Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, is one of the most recognizable—and popular—religious figures in the country today. His “megachurch” in Lakewood attracts more than 50,000 worshippers every weekend, the televised services have audiences of more than 20 million worldwide, and he has already written eight bestselling books. For nearly 20 years, Osteen has forged a unique identity as a Protestant preacher who focuses on optimism and positivity. As Osteen himself put it, “Most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough….So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up.”
Hardcover $21.60 | $24.00
That positive message is reinforced in Osteen’s new book, Think Better, Live Better. Osteen offers not just platitudes about our purpose and seeing the bright side of things, but a spiritual roadmap that even those who aren’t particularly religious can use. The most surprising aspect of Osteen’s new book, in fact, is how practical it is. Whether you’re familiar with his preaching style and message or not, whether you consider yourself religious or not, Think Better, Live Better has a simple and effective lesson that’s both refreshing and useful.
Our Mind is Like a Computer
The concept of the power of positive thinking isn’t new, and Osteen doesn’t pretend it is. What’s new in his book is the concise way he boils it down. The first line of the book lays it out: “Our mind is like a computer.” Osteen makes the argument that our minds are like software. And just as software can be infected with a virus and “contaminated,” so can our thoughts. We come to accept things like our limitations or our failures, and these negative concepts about ourselves spread until every part of us is bogged down, running slow, crashing.
Delete the Negatives
Osteen’s advice here seems simple: delete those negative thoughts—literally, when you find yourself thinking something negative, stop and assert the opposite to yourself. If someone applies a negative label to you, don’t accept it—remove it, mentally, and replace it with something more positive. While Osteen roots all of his advice and insight in scripture, this deceptively simple advice goes beyond religion. What he’s saying, basically, is that we often allow other people to control our “program.” We let what they say about us and do to us affect us far beyond the immediate effect. He cites the example of bullied kids who experience negative effects well into middle age, pointing out that something said to them when they were children still holds them back decades later—when in reality they were just words from other people.
Osteen doesn’t, however, pretend breaking these patterns and removing these labels and negative thoughts is simple or easy. Part of the appeal and power of his message is the acknowledgement that work must be done. Unlike preachers who tell their followers all they must do is pray, Osteen writes that God has given everyone the “right software,” but it’s up to us to use it properly. The bulk of this book is a guide to deleting these negatives and replacing them with positives, mainly through a series of positive assertions about yourself. Over the course of the book Osteen offers various techniques; for example, he suggests that everything we take in is a seed—some of these seeds will take root and grow into destructive weeds, others into wonderful opportunities. It’s up to us, he says, to choose which ones to water and which to rip out. It’s a simple concept with potentially powerful effects.
One thing about Joel Osteen that has fueled his success is that he’s not simply blindly cheerful; he uses positivity with skill and purpose. Reading this book could have been like listening to a lecture, a series of admonitions that you’re “doing it wrong.” Osteen avoids this by filling his book with powerful statements of faith—in you. His overall message is that you are amazing, you have all the tools you need to succeed, and you have a great life ahead of you, if only you can get to work deleting negatives and seeing the positives all around you. These bumps of energy encourage you to keep reading, keep working, and keep moving toward your goal.
The Personal Touch
Osteen references God and the scripture frequently, but you don’t need to share his faith or specific beliefs to benefit from this book. That’s because he also draws on his own life, and his own failings. Often in the book he’ll illustrate a point by reflecting on an earlier time in his own life and how he could only move past a blockage or a problem when he removed negatives, or realized he already had what he needed to move forward. This gives the book an intimate aspect that anyone, from any background, can identify with.
The bottom line: Think Better, Live Better is a blast of positivity anyone who finds themselves struggling will benefit from. It not only offers a moment of comfort in the midst of the storm, it also outlines a way forward—and that’s something everyone needs from time to time.