The Art of Living

Bob Proctor has worked in the area of mind potential for nearly 50 years. He has penned numerous bestselling books and has transformed the lives of millions through his writing, seminars, courses and personal coaching. City Life had the pleasure of speaking to Proctor about how to redefine your life and make the best of it.

What is your No. 1 tip to start the year off right?
To make a committed decision about what they’re going to do with the year. We’ve never been trained how to make decisions. When people make decisions, what they’re really doing is stating preferences. If a person decides they’re going to do something, if it’s just an interest, they’ll do it if it’s convenient. But if there’s a committed decision to do something, you’re going to do it regardless. That’s really what it takes, because what you’re talking about is changing your life.

What are some easy steps people can take to start changing their lives?
When people make a decision to change their life, really what they’re doing is looking at aspects of their life they’re not satisfied with. If they are going to change their life, they have to change the programming that’s in their subconscious mind. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen. If people want to start changing their life, I think they start by really understanding themselves. In their life, who are they? That’s really what was put to me in 1961 when a man got me studying Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich, and I’ve never stopped studying it. I still read it every day.

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What can people do to figure themselves out?
I think they have to understand how their mind functions. Just the thought of that stops the average person, because we think, “That’s beyond my reach.” But that’s not true; you can teach a child how the mind functions. As we start to understand how our mind functions, we start to understand why we’re getting the results we’re getting.

How do we avoid snags that set us back when we’re trying to make a change?
I don’t think you do avoid them. I don’t think there’s any such thing as avoiding them, because we don’t know everything. We’re not perfect, so we’re going to make errors. The trick is to not let the setbacks knock you down. To realize that is a part of life. We don’t learn from our successes; we learn from our failures. We learn when we do something wrong and we start to see where we went wrong. We learn from that. Then that will be in our favour in the future.

There’s no winning in playing it safe. We’re taught it’s better to be safe than sorry as kids. That’s a lie; you’re not better safe than sorry. If you play it safe, you generally don’t go too far. I think you’ve got to set out and bet on yourself. You are the surest thing in the world. You have infinite potential. It’s a matter of really learning how to utilize it.

So if we do get set back, what do we do to get back to where we were?
It’s a matter of looking at it objectively. If I don’t get back up, where am I going to go? You’re just going to go further in the direction you’re already going, and you don’t want that. If I do get back up, where can I go? There’s no limit to where you can go. The wisest people on the planet cannot guess as to what you and I are capable of doing. All science and all theology — the only two areas of reference you’ve got to find out about you — those clearly indicate our potential is infinite.

I have a friend, Michael Douglas. He said when anything happens in our life, there’s a three-step approach. It is what it is; accept it. It’s either going to control you, or you are going to control it. That’s the first one: accept it. Number two: harvest the good. Look for the good in it. There’s good in everything. Number three: forgive all the rest. Forgive means to let go of completely, abandon. Now you follow those three steps when anything happens, and you are going to come out winning.

How important is faith in your life?
The opposite of faith is fear. They both demand that you believe in something you can’t see. So you’ve got your pick.

Clarence Smithison and I were talking about faith. Faith to him was the ability to see the invisible; you build a picture in your mind of what you want. Believe in the incredible, that there’s a power within you that will take that picture and begin to move it into form with and through you. That will enable you to receive what the masses call impossible. There are things happening like that all the time.

People often don’t have that faith in themselves.
They don’t. They don’t understand themselves. Most people think they are their name. I’m not Bob Proctor; Bob and Proctor are two words. That’s my name. You never hear anybody say “am hand” or “am leg.” They say “my hand” or “my leg.” We live in a physical body, but that’s not who we are. We moved into it and we’ll move out of it. But we’ve got to start to understand who we are.

How might someone get out of the habit of thinking negatively?
Every great leader that has ever lived, as far back in history as you can go, has been in complete and unanimous agreement on one thing: we become what we think about. There’s disagreement in virtually everything else.

Most people are letting the results they get to control their thinking. If they’re short on money, that’s what they’re thinking about. That will attract more of the same thing to them, because that puts them in the vibration to get what they’re thinking about…. When you start to talk about changing your way of thinking, you have to understand what thought is and how thought works.

What is the advantage of thinking positively?
You don’t allow yourself to think positively; you train yourself to do it. Think of this for a second: you can take a look at anything, it doesn’t matter what it is, and you have a choice of how you’re going to perceive it. You can see what’s wrong with it or you can see what’s right with it. The truth is it’s neither good nor bad; it just is. Nothing is good or bad, except our thinking makes it so. We make it what it is. That’s by our thinking.

But we get in the habit of looking at things the same way. When a person is negative, they’re in the habit of looking at what’s wrong with life, what’s wrong with this, what’s wrong with her, him, or them. You’re going to find that people who are winning are in the habit of looking for what’s good.

How does one transform their mind and their life for the better?
It begins with your thinking. There’s no question about it. I think a person starts to understand that their results are an expression of the paradigm of what’s going on inside, and if they want to change the results, they have to change that paradigm.

Now that’s a process, and it’s a process that we have to gain an understanding of to make it happen. That’s something we can learn. But the average individual doesn’t understand that. And so they start to look at it like, “I have to learn that? How long does it take?” Well, it takes the rest of your life. You do it every day.

How important is money, really, to a person’s life?
Money is a medium of exchange. It’s a reward received for services rendered. Earning money is a game. Most people think you go to work to earn money. But working is the very worst way to earn money.

Napoleon Hill says, “If you are one of those people who believe that hard work and honesty alone will bring riches, perish the thought, because it’s not true. Riches, when they come in huge quantities, are never the result of hard work. Riches come, if they come at all, in response to definite demands, based upon the application of definite principles, and not by chance or luck.”

Most people don’t understand money.… Earning money is a game. And it’s a game anybody can learn and everybody should learn. But then, understand that you’ve got to control the money; you don’t let the money control you. When money controls the person, the person ends up very unhappy. We should love people and use money. Most people love money and use people.

How do you define success?
I’ve used the same definition of success since 1961. Earl Nightingale came up with it; it’s on the Strangest Secret record. He said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” He said, “you could be a business person that has amassed a fortune of maybe $5 million, and you’re progressively working toward raising it to $10 million — you are a successful person. You can be a student in school with a C or D average, and you’re progressively working toward an A and B average — you are a successful person.” One is equally successful to the other. It has nothing to do with the end; it has to do with the direction in your life that you are moving. You have to have a target and be moving toward it.

When John Kennedy asked Dr. Wernher Von Braun back in 1962 what it would take to build a rocket to carry a man to the moon and bring it back safely to earth, the good doctor answered him in five words: “The will to do it.” He didn’t talk about what he would have to do, where the money would come from, where the engineers or scientists would come from. Just five words: the will to do it. That answers true for everything. What does it take to get what you want?

If you’re going after what you really want, odds are pretty good you haven’t got any idea how it’s going to happen. You don’t have to know how it’s going to happen. You only have to know that it is going to happen. And most people don’t go after what they want; they go after what they think they can get. They compromise. Their life is nothing but a series of compromises. We should be going after what we want.

In 1972, I sat in a room in a house on Maplewood Lane in Glenview, Illinois, and I wrote on a card that I was going to build a company that operated all over the world. I was by myself. I didn’t have a company. I’d worked for the Nightingale Corporation for five years, and I left. I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do that. Today we operate in over 100 countries.

What does it take to be successful?
What people need is really good counsel and coaching. I think if they are getting any coaching at all, they’re getting very poor coaching. The average company is not interested in developing people. They’re interested in earning a profit. But management is not the direction of things. Management is the development of people. The purpose of all human organizations is to make life more meaningful.

I’ve had some excellent mentoring, but I didn’t get it by accident. I sought it out; I asked for it, and I got it. I think that’s what we need. We need a really good teacher. If you don’t have the proper assistance, odds are pretty good you’re going to stay where you are. You really need somebody that cares for you, that really wants to help you, and that understands something about life.

How do we make our dreams come true?
I didn’t make my dreams happen; I’m making it happen. It’s an ongoing process. You need proper assistance. You need direction if you’re going to make a dream come true. You have to recognize the dream. You don’t compromise on your dreams.

One of the rules is, if you know how to do it, it doesn’t qualify. Then it’s a repeat performance. It may take some work, and it may take money you haven’t got, but there’s no growth involved in it. You’ve got to go after something that you have no idea of how it’s going to happen.

What advice can you give people who overthink or struggle with anxiety or depression?
That’s where most people are caught up: overthinking and overanalyzing. There’s a little book called As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen. It was written in 1903. The last chapter in it is on serenity. I have had thousands of people write that chapter out by hand every day for 90 days. It changes their life. He starts the chapter out by saying, “Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It’s the result of long and patient effort in self-control.” I really believe that chapter works magic on people. They have to get a hold of themselves and become calm. By writing that out, the repetition of it gets them to start doing that.

How you do define yourself?
I believe I am a soul. I don’t have one; I am one. My soul is forever gaining awareness of what it is. I think that’s what life is all about. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to get a better understanding of who we are, what we are, and where we are going. Our stay here is relatively short. We live in a physical body. We correspond with the material world. But no one will ever see the real me. We’re living in the body. We are a soul. We don’t have one. There’s a big difference. I think that soul is forever attempting to gain awareness of its oneness with God, because we’re all created in God’s image. Our spiritual DNA is perfect. We have perfection within us. The trick is to try and express it and bring it out.

Since 1961, Bob Proctor has invested himself in the study of mind development. Taking after Napoleon Hill in a long line of coaches, Proctor is the current world specialist when it comes to taking control of your life through the power of your mind. With companies in more than 100 countries, Proctor has shown that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

photo COURTESY OF Proctor Gallagher Institute

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