It seems that everyone wants to improve some aspect of themselves. Whether it’s their brain power, their confidence, their success or their emotional IQ – we all have things we want to improve and develop and we all think that life would be a lot better if only we were a bit smarter or a bit more confident.
The self-improvement is a BIG industry and there is a large market out there for books, seminars and other materials to help people to improve their overall ability. But while a lot of this is useful and helpful, there is also a lot of nonsense out there which is actually more damaging than anything in the drive to make yourself a more effective individual. People looking to make money can write a book in a few days based on very little evidence and claim to be a self-help guru – and if they sell it well we’ll lap it up. Then these ideas get perpetuated and shared around the web, or they get twisted and warped to the point where they no longer resemble the original message.
Some of these bad ideas come up time and time again, so it’s important to be able to recognize them and to know when to take them with a bit of a pinch of salt. Here we will look at some of the biggest self-improvement myths…
Visualizing Your Goals
A common piece of advice in self-help tomes is to practice visualizing yourself where you want to be in a few years’ time. This might mean imagining yourself in a huge office wearing a Rolex and smoking a cigar made of hundred dollar bills, or it might mean imagining yourself with a beautiful wife and two perfect kids. Either way, the assumption is that by focussing on your goal, you will be able to make it a reality and life will simply get out the way to ensure you accomplish your aims.
In reality that’s all this is – and assumption. In actual fact, research has shown that those who visualize their success are actually less likely to achieve their aims because they won’t see the potential challenges and pitfalls ahead. Much more effective than daydreaming then is to come up with concrete step by step goals, and to be optimistic but with a dash of realism.
Using the Force
Another common trope in self-help literature is to cling onto some new scientific theory or research and to base a series of wild claims around it. One common example of this is the widespread belief that quantum physics show our consciousness to be able to control the position of particles on the sub atomic level. In reality however, the real finding is actually that we can’t precisely measure the position or velocity of a particle at any given time. This is called the collapse of the waveform and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have force powers. If you want to make changes in your life you’re better off working hard and being smart rather than willing money to appear in your pocket.
I enjoy reading self-improvement writing from gurus like Tony Robins and Steve Pavlina, but something that often puts me off is when they start preaching about raw food diets or vegan diets. While it’s up to them what they eat, there is no reason that changing to such an extreme diet would have any effect on your ability to earn money or make friends. In fact, quite the opposite may be true as these intense diets make it very difficult for us to get all of the nutrients we need – particularly protein, fatty acids and B vitamins – and this can impact negatively on your health and brain power.
It always surprises me when a self-help book suggests cutting friends out of your life, and yet this is something that crops up often. The idea is that negative people bring us down, and that having too many contacts will leave us with little time to chase down our goals.
In fact though, having a variety of different friends and being loyal to the people you’ve known a long time is a very important to have a happy and varied lifestyle. The more people you know, and the more varied they are, the more different experiences you will share and the more fond memories you will gather. Sure, maybe it won’t always be very convenient to spend time with a wide group of people, and maybe some of them will bring you down from time to time, but trust me – it’s worth it.
How to Make Friends and Influence People
On the topic of making friends and making a good impression, there are many tips in self-help books that suggest you can make yourself more popular through a range of subtle psychological tricks. Whether it’s mimicking body language to build rapport or using more affirmative language, all kinds of things it’s claimed can help you to be the life and soul of the party.
But really it’s much simpler than all that, and actually all you have to do to be liked is to be a NICE person. As long as you don’t have hidden agendas, and as long as you are generous and a good listener, people will want to spend time with you.
Reading Self-Help Will Change Your Life
This is not me being down on self-help. I really have no quarrel with self-development books and am a fan of them in many instances. Heck I’ve even written my fair amount of self-improvement advice over the years.
What I am saying though is that just reading self-help won’t actually improve your life. Many people seem to be under the false illusion that by simply investing in lots of self-help books and spending lots of time reading them, they will be improving themselves and making progress. In reality, reading self-help alone is not enough, you actually have to take some kind of action if you hope to see positive changes.