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9 Ways To Tell If You Are A Self-Help Junkie (And What To Do About It)

9 Ways To Tell If You Are A Self-Help Junkie (And What To Do About It)

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    A week ago, I received a message from a blog reader. He commented that my entries have been longer of late, and while he tried reading, he was lazy to continue on. He suggested I should create shorter versions of my articles for busy and lazy people like him.

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    For perspective, my guest posts on Lifehack are about 1-2k words long, while the ones at my blog are about 3k words on average. I don’t intentionally write long or short posts – I write what’s needed to convey the message. If I think putting in more details helps the reader, I’ll do so. My objective in every post is to deliver the maximum value to the reader.

    So when I first read the mail, the first thought that came to mind was this person seemed like a self-help junkie. A junkie is someone with a substance abuse problem. A self-help junkie refers to someone who indulges in self-help (for leisure) and doesn’t follow-up with action. Over the course of my personal development blogging and coaching journey, I’ve come across a good number of self-help junkies, such that I’m able to sieve out the tell-tale signs. Are you a self-help junkie? Here are 9 ways to tell if you are:

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    1. You read self-help without following up with action. You read self-help blogs, books, and even attend self-help seminars once in a while. You are largely familiar with the different authors and teachings in the industry. Yet, of all that you’ve read, you’ve done little to nothing to apply what you’ve read. Rather than just read all the time, it might be more useful to ask yourself why you’re reading and what you intend to do with the information you’re acquiring. As with any activity, it’s important to do it with purpose.
    2. You like to discuss about self-help but you don’t act on it. Besides reading about self-help, you talk about it too. You interact with the authors, asking for advice once in a while. At the self-help blogs you read, you make the occasional comment or two, sharing your thoughts and engaging with the community. You even talk about it with your friends sometimes. However, after getting the advice, you don’t do anything. It falls short of action. When do you intend to take action? Perhaps start with what you want and when you want to achieve them. Create your action plan then act on it.
    3. You read for the sake of reading. You make it a point to read each self-help book/blog/post you come across, even if it’s in a topic that has no relevance or significance in your life. Does it serve any purpose though? It might be more useful to be choiceful of what you read, and read only if it pertains to what you’re going through. More importantly, make it a point to follow-up what you read with action/application (see #1 and #2).
    4. You treat self-help as leisure. It’s ok to read self-help books/blogs in your leisure time. But you treat self-help as just a recreational filler activity, never quite intending to take any action after you read it. However, self-help is more than just a filler or enrichment. It’s an important tool to help us live it in the best manner possible. What do you see self-help as and what role do you intend for it to serve in your life? Your answer to that question determines the kind of results you will get out of it.
    5. Self-help is your avoidance outlet. As ironic as it may seem, some people read self-help as a way to avoid dealing with problems in their lives. They seek refuge in it. They think reading about self-help is taking action. Of course, that’s a flawed notion, and very much just a delusion. If there is something you’re avoiding, you can’t ignore it by indulging in self-help. You have to face it and deal with it eventually. Use self-help to equip you with the right information, then act on it afterward.
    6. You measure your achievement by how many articles/books you read a week. With every post/book that you finish, you move on to the next, feeling satisfied by the amount you are reading. But real results should be measured by what you create in your life, not how much you read. Reading is merely a preparation step. Even if you read 1000 self-help books, nothing’s going to change until you do something. To date I’ve read less than 20 self-help books my whole life. I only read if it’s needed (to get certain info/knowledge); else I don’t touch the books. Read only what’s needed to achieve your results. Focus on what you want to create instead.
    7. You read self-help to motivate yourself / get a certain high. Like real junkies, you get on an emotional high from reading. It slowly tapers off afterward though, so you keep reading more to fuel that feeling. While it’s inspiring to read about others’ success, it’s even more inspiring to achieve that success for yourself.
    8. You keep fiddling with life hacks rather than work on the bigger pieces of life. Some people get absorbed in life hacking because it’s easy and it makes them feel productive. For many, it’s to procrastinate working on the bigger areas of life. While there are merits behind life hacks (this site is called Life Hack after all), you can’t hack your way to your dream life. There are big decisions you need to make, and until you do you can’t start your real life.
    9. You bookmark and RT list posts like “10 ways to XX” and “101 ways to XX” without remembering/applying any single tip in the post. It’s great to bookmark these articles for future use and it’s even better to share them with your friends. I always appreciate it whenever readers share my posts with others. However, you don’t want to end up just bookmarking/collecting a ton of these articles without doing anything. 2 questions you should ask yourself after every post you read are: (1) “What have I learned from this article?” (2) “What can I apply to my life moving forward?” There is always something to learn from everything, even if you may think you know everything that was written. If you read 1 post every day and you learn / apply just 1 thing out of each post, imagine the huge change you’d see in your life after 30 days.

    How about you?

    Are you a self-help junkie? Does any of the 9 traits above apply to you?

    And true to what I wrote in #9, here are 2 questions I’m going to ask you: (1) What have you learned from this article? and (2) What can you apply to your life moving forward?

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    Feel free to share your comments with others. :)

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    More by this author

    Celestine Chua

    Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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