Self-improvement is an admirable and worthwhile pursuit. Our minds and bodies are highly adaptable and versatile mechanisms, and the realisation that they are ours to mould is hugely empowering. Not happy with some aspect of yourself? Then change it! Want to achieve something? Then just hone your skills and go for it!
This can help you to achieve your goals and to live the life you want to lead, but more than that it can make you into a better person for the sake of others and prevent your issues and problems from affecting those around you. Usually if someone seems unpleasant or destructive it’s really because they have problems in their own lives that they haven’t dealt with. If everyone perfected themselves, then we’d live in a perfect society. Right?
Well it’s a nice theory, but in practice it doesn’t always work quite the way you want it to. Some people can find themselves actually becoming addicted to self-help thanks to the extreme perceived benefits, and sometimes this can do more damage than good in the long term.
So how can striving to improve yourself possibly end up having anything but a positive effect?
Well one danger is simply that you focus too much on improving yourself to the detriment of everything else. You may have already improved your health and your self-discipline, but if you don’t stop to start using those new assets then you aren’t going to benefit from them at all.
To some people, this is actually part of the appeal of self-help. By focussing on developing skills rather than using them, you can fool yourself into making progress, while actually procrastinating and avoiding having to take any real risks. A perfect example might be someone who’s shy when it comes to approaching members of the opposite sex. They may decide to go on a self-improvement drive by taking up new hobbies, reading books on confidence and developing their pick-up technique… but never actually get around to simply approaching women. The same goes for books on setting up businesses – if you’ve been reading books on how to become an entrepreneur for the last five years but haven’t actually launched one yet, then they haven’t really been much help, have they? Once you start measuring progress in terms of what you’ve actually accomplished, then you can get a better idea of how valuable all that self-help has really been.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Another potential danger of self-help is that it can end up changing you in ways that you didn’t expect and it might be that you achieve what you set out to, but didn’t think about the reality at the time.
Returning to the example of dating for a moment for instance, many guys are under the impression that they would be a lot happier and their lives would be a lot better if they were ‘players’ who could sleep with a different woman every night. Thus they might read books on pickup techniques and confidence to help them accomplish this, but they are likely to find that it doesn’t actually make them any happier.
Likewise you might understandably turn to self-help in order to create a more polished, suave and ‘cool’ version of yourself, but not realise that in doing so you’ve become more self-obsessed and less approachable in the process.
Very often the things that we need are not the things we want – money can’t buy happiness as they say so be wary of chasing fool’s gold.
Taking the Wrong Advice
A more obvious danger of a self-help addiction meanwhile is that you simply aren’t taking the right advice. Self-help gurus are in most cases out to make money, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t genuine but does mean that you have to be careful for fraudsters. And worse than the fraudsters are the people who genuinely believe their own hype but really don’t know what they’re talking about…
Self-help taps into some of our most basic and fundamental desires – to be liked, to be accepted, to be rich and to be successful. As such we are often too ready to accept what we’re told without careful examination, and this can end up damaging our health and wasting our time and money.
Spending to Accumulate
This leads us on to another point – even when self-help books and courses are useful, they are very often over-priced and can end up placing quite a strain on your wallet. This is something of an irony if you’re going on a course about earning money – do you really think that spending thousands on a course is the best way to start getting richer?
Now the self-help industry has thought of this and have the perfect response – they’ll say you have to ‘invest in yourself’ and that you have to ‘spend to accumulate’. But what these ideas ignore is the simple fact that you can get hold of tons of self-help material completely for free. Why spend huge amounts of money on a course when you can watch courses that contain all the same ideas for free on YouTube?
More to the point though, it’s not really courses or books that teach us the most valuable lessons. There are things to be learned from books and the web of course, but really the best way to improve at anything is to get out there and give it a go.