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Why It’s So Important to Know the Difference Between Self-Help and Personal Growth

Why It’s So Important to Know the Difference Between Self-Help and Personal Growth
    Photo credit: Jesper Sachmann (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    To many of us the terms “self-help” and “personal growth”  are interchangeable. But while they may give the external appearance of having twin meanings, in the external perception they are more akin to those tiny figures that we would see perched on the shoulders of a character on television. If you can, visualize the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other and you’ll get my meaning.

    One is a near obsession with fixing some innate flaws, either real or imagined, which are a blemish on our existence. We just know that if we could fix ourselves, life would be pure bliss. Or would it?

    The other is based on the belief that we are fine the way we are, though not perfect, we are good enough already. But that we are a work in progress and there is a desire to expand in some way, through gaining knowledge, through improving our skill or through cultivating healthier or more positive behaviors.

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    Though I may be splitting hairs over textbook definitions, the true difference is in how the perception of the journey affects both our attitude and our actions. We resist change when we feel bad about ourselves; condemned, criticized and judged (usually we are the ones offering up our own judgment.) We embrace change when it elicits happy feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment.

    A few examples to illustrate my theory…

    Weight/Health issue

    Self-Help Perspective: I can’t fit into my jeans. I need to lose 20…30…50 pounds, then I’ll be happier. What is wrong with me? I’ve tried so many diets. I just need to exercise more. Ugh

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    Personal Growth Perspective: I want to be healthy and have more energy to allow me to live the life I love. This is the only body I have and I choose to nurture it by making healthier food choices and moving to keep my heart and muscles strong and fit.

    Organization issue

    Self-Help Perspective: I have got to get it together. My house (car, office) is always a mess. I can’t find anything. I never seem to get anything done. I just need to find the right system. Or maybe I could hire someone to come in and clean it all up.

    Personal Growth Perspective: I set my priorities. I won’t accumulate things I don’t need. I’ll ask for help from someone who can offer effective strategies on how to better manage my life, my home or my work. I acknowledge that external disorganization is a symptom of lack of internal focus. I need to be clear about what I want.

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    Money issue

    Self-Help Perspective: I need a better “get out of debt” plan. But the book said if I just followed the guidelines, I could be a millionaire…I need a job that pays more money.

    Personal Growth Perspective: I work toward my debt and savings goals consistently. I understand that it can be a slow process. I treat money with respect and gratitude. I am grateful to have a job. I invest in myself and my career by improving my marketable skills.

    You get the idea. Though this may be an exaggeration to illustrate a point, I think the difference in perception and attitude is readily apparent. And while the actions taken may actually be the same, the results will differ greatly, because the intention is different.

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    We instinctively push back against the idea that we are lacking and “should” fix ourselves. We are drawn to the idea that we are wonderful and getting better all the time.

    Which way of thinking sounds more enticing to you? Which strategy do you think has better long term results? Which perception do you think contributes more to your happiness in life?

    More by this author

    Royale Scuderi

    A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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    Last Updated on September 15, 2020

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

    Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

    We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

    We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

    Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

    1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

    We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

    Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

    Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

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    2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

    We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

    We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

    Give yourself more credit than that.

    You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

    In the end, you were fine.

    Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

    Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

    3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

    Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

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    When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

    Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

    When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

    Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

    4. It’s Just as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

    We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

    However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

    Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

    Enjoy the process of moving forward[2].

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    5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

    If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

    Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

    In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

    If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

    6. Effort Matters, So Use It

    It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

    Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

    Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

    Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

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    Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

    And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

    7. Start With Something Manageable

    You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

    Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

    Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

    Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

    You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

    More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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