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What Are the Self-Help Pitfalls?

What Are the Self-Help Pitfalls?

I’ve worked for a couple of decades (or so!) helping people along the path towards their best life via my career in the fitness industry. Over the last five or six years, I’ve committed much more of my time and energy into developing a career in the big, weird world of Personal Development. It has been an interesting journey and I’ve learned (and continue to learn) much along the way.

    While the benefits of working on ‘us’ are seemingly obvious, I believe there are a few challenges, pitfalls, and curve balls that the would-be self-helper needs to be mindful of in his or her search for their best self and best life.

    1. Self-Help Selfishness.

    One of the potential dangers of constantly working on us is that we can inadvertently become self-absorbed, selfish, unaware of the needs of others and disconnected from reality. Some Personal Development devotees are so ‘self-focused’ (their world, their issues, their problems, their relationships, their body, their finances) that they struggle to relate to, take an interest in, and connect with people who don’t have the same mindset, values, attitudes or thinking. Sometimes we need to put our own reality, situation, goals, needs and desires on hold for a while and simply and selflessly invest time, energy and love into others with no agenda. And in doing so, we might discover where the real growth and learning happens.

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      2. The Self-Help Evangelist.

      If you really want to alienate people, point out all their faults, show them the error of their ways, demonstrate how clever you’ve become on your self-help journey and do your best to convert them to your Religion. After all, it’s for their own good right?

      3. Theory isn’t Reality.

      There’s a lot of space between knowing what to do and doing what we know. Far too many people are champions at the knowing part but completely useless when it comes to the doing. You know exactly what I mean because there have been many times when you’ve known what you should be doing but have rationalised yourself into doing nothing. I know this because we’ve all done it. In many ways, we are simultaneously the most educated and the most stupid generation in history.

      We’ve never been more educated but we’ve never behaved less intelligently or responsibly. We’re fat, we’re in massive debt, we’re at war with each other and our planet is almost stuffed… but other than that, we’re flying! Oh well, at least we understand all the theory behind it! If only we realised that most of our problems are behavioural in origin, not educational. Change your behaviours and you will change your outcomes. More often than not the best lessons and the biggest growth-spurts don’t come from books, workshops, websites or DVDs (the theory), they come from taking chances, being pro-active and turning those theories into a reality – doing the practical.

      Learning by doing as opposed to learning by reading or listening. From a personal change perspective, sites like this are only valuable when we apply what we read. And to be honest, too many people are happy to spectate rather than actually get in the game.

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      4. Guru Worship.

      This is one of my pet peeves. By all means, respect people (if they deserve it) but don’t worship them. Instead of empowering themselves, some people actually empower their Guru and turn them into a demi-god. Such an unproductive waste of time and energy.

      If you’re struggling to see your Guru (mentor, role model, teacher) as a normal, flawed, human being just like you, then picture him/her taking an early-morning dump; that should fix it for you (sorry if you’re eating). Doctor Phil, Tony Robbins, Oprah and even Deepak all take a crap every day, have all hurt people, have all told lies, have all made massive mistakes (and will continue to) and are all flawed because they are wonderfully, amazingly, uniquely… human. As we all are. Yes they are gifted, driven and successful (in some ways) but believe it or not, they’re no better than you.

      If only YOU knew that. They might be in a different place to you, but they’re no better. In some way, to some extent, we’re all dysfunctional. And don’t tell anyone I told you this but in my experience, quite often the most ‘perfect’ people are actually the most dysfunctional.

        5. It’s Freakin’ Expensive.

        I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t pay for education, inspiration or motivation, but what I am saying is make sure you get a good return on your investment and know what you’re buying. Spend your self-help bucks wisely and thoughtfully. If you’ve already done fifty seven workshops and seminars, and your life and situation is essentially the same, then another break-through program probably ain’t gonna do the trick for you.

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        I have a website that is a completely free resource with over five hundred articles on a wide range of subject matter, so you can’t really go wrong here! My workshops cost about one fifth of similar programs and my books, DVD’s and CD’s are relatively affordable, so I’m doing my best to be an easily-accessible resource to the masses, while also trying to make a living as a professional speaker and writer. And no, I’m not suggesting that you buy any of my products or attend any of my seminars, but I am suggesting that whatever you spend and wherever you spend those self-help bucks, know what it is you’re paying for.

        To be completely honest, I know that many people would be wasting their time by attending one of my programs because they don’t actually want to hear what I have to say and they’re not ready to do what needs to be done to create real change. I’m not interested in making people feel warm and fuzzy for a day; I’m interested in helping people change their life forever in an honest, real and practical way. By the way, if the only relationship I ever have with you is as a reader of this site, I’m happy for that and honoured to be a tiny part of your journey.

        6. Some of it’s Crap.

        In my humble (and at times, unpopular) opinion, some personal development stuff is mindless, mumbo-jumbo, wishy-washy, feel-good bullshit. It’s not practical, it’s not realistic and it doesn’t change lives over the long term. In fact it often damages lives because it’s misleading. Some writers and speakers are more concerned with making friends and winning fans than speaking the truth no matter how popular or unpopular that message may be.

        The “you-can-be-whatever-you-want” message ain’t exactly the truth. In fact, it’s crap. Yes we can all learn, grow, change and become the best ‘us’ possible (if we do the work), but can we all do whatever we want? Nope. If I reaaaaaally wanted to, could I run 100 metres (meters) in 9.6 seconds? Nope? Can we all make it in the NBA, the NFL or the AFL if we work hard enough? Nope. Will the vast majority of hungry young actors make it as big stars if they apply themselves? Nope. Will most musicians ever have a hit single? Nope. Will you or I ever be fearless (as in, zero fear)? Nope. This is not negativity; it’s reality. It’s life. It’s how the world works. It’s how we work. It’s great to be focused, optimistic, passionate and driven, it’s also great to be realistic and practical about how we should create positive and lasting change in our life.

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        Don’t confuse hype, emotion, temporary motivation, self-help jargon, rock music and a feel-good atmosphere with the practical process and realities of creating life-long change. A weekend of razzle-dazzle, smoke machines and group hugs doesn’t automatically equate to a better life. Do you really believe that the majority of people who attend the “change-your-life-forever-and-spend-lots-of-money-while-you’re-here” programs actually create significant, life-long (as in, different forever) change as a result of that program? These programs can be amazing but only
        1) if the information is relevant and meaningful, and 2) if we consistently and diligently apply what we’ve learned for a LIFE TIME!

          7. Creating life-long results ain’t about any program (book, DVD, workshop, seminar, Guru); it’s about you.

          All the personal development resources in the world can’t change your life one bit. The only thing that can change your life forever is YOU. I hate products (yes, they are products for sale) which are marketed as “the answer to your problems”. These things are not answers, they are resources. How valuable these resources will be to you, depends on WHAT YOU DO with them.

          How many people have been reading my site for nearly two years without actually changing a thing in their life? Plenty. Why? Because my site is only a resource and for a range of reasons, they haven’t applied the information. The only life I can change is mine. I can influence people but I can’t change anyone. Beware the person who claims to be the answer to your problems. I can motivate you, encourage you, educate you and support you… but only YOU can change you.

          Only you can think for you, choose for you and DO for you. You are your greatest resource and your biggest hurdle…. all at the same time! So stop getting in your own way and start using your potential. Yes you can do amazing things in your life, but the big question is WILL YOU?

          More by this author

          Craig Harper

          Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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          Last Updated on March 25, 2020

          How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

          How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

          When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

          So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

          1. Exercise

          It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

          2. Drink in Moderation

          I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

          3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

          Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

          4. Watch Less Television

          A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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          Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

          5. Eat Less Red Meat

          Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

          If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

          6. Don’t Smoke

          This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

          7. Socialize

          Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

          8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

          Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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          9. Be Optimistic

          Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

          10. Own a Pet

          Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

          11. Drink Coffee

          Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

          12. Eat Less

          Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

          13. Meditate

          Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

          Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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          How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

          14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

          Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

          15. Laugh Often

          Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

          16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

          Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

          17. Cook Your Own Food

          When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

          Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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          18. Eat Mushrooms

          Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

          19. Floss

          Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

          20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

          Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

          Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

          21. Have Sex

          Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

          More Health Tips

          Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

          Reference

          [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
          [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
          [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
          [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
          [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
          [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
          [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
          [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
          [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
          [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
          [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
          [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
          [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
          [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
          [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
          [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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