What do you do every time you read a self-help post?
- Do you reflect it back on your life and see how it’s relevant to you?
- Do you note down your top lessons and see how you can apply them?
- Do you write down key action steps and put them down into your organizer for immediate action?
- Or do you just click the “x” button and surf away to another page, forgetting what you just read?
Self-help junkies are people who indulge in self-help without action. I’ve come across a number of self-help junkies in the course of my work, and I classify them into 3 groups.
The first group is the Observers. Observers read, acknowledge the concepts, see the merits, and are even able to analyze and critique in the theoretical sense, but that’s where it ends. They don’t take action after that. Rather than read self-help to improve their lives, they seem to read it for sport. For some, they refresh self-help blogs regularly, looking for new posts, new content, and wondering why there isn’t anything new, when all there’s already so much stuff to work with if they start putting things into action. Consequently, when you look at their lives, there’s not much to see, in terms of results to the goals they keep harping on.
The second group is the Addicts. Addicts are fervent in engaging in self-help. They frequent self-help books and/or blogs. They are very well-versed in self-help concepts. They attend one seminar after another, sometimes within a span of months or even weeks. Truth be told, they have probably attended more seminars than the average person will ever attend in his/her lifetime. During the seminars, they immerse themselves and get a motivational high, which leads to some positive life change. However, when the excitement tapers off, the change disappears too, and they are back to where they started. Lost, they then move to the next self-help resource, looking for that boost.
The third group is the Desperate Seekers. They turn to self-help, often with a sense of anxiety and neediness, to look for help on something they’re facing. Yet when an answer is given and a direction is pointed, they reject it. They then seek out a different resource, anxiously clamoring for an answer. Again, the same thing happens – they reject what they’re given, continuing to look for that miracle answer or breakthrough solution to their problem. It’s like they are looking for that magic bullet, that answer that will take very little effort and create magical results overnight.
Do you know anyone in the 3 groups? Or could you perhaps be in one of them yourself?
Dangers of Being a Self-Help Junkie
1. Self-Imagined Growth When There’s None
What’s so bad about being a self-help junkie? For one, it results in self-imagined growth. Self-help junkies think that they’re working on their growth because they are gaining all these mental shifts and what not, but they are just bluffing themselves.
An immediate way to tell if there has been real growth or not is to examine changes in your life. Are you still in the same job you dislike from 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year ago? Are you still weighed down by something from the past? Still in the same amount of debt, perhaps even more? Still searching for that next big thing in life? Still anguished by the same people, the same relationships from before?
If so, then perhaps it’s time to ask where all the self-help knowledge you’ve learned is going. Our internal world and external world mirror each other and if there was truly inner growth, you don’t even need to talk about it. Your outer world will naturally reflect it. Even if the absolute physical manifestation is not complete, it’ll still reflect a progression.
2. Deferring Your Life
I once met someone who attended a good number of seminars and courses. He mainly attended financial ones, surrounding real estate, wealth creation, investment, and the like, as he wanted to be financially abundant. The seminars weren’t cheap – they were in the range of thousands, and during the seminars they would up-sell coaching packages as well.
Eventually he spent five-digit sums on said courses and seminars, and in the end not only did he not earn anything, but he was in debt because he had borrowed money to attend the courses. When I knew him, he was still in debt, and while he was a genuine guy and was proactive in seeking help for his situation, it seemed like he was expecting his turnaround to come from the outside.
For one, he was still looking to attend courses (of a different nature) and expecting to earn money after that. Two, he kept self-victimizing about his situation rather than taking ownership over his situation, something that he summed it up as due to “lack of luck.” Three, it seemed that he was looking for a guide to show him the path to financial abundance, as opposed to taking action himself.
While I tried to tell him that he didn’t need anymore courses or financial know-how, and the answers to his problems aren’t going to be found there (not to mention many wealth seminars today are basically scams masqueraded as credible events), I wasn’t sure if he heard me. I’m not sure what happened to him afterward, but I do wish him all the best.
The example above is a more extreme case, but the same pattern can be found in many self-help junkies. They approach self-help with the mentality that it’ll solve their problems.
Self-help is self-guided improvement. It’s a tool to help you tackle your situations, but until you take ownership over your life and take action to overcome your blockages/problems, they aren’t going to disappear.
This brings me to my second point. If you’re seeking for answers in self-help, it ain’t here. You’ve seen what you’ve seen. Make an assessment and create your conclusion. Then move on from there and work on creating your best life. If need be, update and change it along the way. But don’t defer living to finding a certain answer.
3. Never Getting Results They Want
For self-help junkies, reading about self-help is a way to make them feel like they’re working on their lives. But they aren’t, and they never will be until they take action. Self-help has become a convenient procrastination outlet. Don’t like how life is turning out? Let’s just borrow a bunch of self-help books on the art of positive thinking, and read and feel good about ourselves instead of taking action. Unhappy with certain people? How about analyzing them and labeling them with the self-help concepts that we learned, instead of thinking how we can change our behaviors.
Does it make you feel better? Temporarily. Does it change the situation? No, not at all.
What To Do Then?
Step 1: Use Self-Help Constructively
I truly believe that there is a lot of great knowledge in the self-help arena. I conduct courses where some of my course participants’ lives literally changed 180 degrees after that, and a large part of this comes from them being ready to receive and take action fully. I’ve read very good personal development books (Think and Grow Rich, The Science of Getting Rich, The Dip, Tribes) which gave me important insights that have helped me in my growth.
Be clear of why you’re reading self-help. Is it because you want to enrich yourself? To be more informed? Because you’re curious? To get an answer to a question? Make sure it’s not the same motivations as the 3 groups mentioned at the start of the article. Don’t read self-help for the sake of it, as it will only be a self-defeating purpose.
Step 2: Engage Only If It Has Value
As I mentioned in How to Say No: The Ultimate Guide, your time is valuable. Engage in something only if it has value. For each self-help book or workshop you come across, as yourself these 4 questions:
- Is this relevant to me?
- Is it something I need to know now?
- Is there something new I can learn?
- Do the benefits potentially outweigh the costs?
If your answer is “yes” to all 4 questions, then you should go ahead with it.
Personally I’ve attended only one to two personal development workshops before and have never been to an actual self-help seminar, save for Never Work Again which was more a sales pitch fest than a real content-based seminar. I have only read a handful of self-help books.
From just these, I’ve learned enough valuable concepts to last me for a long time. I do feel the other self-help stuff out there are full of value, just that there’s no reason for me to check them out yet. I have also found that much of self-help out there covers same (important) principles, and once you’ve seen one or two, you’ve basically seen it all, unless it’s a totally different category — and if so, it’s usually an incremental number of new ideas integrated with the same core principles.
What I do is a lot of personal reflection, experimentation, and action, from which I sieve out the best lessons and apply them, and then share here at Personal Excellence with all of you. And the cycle continues. I only read when I need to, and when I do it’s a very fast process — I look for what’s needed, process it, work out how to apply it and then immediately take action afterward.
And interestingly, despite not being exposed to much of the mainstream self-help materials (i.e., by Tony Robbins, other popular self-help gurus like Blair Singer, Brian Tracy, Robin Sharma and the like), I’ve learned that many things I practice and teach today are also recommended by the gurus themselves in their own teachings, packaged in a different form but in essence extolling on same principles. To be honest I’m not surprised, as I believe we’re all polarizing on the path toward the truth. It’s a very positive sign — if different people from different walks of life are coming to the similar/same conclusions, that means we’re getting somewhere close, and it’s a matter of time before we converge to the same place.
Step 3: Face Yourself
If you have been seeking for answers, ask yourself if it’s really answers you are seeking or if it’s because you’re trying to avoid something. If you keep engaging self-help to experience the “boost” you get from it, ask yourself if you’re trying to use this to cover up a lack (of real results and growth) in your life. If you’re a seminar junkie, going from one self-help seminar to another, perhaps the question is to ask yourself what exactly you’re looking for, because I doubt you’re going to get anything new there if you haven’t already gotten a resolution in the first few you’ve been to.
Is there something you’re fearing? Something you’re trying to avoid? Stop looking outside and start looking inside. The answers you seek are inside you. The more you try to avoid it, the more it’s right there before you.
#4) Last but not least… Apply What You Read
At Personal Excellence, I spend a lot of time writing the articles. I want you to be the best that you can be. I want you to have your best career, to meet your dream life partner, to be financially abundant, to be at the top of your health and fitness, to be at the peak of your game, to live your most meaningful life ever. What I can do is to spend my days and nights to craft out quality articles and share my best lessons to you. And from there, it lies in you to take out the relevant lessons and apply them to achieve the results you want.
There are over 700 content rich articles at PE (as of 2017), with some of the best material you can ever get on personal development. These articles include content that help you to discover your life’s purpose, create your action plan, learn how to be more productive and organized, cultivate positive habits, wake up early, become a more confident person, move on from relationships, overcome disappointment, among many others.
Almost every day, I get a few messages from readers who have created positive changes and are living the life they dreamed of, because they consciously reflected and applied what they had read this site or elsewhere.
- Reader Theodor from Norway finally quit his passionless job recently to pursue his true path in life.
- Kwamise from US is now working to bring to live his vision of a performing arts academy.
- Allison from Panama has become a more confident and optimistic lady.
- Thalissa from Tucson gained closure on a relationship that left her feeling sick and worthless.
- Huiting from Singapore is now pursuing her passion as a travel writer and is taking a travel writing course to equip herself with the right skills.
- Matt from Iowa is taking control of his health and fitness regime and living that healthy life he’s always wanted.
- Tatt from Thailand just left his corporate job two months ago to start his own training business to help teenagers and young adults discover their true selves.
That and many, many more. All of them are readers of the blog, some of them long-term readers, and some of whom recently found the blog. All of them may have started out as passive readers, but at some point they realized it was time to take action and started making changes with every article they read, little by little, to where they are today. Just seriously reading and applying the lessons from a fraction of the posts is enough to create huge changes in your life.
It doesn’t take a long time for positive results to manifest. I took action to live the life of my dreams 2 years ago and within a year my business was up and brought in steady income. Today, 2 years later, I’m running a business built on my passion, doing what I love, living true to my life’s purpose and feeling more rewarded and fulfilled than I ever have. The seeds I sowed 2 years ago are now little seedlings, strong and ready to grow into trees in the future. There’s so much in store for the future and it’s exciting to see what every day brings.
What you want can be yours too, but they can’t take place if you ever don’t take action. Identify the areas of improvement in your life. What is the biggest goal in your life now? How do you plan to achieve it?
On the micro-level, when you read, always reflect it to your life situation. Ask these questions:
- How can this piece of information apply to me?
- What have I learned from this?
- How can I apply to my life? What am I going to differently from here on?
All that’s been said and done, how are you going to apply the above for yourself?
Live a Better Life in 30 Days program, my premium life-transformation program, is one of the best ways to apply the key self-help theories in your life and create concentrated personal growth in just 30 days. Read more here: Live a Better Life in 30 Days program
On other happy notes:
- I’ve been recently named as one of the World’s Top 30 Coaching Gurus by Coaching Gurus International (2010), along the likes of Anthony Robbins! This is a huge honor, and I thank everyone for your support!
- One of my articles on Dealing with Critical People was selected and featured on Straits Times Recruit last Thursday.
- Check out January 2011’s issues for Simply Her and Singapore Woman’s Weekly (in stores Dec ’10), which will include personal development advice from me. My feature on SH will be How to create realistic new year’s resolutions, and for SWW it’s on Effective tips to create a happy work environment. (Check out my media features to date)
Thanks everyone for all your ongoing support, links, and love. I really appreciate it! 😀
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