Self-help is making you miserable. Let’s change that.
This is a topic that has been on my mind recently. I want to clear the room up front by saying that self-help is not inherently bad. It can be good in many cases.
The energy and information you gain from reading self-help needs to be channeled correctly.
The Problem With Self-Help
Have you ever bought a book and expect your life to change? Don’t lie.
The titles, sub-titles, and social praise from a book hook our attention. We build false expectations in our heads, order the book with excitement, and start to consume it.
Here’s the thing… You and I both know that reading alone isn’t going to change your life.
We end up getting trapped in a cycle of reading with good intentions, but end up reading just to feel good about ourselves.
This is called mental masturbation.
Reading about improving yourself but not actually improving yourself.
Reading to feel good about yourself, to feel like you are actually improving that is.
In reality, your brain loves collecting those dopamine hits and enforcing the mental masturbation loop further.
The Difference Between Self-Help and Self-Improvement
Self-help is extrinsic motivation – relying on external factors to motivate you.
For the David Goggin’s of the world (“fuck motivation, all you need is discipline”), you can start to see the problem here.
“All you need is discipline,” is partially true.
The extrinsic motivation we get from self-help books is useful for 3 reasons:
- We are motivated (which can be used as initial momentum into discipline)
- We are equipped with a concept that can change our lives
- We understand how to implement that concept
The magic happens in the last point. It forms the basis for self-improvement.
That’s the difference between the two.
Self-help = unsustainable motivation
Self-improvement = implementing self-help concepts, seeing results, and cultivating intrinsic motivation
The Thing That Can F*ck You Up
Not all self-improvement is created equal.
Many people fail to understand is that some concepts may not work for you. We are human. We are each different in our own unique ways.
This is what creates an anti-self-improvement mindset.
The ones who adopt this mindset implemented a self-help concept, it didn’t work for them, and they go on to tell everyone that it doesn’t work.
At the same time there are people that swear by the exact same concepts.
Let’s take the gym for example.
Some people love bench press, some people hate it.
Some people say it is a bad exercise for chest growth, others say it’s the best.
Mechanics, genetics, noobie gains, and muscle insertions aside…
How can you know that bench press is a good exercise for you without doing it consistently?
If you implemented this exercise, continuously increased weight, and stuck to it for 6-12 months – THEN you can decide if it’s good or bad.
This goes for any other concept that can improve your life.
Trying it for a day, deciding it sucks, and dropping it will f*ck you up.
A Foundation of Awareness & House of Direct Experience
All true self improvement stems from awareness and is solidified through direct experience.
Self-help information makes you aware of a problem you may have. It gives you steps to fix it.
Following those steps (direct experience) for a given amount of time is what improves your life.
If you have given ample time and still not seen results, awareness comes back into play and the cycle continuous. Continuous improvement.
If you have a clouded/anxious mind and a self-help book tells you to meditate, you need to meditate on a consistent basis to see if it actually helps you. If it doesn’t, that’s fine.
Self-help concepts act as a “boost” to your awareness.
Direct experience helps you understand if it is useful to you.
If it is useful to you, the intrinsic motivation starts to build.
If it isn’t useful to you, go back to the awareness step. This is what most people skip.
The worst thing you could do at this point is write off self-help as a whole.
That’s how you end up living an average life.
Show me anyone you aspire to be like that doesn’t have a foundation of continuous improvement in their life. You won’t be able to. If you can, these people aren’t worth aspiring to be like.
Your business will suffer if you don’t improve yourself as your business grows.
Your relationships will suffer if you don’t improve yourself as they grow.
Your health will suffer if you aren’t aware of the hidden problems it is causing.
Self-help is bad if you are reading it to feel like you are actually doing something.
Self-improvement is good if you develop awareness and intrinsic drivers with time.