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Reengineering Your Self Image

Self-TalkI can remember wanting to be a lawyer when I was in 8th grade. At that time, I was 13 years old. I remember lying in bed imagining what it would be like to be a trial lawyer. In my mind’s eye, I could see myself in a courtroom questioning witnesses and arguing my case to a jury. Of course, in my imagination, I was a brilliant and relentless lawyer who won all of my cases.

When I graduated from high school, I still wanted to be a lawyer. In college, I majored in accounting because I wanted to make sure I had a fallback position in case I changed my mind. During my senior year in college, I interned for a Big-8 accounting firm and was offered a full-time position with the firm. I declined the offer because I still wanted to be a lawyer.

After graduating from college, I went on to law school. I got married in June 1980, a month after I completed my first year in law school. Ten months later, my wife and I had our first child.

Despite the commitment associated with getting married and having our first child, I still made it through law school because of the burning desire that I had to become a lawyer. My desire to become a lawyer originally began and was subsequently nurtured by my imagination. That’s where desire always begins and grows — in the imagination.

In order for a person to rise to a level of great achievement, he or she must first possess a burning desire to do so. If a person wants to lose 40 pounds, he or she must possess a burning desire to lose 40 pounds. If a person wants to get straight A’s in school, he or she must possess a burning desire to get A’s in school.

Burning desire is what creates and sustains the ambition, motivation, drive, determination, and discipline that is required to follow through on the actions that are necessary to achieve a difficult goal.

But how is it that a person can create burning desire to accomplish a goal?

There is a process that can be followed that will help to create the burning desire that is necessary to achieve a goal. The process involves the use of the imagination which can help to expand a person’s self-imposed limitations by remaking and strengthening the person’s self-image. Once the self-image has been remade, the person has the ability to follow through on the choices that are necessary to accomplish the goal.

The process I’m referring to is laid out in a book that was written by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in 1960. The book — Psycho-Cybernetics — has never gone out of print and is still available for purchase today.

Dr. Maltz was one of the top plastic surgeons in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. He discovered that a large number of his patients still suffered from mental and emotional scars after he corrected their facial injuries or deformities. He was perplexed by the fact that many of his patients thought they were still ugly even after he made their faces beautiful. He concluded that their beliefs about their own ugliness were anchored in the images they had of themselves — what he described as the “self-image.” Dr. Maltz was the first person to ever use the term “self-image” to describe how people saw themselves.

While most authors of self-development books focus primarily on positive thinking and affirmations, Dr. Maltz developed an actual process for modifying a person’s self-image. His process involved the development of a desired outcome by a person and then instructions and guidelines on how the person could go into what he called the “theater of the mind” to actually use the imagination to fully visualize the end result in vivid detail.

If you’re a football fan, you may have heard of Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time. Lombardi taught Dr. Maltz’s visualization techniques to his football players in the 1960s. Since then, Dr. Maltz’s self-image development process has been used extensively by professional athletes.

In his book, Dr. Maltz told the story of an ex-convict who was on parole and couldn’t stop himself from hanging out with his old friends, even though he knew that spending time with them was a violation of his parole and was subjecting him to the wrong kind of peer pressure. The ex-convict told Dr. Maltz that he felt like he was just the kind of guy who would never be accepted by others and would always have lowlife friends. He told Dr. Maltz that his car knew “the way to the bad side of town by heart.”

Dr. Maltz told the ex-convict to create two drawings. One of the drawings was of the prison where the ex-convict was incarcerated, with a sign attached to the prison reading “That’s just the way I am.” The other drawing was of a man walking away from a tiny prison in the background, toward a hill where his family was waiting for him near some trees with the sun shining in the background. In the sky above the trees was a caption stating “I am what I decide to be.”

Dr. Maltz instructed the ex-convict to carry the two pictures with him everywhere he went and to look at them numerous times throughout the day. He was told that every time he looked at the pictures, he was to close his eyes and see in the theater of his mind a movie that showed a happy future with his wife and children.

The man did exactly what Dr. Maltz told him to do. He later told Dr. Maltz that the pictures “drove him sane,” and that every time he was tempted to stop at the old pool hall after work or hang out with his buddies, the picture of him and his family filled his mind. Instead of stopping to see his buddies, he went home. After about a month, the temptations to hang out with his old buddies diminished and he started forming new friendships, new patterns of thought, and new habits.

As a teenager, when I imagined being a successful lawyer, I didn’t know that I was using Dr. Maltz’s theater of the mind technique to develop the self-image I needed to create a burning desire to get into and through law school.

Whatever your goals are for the future, you won’t follow through on them unless you have a burning desire to achieve them, and a self-image that provides you with the permission and confidence to take the steps that are necessary to achieve them.

There’s much more to what Dr. Maltz taught than what I can cover in this short article. I strongly recommend that you purchase and carefully read and study Dr. Maltz’s book, Psycho-Cybernetics. The most recently updated version of the book can be found at

I also highly recommend the Nightingale-Conant product, Maxwell Maltz’s Theatre of the Mind, which was developed by Matt Furey, the individual who owns the rights to all of Dr. Maltz’s materials. The Nightingale-Conant product includes seven audio CDs, a workbook, and a DVD, and can be found at

Will you choose to purchase and utilize these valuable resources? Your answer to that question will be “no” unless you have a burning desire to rise above the mediocre majority and follow the plan God has for you.

By the way, the perpetual adoration program at St. Philomena Church was fully developed in my imagination before my wife and I put it into place in 1991 (it took three years after we started the program to go from a part-time to a perpetual adoration program). My weekly Adoration Letter also had its beginnings in my imagination. Of course, the original inspiration for the adoration program and the Adoration Letter came from God, but then it was up to me to follow through on His plan.

You know that you could be doing more for yourself, your family, and your church. Are you willing to learn this powerful technique to assist you with what you know you should be doing?

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One Response to “Reengineering Your Self Image”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:

    Dear Georgette and Harry –
    As I read today’s story, I tried to go back in my own growing years; my Parents, Grandmother and siblings always made me feel “accepted”, even as the youngest child. (My other Grandparents were called HOME to God before I was born, sad to say.) As school years started for me, my teachers – all Sisters of St. Joseph, did
    the same for me, bringing out the best of my talents. When in 1st grade, Sister asked me to assist the Kindergarten children! When in 7th and 8th grade, I was asked to go to the Sisters’ kitchen at the
    appointed time each day and light the oven or the fire under whatever needed to be heated/cooked – it’s called “responsibility”!
    I had no idea that I would some day be a Sister of St. Joseph, or that I would be teaching! One thing I did know: I WANTED TO BE JUST LIKE THESE SISTERS. This continued throughout high school. No
    wonder it was so easy to follow God’s Plan for me! Not everyone is
    blessed as I have been! I try every day to give to God THANKS. It
    will never be enough! But God accepts my attempts! Thank you, both of you, for your contribution to my growth along these aging years!
    Love and my prayers for you – Sister Roberta

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