This post is by staff writer Honey Smith.

There are many personal finance books out there, useful to people in all stages of personal finance. I have a lot to learn before reaching financial independence, and the editorial elves thought it would be useful if I shared some of what I learn with you. So for the foreseeable future, I will be reviewing one PF-related book per month. My first review was of “All Your Worth” and my second review was of “Debt is Slavery.”

This month I’m reviewing “Change Your Life in 7 Days” by Paul McKenna, a self-help author and hypnotist. He’s written books on quitting smoking, losing weight and more. Most of his books, like this one, are accompanied by DVDs/CDs to help induce a hypnotic state so that the lessons become part of your subconscious.

What does hypnotism have to do with money, you ask? While this book does have a chapter on the “millionaire mind,” it’s mostly about training mind to think and respond to events in ways that set yourself up for success. In many ways, this philosophy ties directly into one of J.D.’s main tenets behind Get Rich Slowly, which is “money is more about mind than it is about math.” So if you can control your mind, you can control your money (which is a relief to English majors like me!)

Philosophy behind the book

McKenna’s aim is to help people reframe their experiences so that they can both achieve their goals (like losing weight or paying off debt) and also become mentally flexible enough to take advantage of unique opportunities as they arise. By training yourself to approach and react to situations in particular ways, your responses can become more productive and you can more successfully manage stress.

According to McKenna, the main way to accomplish this is to become an optimist, if you’re not one already. Rather than focusing all your thoughts on the things in your life you hate and want to change, you should focus on the things you want to do and become. For example:

  • What is the easiest and fastest way to pay off my debt?

  • How many different ways can I change my budget to save faster?

  • How can I most easily stop spending money on fast food?

Reframing your thoughts in this way implies that your goals are not only possible, they are not difficult to achieve, and that there are multiple ways to reach them. By opening your mind to the idea that your goals will be achieved and it’s only a matter of how and when, you’ll find yourself coming up with solutions that might not have otherwise occurred to you. McKenna provides a variety of specific exercises to help you develop this frame of mind.

You may have to use some of the tools very deliberately on a schedule at first. McKenna suggests 15 minutes at the start of each day. However, over time, these ways of thinking will become a habit. It will get easier and easier to approach situations optimistically, and before you know it you’ve re-trained your brain to a new default!

What I didn’t like

The book had a sort of “law of attraction” approach and typical grandiose self-help writing style that many people, myself included, find a bit hokey. There are inspirational quotes and fables/parables interspersed throughout each of the chapters. Ugh.

The examples he gives of what you might want to be striving for also seemed kind of vague to me. When I set goals, I’m thinking along the lines of paying off $5,000 in student loan principal in 2013 or working out three times a week for the next two months. The examples he gives are things like “making a difference” or “financial security.”

While I think this may have been a strategy to make the book easy to relate to — who doesn’t want to make a difference or have financial security? — I think these broad generalizations dilute the power of what McKenna’s method could really help you accomplish.

What I loved

Throughout the book he gives instructions for different visualization exercises. These exercises are designed to immerse you in memories of yourself as powerful, successful, etc., so that you can recreate those states of mind at will. The more vivid or specific your memory, the easier it is to recreate the state of mind associated with that state of mind.

The section on “flow” really spoke to me because I have experienced that a number of times at my job when performing specific tasks. While it never occurred to me to try and induce that state of mind deliberately, it was one of the few times that I really could envision exactly what McKenna was talking about.

McKenna also notes that our society has a love-hate relationship with wealth. As a result, people may sabotage their own efforts to accumulate wealth without even realizing it. The reframe that McKenna suggests is to think of the money you earn as “one of the rewards you get for adding value to the lives of others” (215). Thinking about money in this way is likely to open your mind to lots of possible ways to earn more. After all, it means that the more you earn, the more you’re giving back!

Who should read “Change Your Life in 7 Days”

This is not a personal finance book. However, personal finance is not just about dollars and cents. After all, the formula behind getting rich slowly is simple: spend less than you earn. It stands to reason that if you’ve been unsuccessful with money, it’s not because you don’t understand the math. Instead, it’s very likely that some aspect of your relationship with money is askew.

If you’re interested in digging into your psyche to discover why you are act the way you do with money and want to reprogram your responses so you can approach money matters in a productive and positive way, “Change Your Life in 7 Days” may be a useful book for you. And because it has so many applications beyond personal finance, it may be useful to a wider audience as well.

A note about swag: While I was provided with a free copy of this book for review purposes, I am not affiliated in any way with Paul McKenna or his publisher, and my opinions are entirely my own.

Have you read any books by Paul McKenna or other self-help authors? Do you think that the concepts in self-help books can be applied productively to personal finance topics?