teleological, that is, it operates or must be oriented to ‘end results.’ Do not be discouraged if the means to the solution are not apparent. It is the function of the automatic mechanism (sub-conscious) to supply the means for the goal we set. Think of the goal, and means will often take care of themselves. But be cautioned, many people interfere with or defeat their SM by demanding a how before a goal is clearly established. Once the mental image of the goal is clearly established, the how will come to you.  I have experienced this reality quite recently as I set a goal to eliminate a nettlesome business debt. Once the goal was truly imagined and embraced, creative ways to eliminate that debt tumbled into my consciousness like never before. Progress has been remarkable.
  3. Do not be afraid of making mistakes or temporary failures. It’s the way servo mechanisms work – on negative feedback, or by going forward, making mistakes and immediately correcting course.
  4. Skill learning is accomplished by trial and error, mentally correcting aim after an error, until a ‘successful’ motion, movement, or performance is achieved. After that, continued success is accomplished by forgetting the past errors, and remembering the successful response, so that it can be imitated.
  5. You must learn to trust your Creative Mechanism to do its work and not “jam it” by becoming too concerned or too anxious as to whether it will work or not, or by attempting to force it by too much conscious effort. You must “let it” work rather than “make it” work. The Creative Mechanism operates below the level of consciousness, so you cannot ‘know’ what is going on beneath the surface. Moreover, its nature is to operate spontaneously according to present need. There are no guarantees in advance. It comes into action as you act and as you place demand on it by your actions.

For me, coming up with a person’s name can sometimes be a challenge, especially when I have not seen that person for some time. Lately, I’ve found that trusting my Creative Mechanism in this area works more often than jamming it with fretting over the name does. Dr. Maltz says “You must not wait to act until you have proof – you must act as if it is there, and it will come through.” In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do the thing and you will have the power.”

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.” Bruce Barton

“Do not tolerate for a minute, the idea that you are prohibited from any achievement by the absence of in-born talent or ability. This is a lie of the grandest order, an excuse of the saddest kind.” Maxwell Maltz

“The clay or putty-like material stays soft and malleable enough to do so many, many times. In his infinite wisdom, God manufactured the self-image of similar material, so it remains malleable throughout our entire lives. No one is ever too old, too jaded, too frightened, or too traumatized to “wet the clay” and begin remaking it as they imagine and desire.” Maxwell Maltz

What goals would you set if you believed, trusted and imaged that they were already within your grasp? Are you undershooting your potential by aiming too low? Let’s re-imagine and explore these exciting questions and more the next time we meet.

Some further quotes from Dr. Maltz’s wisdom-filled book