Your Erroneous Zones
is a self-help and personal development book by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. First published in 1976, the book promises to help readers break free from negative thinking and poor, self-destructive behavior patterns. It’s Dyer’s debut book, and it went on to sell over 35 million copies. It received a lot of praise upon publication for being practical and easy to follow. Dyer is now the author of numerous self-help books that all center around making our lives easier. A qualified counselor, Dyer is widely credited with bringing humanistic self-help principles to the general readership.
Dyer argues that we all have internal barriers that prevent us from achieving the fulfilled, rich lives we’re looking for. These are what Dyer calls our erroneous zones. The key message in the book is that, although we can’t change everything about ourselves, we can take control of our feelings and decide not only how we react to situations, but who we want to be.
The problem for us all is that we constantly seek approval from the outside world. Whether it’s our peer group, our work colleagues, or our families, we rely on the opinions of others to guide the decisions that we make. This generally leads to unhappiness and feelings of unworthiness, as if we only have value so long as other people approve of us and our ideals. It’s this unhealthy thought pattern that Dyer challenges in his book.
Negative and unproductive thought patterns cause us to feel toxic emotions. These emotions, such as fear and anxiety, stop us from pursuing things we wish to pursue. For example, we may avoid new people because we fear rejection, or we might not express our true feelings because we’re afraid others will judge us. We learn these patterns early in life, and it’s very difficult to shake them. However, we can change how we approach any given situation—it’s all a matter of controlling and owning ourselves.
Owning ourselves means owning the lives we’re trying to achieve. If we’re all essentially looking for happiness, then we must understand what happiness is. Happiness can be anything from a single great day to a state of being. To be at peace within ourselves and find spiritual happiness, we need to love ourselves. Self-love, however, is where many people encounter difficulties.
Loving ourselves is hard because it means accepting ourselves without the need for the approval that we spend so much of our lives seeking out. However, craving validations and opinions will always hold us back. By freeing ourselves from these confines, we’re better able to love both ourselves and other people because we can accept people as they are.
In this society, Dyer argues, we often tie our self-worth to our achievements. If we aren’t where we hoped to be, whether it’s in love, life, or our career, then we feel less valuable than people who’ve achieved what we want. We then retreat into ourselves and stop trying, because this is easier than putting ourselves out there and failing. Dyer warns that if we want something, we should go for it.
Dyer’s key point is that by basing our worth on the approval of others, we’re never in control of ourselves. Our wellbeing is controlled by someone else, and that’s no way to live our lives. We will always be unhappy and afraid to take risks because our own sense of self is so precarious. To help us find better ways of living our lives, Dyer offers strategies.
The first thing we must do is stop labeling ourselves. We look to our past and let labels, strengths, and weaknesses shape our identity. Secondly, we are preoccupied with past mistakes and bad decisions. Instead of resenting choices we’ve made or feeling guilty that we’ve somehow failed, we should simply look for opportunities to grow and develop.
To truly overcome our erroneous zones, we can’t be afraid to fail. Failure holds us back from trying anything new or living the life we want, because we’re worried people will judge us. We worry that others will mock us or tell us to stop trying. We must all fail so we may grow and improve, and we’re holding ourselves back by refusing to try anything new.
Dyer offers some advice for overcoming our sense of failure. First, we must redefine failure. We don’t fail because we’re bad at something. We only fail when we refuse to learn from our mistakes, or when we give up altogether because someone expects us to. We should pursue things not because we’re good at them, but because they bring us joy, no matter what others say.
Something else we must do is stop procrastinating and act. Procrastinating only gives us excuses for not achieving something, and it won’t make us any happier. At any moment, we can say we don’t need approval or validation and instead move forward with our lives. The fact that we can make this change in our lives today, right now, is a powerful message in Dyer’s book.