This article will show you how to get some degree of independence from the often false promises made by the self help community. There is a lot of waffle out there. Almost all of it is unnecessary if you are a discerning customer.
Most articles I write are of an advisory nature. Writing helps you to grow and develop. It’s rather like physically scratching the runes into the side of a wall. Just speaking the words or reading something does little to actually make you think; whereas writing the same advice down makes the words becomes engrained.
The fundamental process of self help, happiness and motivation must stem from the creation of your own method. Think about why it’s called self-help. Unfortunately, the commercial self-help market is not always geared up to this concept. The Market is saturated by self appointed “gurus” or “experts”. Such an authoritative title creates a real separation between the audience and the listeners. It’s one side of a room vs another. Many books take the following format:
“I’m happier than you, I’m richer than you. I’ve reached a plateau and you haven’t, you need me but I don’t need you. If you give me some money and make yourself a little bit poorer and me wealthier. I’ll show you how to be like me.”
Happiness is always the ultimate goal, but it cannot be externally imposed very easily. It’s bottom up not, not down and therefore, for it to work the individual has to develop his/her own technique, and believe in it. An externally imposed force can often be counterproductive. If the method used by the guru doesn’t work in the desired way, the sense of frustration can be extreme because there was a very real expectation of a product fulfilling a need.
1. Be particular – and filter
Do not be tempted to seek out, digest and absorb every type of article purely for the sake of doing so. Psychology can be very hit and miss. Because everybody’s different there is a need for a wide range of styles and themes under the personal development umbrella. Everybody tends to seek out the style of article most appealing to them, hence there is something for everyone. That said it is impossible for a single individual to explore and appreciate every genre under the sun. Just like music, it is impossible to listen to everything; even if you could there is no guarantee you would want to listen to it all anyway. I make no attempt to hide the fact that all my articles are subjective.
2. Question everything
A human being writing for another human being has Its flaws. So don’t expect to believe everything you read; quite the opposite. Getting into the habit of questioning everything is very effective in developing you own opinion as to what you should do. Arising at six AM works well for me, and I have evidence for that, however just because I write it on a publicly viewed webpage doesn’t make it a public truth or a universal opinion. Approach articles form the perspective of: applying it to yourself if relevant. Absorbing the message of everything won’t work. Skim the article if you are unsure whether to read it, as a title can often be deceptive. There are cut off points for the “questioning” method. Lets say that a certain technique for beating procrastination doesn’t work well for you. That’s OK because we’re all different. But if you try 5 other techniques and still get nowhere, then you have yourself a problem. So the words of warning would be: question advice, assess it’s merits, but learn when to recognise if the flaws you see in the advice actually stem from your own doubts about it’s effectiveness.
3. Focus on only one aspect at a time
Chronologically read, the articles on this website under my name change theme from article to article. Therefore reading all of them chronologically is not the best way to do it, as you will be going through more information than can be handled. Only absorb the meaning of one article at a time before moving on; this follows the golden rule of not doing too much at once.
Spend time on each theme, apply it to your everyday thinking before moving on, and don’t do more than one challenge at a time! For example, after reading an article on being less selfish, focus on only that one aspect of personal development throughout the week. Simultaneously trying to follow advice on a “How to Give up Smoking Article” at the same time would be ludicrous. How on earth can someone – who from giving up smoking is typically sour and ratty, be in the right frame of mind to incorporate less selfishness into their lives for the week? Making changes to your life is a big deal, a really serious undertaking, and the least you need when you’re doing that is conflicting solutions to problems. That said it would be a bad idea to take each article in isolation, so read several articles on the same topic. Chances are they will complement each other nicely and give you more together than one article ever could.
4. The paradox.
The irony of personal development is that the very people who need it the most, are not necessarily the kind of people who take an active step towards it. It also works the other way round. In this aspect some articles are pointless. If you are proactive enough to research “How to be proactive” you’ve already proven something. It would be like typing “How to use Google” into Google. Or buying a book on how to read.
I think it’s a crucial step from the self development point of view to give yourself a kick up the proverbial. Think about the purpose of “self” in “self development”. One person can only take you so far. The rest is up to you. I myself found this when I first became interested in researching personal development. After I had read and understood only a handful of articles, I had a greater ability to think about problems from a different point of view. My approach is now focused on the relationship between problems and solutions. A year ago I would look at an untidy room and think to myself: “Wow, it looks like nobody owns this place” Whereas now, as a consequence of learning to think differently, I’ll say: “I could just tidy for ten minutes per day”, or “In future I will create a place for everything so that everything is in it’s place.” How about just clearing one corner of the room?
These solutions are now, at least, obvious. I learned the techniques from researching personal development but at no point did I find an article on room tidying with this content. It just goes to show how advice from articles is all transferable. And with practise it’s easy to develop it as a habit.
Once a certain stage is reached with personal development, you find yourself with a degree of autonomy. To my mind, you only need to research personal development in so far as to train your mind to think in a problems vs solutions way. At the beginning you might research “How to stay organised”. Through reading these kinds of articles the same patterns will crop up, over time giving you the skills to apply what you learn to other situations. Learning to write is one analogy. You are taught the alphabet, how to join them together, but you need help to form new words. After a bit of practise however, you will be able to guess how to spell new words that you haven’t even heard before. When this stage is reached in personal development you will be enlightened so to speak, and you can use the “alphabet” you learned to spell new self improvement “words” you never even considered before.
Don’t for one minute think that this loosely used term – enlightenment, is some form of ceiling or plateaux. Self improvement is a never ending journey, if you think you have stopped learning then boy, you have a long way to go. Enlightenment here means, you reach a certain stage where your thinking shifts from that of listening to advice, to forming it for yourself. It means you can come up with your own solutions to problems without consultation of resources. It’s not for everyone. You have to have a certain kind of mind, be a certain “type”. Something inside you has to “click” at some stage, and not everybody is cut out for it. Despite this, everybody can learn from advice, and definitely learn to be happy.
6. The retrospective
Even enlightened ones do make mistakes, but they’re not called that here; they are opportunities for improvement. For each process in the above list you go through, opportunities for improvement will come about. Criticism from others is one such example. Take it gracefully and in a non defensive way. Most importantly review how you can make things better. I would discourage a look at the past with the view to finding regrets. Most people who do this often forget that the decision they made a long time ago (possibly a bad one) was made by a person who thought in a different way. Intrinsically of course we stay the same throughout our lives. But our decision making process changes from decade to decade as we gain experience. So blaming yourself for past mistakes – based on your knowledge at the time of the decision, is a waste of effort. Allow the phrase: “It was a good idea at the time” to satisfy the explanation. Nothing can sum it up better.