Since I discovered self-help well over ten years ago, my life has radically improved. I know some people condemn the self-help industry but I credit it with emboldening me to buy my first house, run a half-marathon and write half a dozen books.
However, I have always had an issue with some of the main tenets that run through self-help books and courses. Yes, the ideas are amazing BUT they seem completely inconsistent with each other. After many years of trying to reconcile these notions, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they are fatally flawed.
I have written this blog post as an urgent plea: can anyone help me unravel these contradictory principles?
Here are three self-help inconsistencies that urgently need resolving…
1) Self-help Inconsistency: ‘Bliss Out Dude’ vs. ‘Reach for the Stars’
Self-help gurus agree that meditation and mindfulness practices are absolutely essential. Numerous studies have shown a direct link between a consistent meditation practice and almost every positive health and wellbeing outcome you can think of. For instance, it has been shown to boost positive emotions like compassion and reduce negative ones such as loneliness. Meditation actually changes brain function and can help with focus, creativity and maintaining longer periods of productivity.
Obviously, directing our attention to being as fully present as possible is the way to go.
Authorities in the self-help world constantly tell us to set goals and strive to achieve them. Not just any goals, but Big Hairy Audacious Goals (‘BHAG’s). Goal setting has a myriad of benefits including helping you to take action on what you want, making you feel in control of the one life you have and replacing overwhelm with a clear focus on what is important. My life is richer as a result of accomplishing BHAGs such as checking off 40 bucket list items in one year.
Obviously, striving to achieve goals to create the best possible future is the way to go.
2) Self-help Inconsistency: ‘You are Enough’ vs. ‘Strive to be the Best’
You are meant to love the skin you are in. Be happy with who you are and the bag of bones you have been assigned for life. This is similar to the first self-help inconsistency that we should remain content in the present. I should adore my body as it is. I should like who I am.
Obviously, loving yourself just as you are is the way to go.
You owe it to the world to use up every single tiny ounce of all the resources and riches that you were so fortunately bestowed with to reach your potential, create value and share your gifts with the world. It would be a travesty if you just settled because you thought you didn’t deserve more from life.
Obviously, treating my body with the respect it deserves by striving to be as physically fit and mentally strong as I can be is the way to go.
3) Self-help Inconsistency: ‘Work on Yourself’ vs. ‘Give to Others’
Concentrating on finding things that make you a successful and fulfilled human being means that you will be able to be at your best. It has been shown, for example, that committing to doing something for yourself just once per week for one hour (e.g. a singing lesson, a yoga class or a painting workshop), will lead you to being a better person in other areas of your life.
Obviously, working on being happy and fulfilled in yourself is the way to go.
Contribution to others is the ultimate way to make us happier as giving takes you out of yourself, which is major way of gaining happiness. When you make something personal when it is not, for example, bad traffic, it is a surefire way to be miserable. When you stop relating external stuff to yourself—it is simply the traffic being the traffic—you are choosing a more neutral way of viewing the world. Taking the ‘me’ away also helps remind you that you really have no real problems! The traffic does not seem as big a deal when you spend some time volunteering at a children’s hospital or a homeless shelter.
Obviously, true meaning only occurs from a life of service.
Self-help concepts have lead to dramatic advances in my life, but I still can’t get my head around three self-help inconsistencies: be present versus strive for goals, be happy as I am versus wanting to improve and achieving fulfillment through working on myself or giving to others.
Fortunately, I can send this blog post out into the world in the hope that I can get the answers I seek. After all, we are all human so others may feel that this is an issue too. Actually, we are all unique individuals so maybe we can problem-solve this in our own distinct way. Oh no, I think I found another self-help inconsistency!