Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins: Notes21 min read

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Awaken The Giant Within is the psychological blueprint you can follow to wake up and start taking control of your life, starting in your mind, spreading through your body and then all the way through your relationships, work and finances until you’re the giant you were always meant to be.

Sometimes I forget. I read the summary of a book like this and think “Man, I’ve heard a lot of this before.” But that’s because a) I read a lot of self-help books and b) the market has been flooded with them over the past 20-30 years. This makes it easy to forget to put each book into perspective.

Awaken The Giant Within was released in 1991 – the year I was born. If I imagine someone reading it some 25 years ago, this book can’t have felt anything other than groundbreaking. The strategies and techniques Tony Robbins talks about have long become standard practice, but he pioneered them.

Here are 3 lessons to help you feel more in charge of your life than ever before:

  • Associate bad habits with pain and good ones with pleasure.
  • Change the words you use to transform how you feel and dealwith problems.
  • Make up your own rules and communicate them to becomehappier.

Ready to wake up your inner giant? Let’s do it!

Lesson 1: Associate bad habits with pain and good ones with pleasure.

A very simple framework to look at the world is this: All of our actions are aimed at either avoiding pain or getting pleasure. Going to the job you don’t like is something you do to avoid the pain of not being able to pay rent. Listening to your favorite song should lift your mood. And so on.

You can use this framework to successfully break bad habits and establish good ones. You simply have to pair bad habits with pain and good habits with pleasure.

For example, if you want to quit eating chocolate, Tony says you should force yourself to sing a song you hate out loud every time you eat some. After having to sing a terrible song loudly at a packed restaurant even once, just because you ordered molten chocolate lava cake for dessert, chances are you’ll easily avoid the cocoa-packed candy from then on.

Eventually, you’ll have to replace your bad habit with a new, better, more positive one, in order to fill the void. This is a crucial part of habit change. A technique called temptation bundling can help you with it. The creator, Kathy Milkman, loved the Hunger Games audiobooks, but allowed herself to listen only while working out in the gym. As a result, she worked out six times a week, just to find out what happens!

Lesson 2: Use different words to end up in a different state of mind.

If you’ve ever seen Tony Robbins in action, you know he’s a powerful guy in every sense of the word. He’s tall, big, loud, and has a very positive aura. Something you might have not picked up on is his vocabulary. Tony always uses expressive and unusual language to reinforce positive emotions and play down negative ones.

He calls this transformational vocabulary and says it’s very important to watch your language, because the way you describe how you experience the world is a big and defining part of that experience. In the English language, there are over 3,000 words to describe emotions. Sadly, 66% of them are for negative emotions – twice as many as for positive ones!

So how can you use words to your advantage?

Reinforce good feelings with powerful words and play down bad emotions with less intense language.

For example, instead of saying that lying in the sun makes you feel happy, you could say: “I’m in complete bliss.” And instead of yelling “This piece of junk is annoying the crap out of me!” at your car that just broke down, you could say “Well, that’s a bit unfortunate.”

Pro tip: Use unusual words to make yourself laugh at tough situations. For example say: “I do feel a little irked at this.” when you’re really frustrated. Just hearing yourself talk out loud using such old-fashioned words will instantly put you in a better mood.

Lesson 3: Make up your own rules and tell other people about them to increase your happiness.

“I’m having a long day at work today, but I know I’ll feel great once I sit down on my couch after I come home.”

Have you ever thought something like this? I’m pretty sure you have. We all have our own little rules that determine what does and doesn’t make us happy. However, all too often we make up rules where we give away control. For example, “I’ll be so happy if my boss tells me I did a great job with this presentation.” is not a good rule to have, because you hand over your happiness to your boss – whom you can’t control.

So first, make up better rules. “I’ll be happy if I spend at least one hour of focused work on this event plan.” is a lot better than the rule above, because this is something you can influence.

Secondly, communicate your rules as much as you can, because you can’t possibly expect other people to have the same rules as you do. When you think your best friend is not a good friend, because she only calls you once a month, then that’s just your rule about thinking best friends call each other every few days. Tell her that that’s what you believe and she’ll tell you her rule, which then lets the two of you find a better solution that works for both of you.

My personal take-aways

Tony Robbins is always worth spending some time with, no matter in what format. Even 25 years later, this book still has a massive capacity to inspire you and give you actionable steps to start changing your life for the better, today. I especially loved using better language, because it’s an easy win.

Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

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Awaken The Giant Within Summary

The Book in Three Sentences

“Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards and believe you can meet them”.

“We must change our belief system and develop a sense of certainty that we can and will meet the new standards before we actually do”.

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently”.

The Five Big Ideas

“The three decisions that control your destiny are: 1. Your decisions about what to focus on. 2. Your decisions about what things mean to you. 3. Your decisions about what to do to create the results you desire”.

“By changing any one of these five elements—whether it’s a core belief or rule, a value, a reference, a question, or an emotional state—you can immediately produce a powerful and measurable change in your life”.

“Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure”.

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

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear”.

Free Download: Download a free PDF version of this book summary. (Includes exercises not included in the post.)

Awaken The Giant Within Summary

“Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards and believe you can meet them”.

“We must change our belief system and develop a sense of certainty that we can and will meet the new standards before we actually do”.

“You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know”.

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently”.

“It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”.

“Not only do you have to decide what results you are committed to, but also the kind of person that you’re committed to becoming”.

“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”.

“If you truly decide to, you can do almost anything”.

“Making a true decision means committing to achieving a result, and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility”.

“The three decisions that control your destiny are: 1. Your decisions about what to focus on. 2. Your decisions about what things mean to you. 3. Your decisions about what to do to create the results you desire”.

“It’s likely that whatever challenges you have in your life currently could have been avoided by some better decisions upstream”.

“Your Master System is comprised of five components: 1) your core beliefs and unconscious rules, 2) your life values, 3) your references, 4) the habitual questions that you ask yourself, and 5) the emotional states you experience in each moment”.

“By changing any one of these five elements—whether it’s a core belief or rule, a value, a reference, a question, or an emotional state—you can immediately produce a powerful and measurable change in your life”.

“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!”

“In order to succeed, you must have a long-term focus”.

“God’s delays are not God’s denials”.

“Often, what seems impossible in the short term becomes very possible in the long term if you persist”.

“Remember the true power of making decisions”.

“Realize that the hardest step in achieving anything is making a true commitment—a true decision”.

“A critical rule I’ve made for myself is never to leave the scene of a decision without first taking a specific action toward its realization”.

“Make decisions often and learn from them”.

“Ask yourself, ‘What’s good about this? What can I learn from this?’”

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach”.

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

“Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure”.

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

“Why is it that people can experience pain yet fail to change? They haven’t experienced enough pain yet; they haven’t hit what I call emotional threshold”.

“If we link massive pain to any behavior or emotional pattern, we will avoid indulging in it at all costs”.

“It’s our neuro-associations— the associations we’ve established in our nervous systems—that determine what we’ll do”.

“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”.

“Most of us base our decisions about what to do on what’s going to create pain or pleasure in the short term instead of the long term”.

“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”.

“Remember, anything you want that’s valuable requires that you break through some short-term pain in order to gain long-term pleasure”.

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

“It’s never the environment; it’s never the events of our lives, but the meaning we attach to the events—how we interpret them—that shapes who we are today and who we’ll become tomorrow”.

“What are our beliefs designed for? They’re the guiding force to tell us what will lead to pain and what will lead to pleasure”.

“Whenever something happens in your life, your brain asks two questions: 1) Will this mean pain or pleasure? 2) What must I do now to avoid pain and/or gain pleasure?”

“The challenge is threefold: 1) most of us do not consciously decide what we’re going to believe; 2) often our beliefs are based on misinterpretation of past experiences; and 3) once we adopt a belief, we forget it’s merely an interpretation”.

“Global beliefs are the giant beliefs we have about everything in our lives: beliefs about our identities, people, work, time, money, and life itself, for that matter”.

“These giant generalizations are often phrased as is/am/are: ‘Life is…’ ‘I am…’ ‘People are …’.”

“If you can think of an idea as being like a tabletop with no legs, you’ll have a fair representation of why an idea doesn’t feel as certain as a belief. Without any legs, that tabletop won’t even stand up by itself. Belief, on the other hand, has legs. If you really believe, ‘I’m sexy’, how do you know you’re sexy? Isn’t it true that you have some references to support the idea—some experiences in life to back it up? Those are the legs that make your tabletop solid, that make your belief certain”.

“Sometimes we gather references through information we get from other people, or from books, tapes, movies, and so on. And sometimes we form references based solely on our imagination”.

“The strongest and most solid legs are formed by personal experiences that we have a lot of emotion attached to because they were painful or pleasurable experiences”.

“If you develop the absolute sense of certainty that powerful beliefs provide, then you can get yourself to accomplish virtually anything, including those things that other people are certain are impossible”.

“The most effective way is to get your brain to associate massive pain to the old belief”.

“New experiences trigger change only if they cause us to question our beliefs. Remember, whenever we believe something, we no longer question it in any way”.

“If you question anything enough, eventually you’ll begin to doubt it”.

“I’ve classified beliefs into three categories: opinions, beliefs, and convictions”.

“An opinion is something we feel relatively certain about, but the certainty is only temporary because it can be changed easily”.

“A belief, on the other hand, is formed when we begin to develop a much larger base of reference legs, and especially reference legs about which we have strong emotion”.

“A conviction, however, eclipses a belief, primarily because of the emotional intensity a person links to an idea. A person holding a conviction does not only feel certain, but gets angry if their conviction is even questioned. A person with a conviction is unwilling to ever question their references, even for a moment; they are totally resistant to new input, often to the point of obsession”.

“Someone with a conviction is so passionate about their belief that they’re even willing to risk rejection or make a fool of themselves for the sake of their conviction”.

“So how can you create a conviction? 1) Start with the basic belief. 2) Reinforce your belief by adding new and more powerful references. 3) Then find a triggering event, or else create one of your own. Associate yourself fully by asking, ‘What will it cost me if I don’t?’ Ask questions that create emotional intensity for you. 4) Finally, take action. Each action you take strengthens your commitment and raises the level of your emotional intensity and conviction”.

“The way to expand our lives is to model the lives of those people who are already succeeding. It’s just a matter of asking questions: ‘What do you believe makes you different? What are the beliefs you have that separate you from others?’”

“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?”

“NAC is a step-by-step process that can condition your nervous system to associate pleasure to those things you want to continuously move toward and pain to those things you need to avoid in order to succeed consistently in your life without constant effort or willpower”.

“We all want to change either 1) how we feel about things or 2) our behaviors”.

“There are three specific beliefs about responsibility that a person must have if they’re going to create long-term change: 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. Second, we must not only believe that things must change, but we must believe, ‘I must change it’. Third, we have to believe, ‘I can change it’.”

“Each time we experience a significant amount of pain or pleasure, our brains search for the cause and record it in our nervous systems to enable us to make better decisions about what to do in the future”.

“Any time you experience significant amounts of pain or pleasure, your brain immediately searches for the cause. It uses the following three criteria. 1. Your brain looks for something that appears to be unique. 2. Your brain looks for something that seems to be happening simultaneously. 3. Your brain looks for consistency”.

“So often we blame the wrong cause, and thereby close ourselves off from possible solutions”.

“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”.

“Emotion is created by motion”.

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear”.

“Our ability to change the way we feel depends upon our ability to change our submodalities”.

“You’ve got to be in a determined state in order to succeed”.

“I began to realize that thinking itself is nothing but the process of asking and answering questions”.

“Quality questions create a quality life”.

“A genuine quality of life comes from consistent, quality questions”.

“Questions accomplish three specific things: 1. Questions immediately change what we’re focusing on and therefore how we feel. 2. Questions change what we delete. 3. Questions change the resources available to us”.

“You and I can change how we feel in an instant, just by changing our focus”.

“One of the ways that I’ve discovered to increase the quality of my life is to model the habitual questions of people I really respect”.

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

“People with an impoverished vocabulary live an impoverished emotional life; people with rich vocabularies have a multi-hued palette of colors with which to paint their experience, not only for others, but for themselves as well”.

“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 we want to change our lives and shape our destiny, we need to consciously select the words we’re going to use, and we need to constantly strive to expand our level of choice”.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible—the foundation for all success in life”.

“All goal setting must be immediately followed by both the development of a plan, and massive and consistent action toward its fulfillment”.

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

“Remember, our goal is not to ignore the problems of life, but to put ourselves in better mental and emotional states where we can not only come up with solutions, but act upon them”.

“We must remember that all decision-making comes down to values clarification”.

“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”.

“Many people know what they want to have, but have no idea of who they want to be”.

“Remember that your values—whatever they are—are the compass that is guiding you to your ultimate destiny”.

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

“To value something means to place importance upon it; anything that you hold dear can be called a ‘value’.”

“So often people are too busy pursuing means values that they don’t achieve their true desire: their ends values”.

“The hierarchy of your values is controlling the way you make decisions in each moment”.

“We must remember, then, that any time we make a decision about what to do, our brain first evaluates whether that action can possibly lead to either pleasurable or painful states”.

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

“How do we know if a rule empowers or disempowers us? There are three primary criteria: 1. It’s a disempowering rule if it’s impossible to meet. 2. A rule is disempowering if something that you can’t control determines whether your rule has been met or not. 3. A rule is disempowering if it gives you only a few ways to feel good and lots of ways to feel bad”.

“Once we design our values, we must decide what evidence we need to have before we give ourselves pleasure. We need to design rules that will move us in the direction of our values, that will clearly be achievable, using criteria we can control personally so that we’re ringing the bell instead of waiting for the outside world to do it”.

“If you ever feel angry or upset with someone, remember, it’s your rules that are upsetting you, not their behavior”.

“The ‘must’ and the ‘must never’ rules are threshold rules; the ‘should’ and ‘should never’ rules are personal standard rules”.

“Design your rules so that you’re in control, so that the outside world is not what determines whether you feel good or bad. Set it up so that it’s incredibly easy for you to feel good, and incredibly hard to feel bad”.

“The larger the number and greater the quality of our references, the greater our potential level of choices. A larger number and greater quality of references enables us to more effectively evaluate what things mean and what we can do”.

“Once again, it’s not our references, but our interpretations of them, the way we organize them—that clearly determine our beliefs”.

“The key is to expand the references that are available within your life. Consciously seek out experiences that expand your sense of who you are and what you’re capable of, as well as organize your references in empowering ways”.

“The way we use our references will determine how we feel, because whether something is good or bad is all based on what you’re comparing it to”.

“You are not even limited to your own personal experiences as references. You can borrow the references of other people”.

“Limited references create a limited life. If you want to expand your life, you must expand your references by pursuing ideas and experiences that wouldn’t be a part of your life if you didn’t consciously seek them out”.

“We all will act consistently with our views of who we truly are, whether that view is accurate or not”.

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

“If you’ve repeatedly attempted to make a particular change in your life, only to continually fall short, invariably the challenge is that you were trying to create a behavioral or emotional shift that was inconsistent with your belief about who you are”.

The Ultimate Success Formula

Decide what you want

Take action

Notice what’s working or not

Change your approach until you achieve what you want

Free Download: Download a free PDF version of this book summary. (Includes exercises not included in the post.)

Other Books by Anthony Robbins

Notes From a Friend

Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins

Recommended Reading

If you like Awaken the Giant within, you may also enjoy the following books:

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Siver

Secrets of The Millionaire Mind: Mastering The Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker

The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

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