By Skills

Self-help can only go so far in helping you.

It’s like they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

And no matter the latest self-help book or article you read,nothing can make you drink.  Nothing related to self-help, at least.

You may think you’re collecting and consuming your water when you absorb self-help content, but you’re not.  You’re not even being led to the water.

Most self-help content is flawed in two ways:

  • You’re prescribed a treatment without a proper diagnosis.
  • You’re promised quick, tangible results with quick changes to your routine.

Let’s look at both these points.

For the first point, you need to understand that self-help is a subcomponent of the personal development industry.  This industry spans across fitness,lifestyle, and mental health … anything related to mental, emotional, and social wellbeing fits within the field of personal development.

Personal development is an extraordinary and vital component of your life.  Your ability to learn from your experiences, realign your journey, and execute value-adding activities sums up the relevance of personal development in your existence.

Unfortunately for most self-help content, it can’t possibly address what your water source is, where it’s located, and why you’re looking for it to begin with.  Self-help tends to make broad assumptions as to why you’re here, what you want out of life, and how you can achieve your wildest dreams.

But these broad assumptions fail to understand your root causes.  Your underlying drive.  Your “why.” Without properly articulating or connecting with your “why,” these self-help books can’t possibly understand what’s causing your existential “illness.” You’re looking to use self-help content as a medicine for what you’recurrently suffering through, but often times you don’t know what’s really going on behind the curtains of your life … until you take the time to reflect and let go of your own judgments.  How isa self-help author going to diagnose and treat your illness properly, when you’re looking on WebMD to treat the symptoms of a root problem you can’t identify yourself?

This brings me to the second point.  Since self-help makes broad assumptions and appeals to a general audience, the actual content itself is found lacking.  Hidden by articles that offer tips to instantly increase your productivity, or books that teach you the importance of investing in yourself, the self-help industry typically succumbs to “hacks” for morning routines or time management that will boost your performance, results,and happiness.  You’ve seen this type of content– “10 things to do before you get to the office” or “Follow these daily cheat codes to achieve personal satisfaction.”

Much of this content becomes diluted into arbitrary daily checklists that constrain you and actually make you overthink.  Most people don’t need to change up their morning routine.  They don’t need to break up their schedules into 15-minute segments.  They don’t need to plan out their next day the night before.

Why?  Because these things don’t actually work.  Maybe some of the tips and tricks last a few weeks, but then they lose favor. They don’t become habits because they’re unenjoyable, restraining, and stressful.  They put pressure on you to frame your life in someone else’s light, and to build up a checklist that consumes your days.  Instead of focusing on meaningful activities or enjoying your leisure,you become consumed with a myopic focus on checking off boxes while ignoring your true, long-term vision.

Respect yourself. Respect your vision.  Respect your creativity, your long-term potential, and your uniqueness.  Don’t let checklists, arbitrary expectations,or short-term hacks override what makes you … you.  How can you be creative, purposeful, and intentional if you’re trading your freedom of expression with the prison of short-lived, meaningless checklists?

Look outside the very narrow scope of self-help.  There’s a reason the self-help industry continues to grow and grow – more people are cycling through different self-help books and articles because they keep trying to find out what works for them, without ever finding something that actually works and sticks.

There’s no need to overcomplicate personal development.  That’s where your true bread-and-butter lies …in personal development, not in self-help. There’s no secret, hack, or shortcut to true growth.  As you experience more in life, absorb others’ wisdom, and take quality time to reflect on what you want out of your life, you’ll develop more holistically than you ever could from a self-help book.

It’s not sexy.  It’s not trendy, and it certainly doesn’t have the allure of a fad diet.  But it’s the true way that you become your full self – it allows you to live your life, your way, on your own terms. 

And what on earth could be wrong with that?

Click here to read the article that inspired this one – don’t worry, it’s not a self-help article.  It’s purely personal development, and it has genuine insights on how to approach your life for personal development, not for self-help. Thanks for the inspiration, Maggie!

This content was originally published here.

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