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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 January 21, 2020

          The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

          The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

          Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

          your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

            Why You Need a Vision

            Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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            How to Create Your Life Vision

            Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

            What Do You Want?

            The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

            It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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            Some tips to guide you:

            • Remember to ask why you want certain things
            • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
            • Give yourself permission to dream.
            • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
            • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

            Some questions to start your exploration:

            • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
            • What would you like to have more of in your life?
            • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
            • What are your secret passions and dreams?
            • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
            • What do you want your relationships to be like?
            • What qualities would you like to develop?
            • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
            • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
            • What would you most like to accomplish?
            • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

            It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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            What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

            Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

            A few prompts to get you started:

            • What will you have accomplished already?
            • How will you feel about yourself?
            • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
            • What does your ideal day look like?
            • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
            • What would you be doing?
            • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
            • How are you dressed?
            • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
            • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
            • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

            It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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            Plan Backwards

            It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

            • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
            • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
            • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
            • What important actions would you have had to take?
            • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
            • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
            • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
            • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
            • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

            Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

            It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

            Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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