“Does that stuff really works?,” Adam asked as I was listening to the Tim Ferris Show. He had never been into self-development before we met but since living together he’s got used to playing videogames with podcasts in the background and having self-help books scattered all over the house. Now, he got curious. Was this stuff really helping me or was I throwing money at false gurus that laughed all the way to the bank?
“It does,” I said, “It helps if you help yourself.”
There’s a reason why it’s called self-help, after all. If you think that you can buy a self-help book and see all your problems magically disappear as soon as you reach the last page, you’re deluding yourself. Self-help books and podcasts aren’t supposed to solve your problems. They’re supposed to give you the tools so YOU can solve your own problems.
If self-help books/videos/podcasts aren’t working for you, it doesn’t mean the material doesn’t work. Sure, there are plenty of unscrupulous people who have jumped on the self-help bandwagon to make a quick buck and I’m the first to caution you to research someone’s material and background (even my own!) before you take advice from them or hand them money. But when a lot of people have had success from the same material and you’re struggling with it, it’s worth to take a look at what you’re doing to see if you’re somehow self-sabotaging your own personal development journey.
Here are some of the most common reasons why this whole personal development thing isn’t working for you right now:
You Don’t Believe People Like You Can Do It
I remember the day I picked up my first self-help book. I had no faith it was going to work but I was at such a low point in my life, I thought, “what have I got to lose?” As I was reading through the book, I became more sceptical. The author was telling me I was worthy of love just for being me, I already had everything I need to succeed in life and was able to accomplished everything I set my mind to if I believed in myself and did the work.
I didn’t believe a word of it. In my mind, there were two types of people. Those who were born with an innate talent and were destined for success from the cradle, like Beyonce and J.K. Rowling, and the rest of us. If we weren’t born with a silver spoon in our cradles, a large bank account or stunning looks then there was no hope.
If you have the same defeatist mentality, there’s very little self-help books and podcasts can do for you. You’ll brand the whole thing as a nice dream at best or a hoax at worst and go back to living your life, same as before. You already know (without even trying it) that it won’t work so why waste your time? This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you truly believe it, you’re right.
Ironically, it was reading self-helps that made me believe in them. Although I didn’t trust that first self-help book, I decided to read a few more just to see what help was out there. The more I read, the more my confidence grew. While there were still plenty of people in my life who had my same victim mentality, now I suddenly had a few champions in my corner cheering me up and telling me to go for it. Everything would be ok.
It didn’t happen overnight but, eventually, that gave me the confidence to try at least one of their tips. Just to see what would happen. It changed my life.
You Don’t Take Action
When I want to do or learn something, I research everything about that topic. I read a dozen books, watch documentaries and listen to podcasts on the subject. But even when I hit that critical point when I keep stumbling onto the same information over and over again, I still keep digging in the hope of finding that last magical piece of advice that had somehow escaped my notice.
The truth is, I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist. Or, if it does exist, it isn’t that important. Knowing one more fact is rarely gonna make a big difference. Taking action on that first piece of advice you’ve got is what’s gonna change the game for you. In fact, taking any action is better than taking no action at all.
You can be the most knowleagable person in the room but nothing’s gonna happen until you put that knowledge into practice. You can read all the books you can find about driving but until you get into that car and drive it around (with the help of a driving instructor, of course!) you will never be able to drive and have the freedom to go wherever you want.
You Don’t Give It A Proper Shot
I used to be the type of girl who gave up at the first hurdle. If something didn’t work immediately, I’d make some excuse about why it obviously sucked and moved onto the next shiny thing. Until that failed too.
It was incredibly disheartening. I was investing money in books and courses that weren’t giving me the results they promised. I was wasting time on things that didn’t work. I was doing all the right things but nothing!
When something doesn’t work, you can blame the book you’re reading or the technique you’re using. But when nothing seems to work, it’s time to take a look at the common denominator in this equation: YOU.
More often that not, it’s not the book or course that’s the problem. It’s the way you apply it. If you give up too soon before what you’re doing has any chance to work, if you’re inconsistent and take action only on the things you like and ignore what would make you uncomfortable (hint: that’s usually the stuff that works), believe you know it all so you don’t bother mastering the basics or go so fast you don’t take the time to implement your strategy properly, you’re not gonna see the results you want.
These are just some of the pitfalls I’ve personally encountered on my self-development journey but there are many other traps you may fall into. When this happens, go back to basics. Figure out what you’re doing wrong. Don’t be afraid to try new things or tweak your strategy. Most importantly, have patience. It’s gonna take time but you’ll get there.
Over to you, now. Is this self-development thing working out for you? Share your experience in the comments below.