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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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    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 October 15, 2019

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

    Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

    Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

    Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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    1. Make a list of your goal destinations

    Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

    So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

    Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

    If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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    2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

    This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

    Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

    3. Write down your goals clearly

    Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

    For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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    4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

    Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

    These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

    5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

    Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

    For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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    Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

    6. Schedule your to-dos

    Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

    Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

    7. Review your progress

    At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

    Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

    Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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