Does Self-Help Actually Improve Us?
Does Self-Help Actually Improve Us?
In this episode of the Good Life Guys Show/Podcast, we discuss our journeys through the self-help world. Over the years, we have both studied extensively in the personal-development and self-help genres. But, does self-help actually improve us?
The Self-Help Treadmill
Many self-help aficionados are caught on a depressing treadmill. They are trapped in an endless cycle of; realization, excitement, temporary behavioral improvement, forgetfulness, and regression to the mean. They have a glorious epiphany that a specific thing about them needs to be improved. They set out to improve with gusto. But gradually the initial realization fades. And their improvements are lost. And then several weeks, months, or years later they have the same epiphany again. And the cycle starts over.
It can be rather depressing when you realize you are having the same epiphanies again and again. But rarely managing to truly implement the behavioral corrections that you believe would improve your life. Seeing how difficult it is to implement real change can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless.
More Is Not Always Better
Lasting positive change is difficult to achieve. And an addiction to ingesting more and more new self-help content can make implementing important core changes more difficult. Information overload can lead to confusion and inaction. It can lead to flitting, chopping, changing. It can cause a person to fly like a butterfly from thing to thing. And to never stay with one issue long enough to actually resolve and fix it.
The Initial Excitement Can Lead To A Counter-Productive Addiction
When you first get into self-help it can feel very exciting. Studying a classic guru such as Wayne Dyer or Tony Robbins for the first time can feel like a religious experience! Their teachings can give a real sense of hope and positivity.
But this material can quickly become addictive. Because the material is entertaining and easy to study, and it gives you the feeling that you are genuinely improving your life. It is easy to end up concentrating on self-help study to the detriment of getting on with your life in the real world. It is not hard to develop a dependency and to become a self-help addict. If you keep coming back to studying self-help instead of actually living your life, you may well be using it as a safety blanket. Studying self-help is often a form procrastination.
Does Old-Age Always Lead To Wisdom?
Life inevitably goes up and down. Improvements follow disimprovement and vice versa. Lifetimes are full of peaks and troughs. On a daily or weekly basis, we improve and disimprove. But the question is; are you improving on aggregate, over the longer term? And is this improvement linked to self-help learning, or is it merely the result of acquiring wisdom naturally as we age?
Wisdom surely correlates with age. Older people tend to be wiser. But it is true that not all older people are wiser. How a person processes their life experiences largely decides how much wisdom they can wring from those experiences. And an understanding of personal-development maxims can give a person a framework that helps them to understand, and learn from, their experiences. It is surely the case that real wisdom comes from a mixture of experiencing and studying. But what material to study?
Learn The Crucial Stuff, Ignore The Rest
There is an effectively endless amount of self-help material available for consumption. But some forms have much more impressively stood the test of time than others. Schools of thought such as CBT, Stoicism, Buddhism, and Game have been proven to be of real value to people again and again and again.
But a lot of other material on the market today is really just rehashed trope. And it is often made up of one or two flimsy ideas that are drawn out in order to fill a whole book. You can read the same hackneyed ideas again and again in self-help material. So it is easy to get stuck in a rut, reading more and more largely worthless, rehashed material. It is worthless because you have read it all before. It only becomes worthwhile if you put it into practice.
So a few big ideas are all you need. A solid understanding of the aforementioned CBT, Stoicism, Buddhism, and Game is more than enough. Diversify your study. Become a well-rounded person by reading as much as you can outside of self-help. The world is full of fascinating information. Books on history, science, politics etc are more valuable to you than books that are rehashing the same old self-help cliches that you already know all too well!
Self-Help As Avoidance
Reading a book is often much easier than doing things in the real world. Starting a business, getting fit, making art, meeting new people – all of these things can be difficult. Because they all hold a very real possibility of failure. And so it is very tempting to avoid the work and pain intrinsic in these undertakings. And reading self-help books is an all too easy way to practice avoidance.
So if you’ve been reading self-help for a number of years, the chances are you have already got more than enough information. And now it’s time to stop reading and studying, and to start acting. By all means, read the greats. But beware the snake-oil sales people and their flimsy, rehashed ideas that you’ve heard too many times already! And beware using self-help study as an insidious form of procrastination or avoidance!