As someone who regularly creates personal development content, me sharing the problems with personal development may seem counter-intuitive, but I do it for a reason.
I do it not because I believe that my take on self-help is the real savior we’ve all been waiting for, but rather because whether it’s my content or someone else’s that really jives with you, I want it to actually work! And I believe that one of the keys to doing so is being able to understand both why things haven’t worked out so far, and what you need to look out for moving forward.
So here are my personal qualms and observations of the incredible world of self-help and personal development, an industry that is said to be worth over $10 billion dollars annually.
1. It Wastes Time Stroking Egos
The first major issue with most self-help content is that it wastes far too much time stroking the reader’s ego. Rather than telling you what you actually need to hear, it chooses to focus on justifying your problems and emphasizing how great your life will be once you overcome them. Don’t get me wrong, both of these things are great, but they are not an acceptable substitute for the actual work.
2. It’s A Bunch Of People Justifying Themselves
I get that in order for people to be willing to buy your book, take your course or watch your videos that you’ll need to share what you’ve done and prove to them why you’re worth listening to, but no one said it needs to be the main focus. Currently working on a book myself, I love to occasionally stroll through the review section on Amazon to see what actual readers liked and disliked about many of the best-selling self-help books.
While there are plenty of 4 and 5-star reviews, there are also a fair share of the 1 and 2-star variety. And one of the most common complaints (of even some of the most popular personal development books) is that rather than focusing on providing practical value to the reader, the writer opted to focus on their life experience and what makes them both great and relatable.
3. It Falsely Advertises As A Quick Fix
True change takes both time and work. Period. Yet, book after book and seminar after seminar continues to proclaim how the 200 pages or 2-day event that they have to offer is all that you’ll need.
Think of how many times you’ve read or watched something awesome and you felt a metaphorical lightbulb go on above your head. Of all the times that you’ve experienced that, how many times did you follow it up by putting something concrete into action?… Consistently?… I thought so.
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4. The “Teachers” Are Out of Context
Whether your self-help “guru” (in my opinion no one should be anyone’s guru) is a seasoned veteran like Bob Proctor, or a newbie like me, we are all out of context.
In terms of the big players that are at the top of the industry that still churn out new content, their issue lies in the fact that they are now so far removed from where the majority of their readers are, that most of what they teach isn’t as applicable as they think.
The newbies on the other hand have a tendency to state things so matter-of-factly while in reality they are still in the trenches of trying it out, and are hoping you will be part of the meal ticket proving it works.
“Human beings are works in progress that mistakingly think they’re finished.” – Dan Gilbert
5. It’s Not One Size Fits All
As much as I wish that my approach to personal development is exactly what everyone needs, it’s not. In this moment Tony Robbins’ insight may work particularly well for Glenda in Oklahoma, while Marie Forleo’s perspective does the trick for Claudio in Rome, but even those two, who seem to have found their needed source, are likely going to have to change things up at some point in the future.
We are all unique beings with our own complex inner workings and backstories that contribute to what does and doesn’t work for us at any given time. So let’s stop pretending that there is one message we all need to hear.
Ultimately, personal development is a beautiful world with the best of intentions (for the most part) that I am happy to be a part of. But be cautious of becoming a perpetual student to it. When something stands out, put it into action rather than casually continuing to just read and watch. The size of your personal development bookshelf or stack of books you perfectly placed for that Instagram post is only impressive to each of the authors and publishers that you bought from.
For more brutally honest personal development content designed for those who actually want to change be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and to follow me on Instagram. And to receive my free eBook on 5 Simple Daily Hacks For A Genuinely Happier Life click HERE.
Do you want to make your life better?
If you answered "yes", then you need to check out our free salon, playing for a limited time:
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Justin is the founder of Ideapod and the instructor of Ideapod Academy's new online course: Developing Your Personal Power.