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Don’t Buy Self-Help Books With These 5 Traits

Don’t Buy Self-Help Books With These 5 Traits

Being a shy kid I always tried to fit into the realm of social consciousness and I desperately sought various self-help books to give me a hand. Initially I read crap which basically attracted me with titles like, “How to understand woman?” or “How to know that the other person loves you?” My frustration grew until I began to decipher the inherent meaning of life (my life) by reading classics and biographies that touched my heart and mind. Since then the self-help books are out of  my way, and even though they exist in heaps – trying to lure me in with their “helpful” titles, I’m immune. If you are feeling vulnerable to their promises, beware.

We all need a little help. Sometimes, we need reassurance — or a plan. Self-help books can give us the guidance we often seek. But they can also be a treasure trove of absolute horse manure. Here’s how to tell the difference.

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Do not buy a book if they claim “Personal Action” is not necessary

Self-help is such a paradoxical term. When you are seeking help from outside sources, it is supposed to be termed as help; self-help is something which you do to yourself. So whatever you read, the action has to be taken by you. If any self-help book claims it is unnecessary, simply ignore it. Nothing is possible without effort by you. To put it simply, your life is the fruit of your own doing.

Do not buy if they claim “Magic” happens

Nothing happens in a whiff of second. Behind all great achievements lies patience and perseverance. If any of the self-help books claim the above reason, simply chuck it. The mystery of life is beyond all human conception. So if someone claims something magical happens; it’s just a marketing strategy to sell the book. Nobody knows the secret but a good self-help book can unlock the potential in you to discover that penultimate secret.

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Do not buy if they are not backed up with authentic life experience

If the influence of a vital person inspires you there is no doubt about it. Sometimes the life experiences of others may guide you in conflict, but not always. When any book is based on authentic life experience, just buy it; it is precious. The wisdom of their entire life in the book helps you to gain the same wisdom by just reading it instead of living and learning by yourself.

Do not buy if they are not backed up by considerable research

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought” said Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. People who do research are passionate to seek answers. They just want to share their passion not to sell it. So, if the book is backed up by considerable research and if that fits to your context, just buy them. There is now a fine line between real research and what’s actually full of crap. And it’s ironic that they’re all supposed to help you. Beware.

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Do not buy, if they claim themselves to be “Bestsellers”

Beware of bestsellers, each of them has different context. Consider authentic ones by your own research. Every bestseller may not be a great book but a great book is always a bestseller. The self-help world has been so intertwined with entrepreneurship that simple ideas of positivity and honesty have been tainted. Having a handful of money and hiring a good PR firm can make any book a “bestseller.” So beware of those, read reviews, if possible, before purchasing a book.

For what it’s worth, we are all human beings and nobody is perfect. It’s perfectly all right not to get caught in the realm of social consciousness. Try to seek help from self-help books but also remember, “It is in you to be or not to be.” The world is full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.

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KAMAL SUCHARAN BURRI

Founding Director, Newlight Cinemas

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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!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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