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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?

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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