I can make you rich and thin and change your life, but really I just want to make you happy: Paul McKenna on the power of positive thinking (and the joy of telling his old English teacher to f**k off)

“I’m a talker, not a writer,” hypnotherapist, self-help guru and author Paul McKenna told me when I interviewed him recently.

I beg to differ. He is a great talker, as you’ll no doubt have heard/seen on one of his thousands of radio and TV appearances (and as you can see right now in the Shelf Help video interview below).

But I think he’s also a brilliant writer. His positive psychology book, Change Your Life in Seven Days, for example, is a perfect introduction to some of the biggest and most important self-help principles around, and it’s also The One that started my own love affair with self-help, and myself!

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Which is why I love this book so, why I chose it as Shelf Help Book of the Month for January 2019 (actually written at the start of the Noughties, way ahead of its time), and why I was so delighted to get to interview Paul about it and how he uses the techniques in his own life.

Some highlights shared here, and the full interview is on the video below (40-minute watch). I’d love to know what you think, and whether you’ve read any of Paul’s books?


  1. Paul is a self-help geek too. He says: “I used to read EVERY self-help book and I realised a lot of people were just regurgitating the same old stuff and thought: ‘I can do better than that!’. A lot of the books around at the time I wrote Change Your Life were very technical, written for therapists and not for the man on the street. My gold standard was The Road Less Travelled (by M Scott Peck) I found that very moving and much more spiritual."

  2. The hypnotist and behavioural scientist used the Change Your Life Techniques on himself, and still does as needed (because even self-help experts need a little tune-up now and then). He says: “I absolutely used all of these things on myself and there’s no doubt I changed as a person, I became more confident and more motivated. The ethos of this book is ‘you can do it’ and I did! [At one point] I imagined jumping five years into the future, and I knew that if I just carried on as I was I would just be older, balder, more paranoid etc etc. And so I asked myself a question that a lot of American motivational speakers ask: ‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ Well, if I KNEW I couldn’t fail I knew I’d be on stage and TV doing my hypnotism shows, I’d be working with all kinds of great people: top athletes, business leaders, movie stars and rock stars. I’d be travelling the world, I’d be rich. I’d feel successful. And that all then began to come true.”

  3. You don't have to read this book in seven days. Paul says: "It is a genuine title. I believe you can change your life in seven days, I believe you can also change your life in seven seconds - we’ve all gotten to that point when we think: ‘I’ve had enough of this and I’m not going to do that any more’ and in that moment we make a change - but very few people I know have read this in a week. Lots of people use it as a manual to make a life change and return to it again and again. No matter how good your life is it can always be better. The idea with this book is to point people in the direction of how much more is possible.”

  4. He loves Buddha. But has less time for his old English teacher. Paul, who is dyslexic, says: . "I think it’s natural for human beings to want to better themselves. That’s what I liked about the Buddha. He wasn’t God, he was a man who perfected himself. One of my school reports said: ‘You’ll never amount to anything' so when my book became a bestseller I wrote “Fuck You!” in it and sent it to my English teacher. Terrible, but so very gratifying.”

  5.  A values-driven life is a happy life: Paul says: ”Get in touch with your values before you make any decision about a goal. [When I first got successful] I got rather obsessed with over-achieving. I became a relentless goal-setter and if I didn’t get something when I wanted it I would get very upset. I had moved to Los Angeles, the world-centre of self-obsessed over-achievers and I really had an obsession with more money, more fame, more power. Once I had achieved one set of goals I wanted to make bigger ones, and bigger ones, and then even bigger ones! I exponentially began to get the things I wanted, but more stuff didn’t actually make me happier. But I did learn something from that. That happiness has to come from within. I asked myself: ‘Why don’t I find out what’s really important to me and look at my values?’ [It turned out they were] love, laughter, making a positive contribution and creativity. If I can tick a box at the end of the day that says: Do I feel loved? Did I have fun? Was I creative? Did I make a positive difference? Then I’ll know I’m living a value-driven life and it will feel good. People say: ‘I want to make more money’ and it’s actually because they want more freedom or more security. That’s really what they want, the money is just a means to get there, and I can make you feel freer and more secure without it.”

  6. Swap resolutions for a rudder: Paul says: “New Year Resolutions are usually about things we want to stop but I think it’s a good time to ask instead: Which direction would I like my life to go in? If you start in a boat without a rudder, you could end up anywhere. Success and happiness are not accidents that just randomly happen to some people and not others. They are created by certain ways of thinking and acting in the world and I see this book as everything I would do in a personal session with somebody if I was helping them to get their life headed in the direction that they want. And the exercises are like training wheels. Once you have your direction set the training wheels hold you steady until - BAM - suddenly you are off, on a trajectory that will make you feel more fulfilled.

    “And it doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges and problems along the way. because challenges and problems are how we learn and grow. I’ve been very fortunate and have a lot of good things, but I’ve had some awful things happen to me. I probably wouldn’t have 'signed up’ if I’d known that was going to be the case, but, looking back, I can say that those were some of my best learning experiences.”


Get the Book - Change Your Life in Seven Days

Listen to the Podcast - The Paul McKenna Positivity Podcast

See the man in action (Jan/Feb 2019) - Paul McKenna LIVE: Three Things That Will Change Your Destiny

Toni JonesComment