One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life
I couldn’t put down this deeply researched, well-written, and fascinating book. His one simple idea is “thoughts are causative.” Starting in the 1830s, Horowitz weaves together an entertaining and insightful history of “the most radical idea of our times.”

As a long time student of self-help and personal growth literature and approaches I had many “ahas” as I read One Simple Idea. Understanding the origins of “the law of attraction,” visualization, affirmations, the placebo effect, 12 step recovery movements, self-hypnosis, breaking or forming habits, prosperity consciousness, “follow your bliss,” spiritual enlightenment, and mind-body healing brought a whole new appreciation and understanding.

Horowitz traces the foundation for these approaches to the radical New Thought movement of the late 1800s. The term originated with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lecture “Success” published in 1870, “to redeem defeat by new thought.” In 1899 “New Thought Conventions” were held in Hartford, CT and Boston. Horowitz explains “the term New Thought encompassed the mind-power culture’s highest aims: The ascension of man through his thoughts.”

Horowitz identifies and defines “four primary schools of positive thinking:”

1. The Magical Thinking or Divine Thought School
2. The Conditioning or Reprogramming School
3. The Conversion School
4. The Meaning-Based School

I agree with Horowitz that positive thinking is both the most influential and the most maligned philosophy in North America. It’s been satirized with skits on Saturday Night Live and often dismissed as glossing over real world problems with Pollyanna bromides and inspirational fridge-magnet quotations.

In the book’s last chapter “Does it Work,” Horowitz dips into a tiny sample of the scientific evidence for the power of thoughts to shape our world from research in quantum physics and medicine. And he rightly points to the serious philosophical shortcoming of positive thinking approaches like “the law of attraction” as THE universal law claiming that we alone create all that happens to us. There’s growing proof that the mind does have a huge impact on the reality of our lives. But it’s one of many forces in the universe.

My biggest disappointment with One Simple Idea was not including the deep science emerging from cognitive and Positive Psychology. In the past 30 years this rapidly growing field has put together a large and growing body of evidence and proven methodologies around using our thoughts to reshape our world.

Go to and watch his five minute “book trailer” video “One Simple Idea: A Short History of Positive Thinking.” His Huffington Post blog on “The 7 Biggest Myths of Positive Thinking” is also worth a read. You can read my writing on the topic of “Attitude and Outlook” at blog posts and my book excerpts/articles.

For over three decades, Jim Clemmer’s keynote presentations, workshops, management team retreats, seven bestselling books, articles, and blog have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The Clemmer Group is the Canadian strategic partner of Zenger Folkman, an award-winning firm best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations.