The other day a friend proudly announced to me that she never reads “self-help” books or blogs.
“Why do I need someone else to tell me how to live my life? I know how to live my life,” she countered when I suggested that many self-help materials actually provide transformative information. She is a practical, no-nonsense person who feels that no one is better at solving her problems than she is.
There is certainly truth to her opinion. Ultimately it is up to each of us to make the changes and take the actions for improving our lives.
And there's also truth to her assertion that a certain type of “touchy-feely” person (her words) reads self-help materials more than other types of people. I've actually noticed that myself.
If you look at the 16 Myers Briggs personality types, it seems (anecdotally) that the types with the NF (intuitive, feeling) functions tend to be more inclined toward self-reflection, personal development, truth seeking, and other introspective pursuits for overall life improvement.
But as a touchy-feely type myself, I think everyone can benefit from personal development reading and study — even the non-NF types (maybe especially the non-NF types!).
Those not inclined toward self-examination may never realize that something needs fixing until it is broken (like a relationship problem, getting fired from a job, sinking into a depression). Sometimes the areas where we are weakest are the places we need to focus the most attention.
I'm probably preaching to the choir here since most of you are “touchy feely” types as well! But “self-help” does get a bad rap sometimes, and it's good to reinforce the real benefits that reading, seeking, and reflection offer everyone. Plus, I'm sure you know someone like my friend who just might benefit from this post!
In one regard, I do agree with the anti-self-help crowd. At some point you have to get your nose out of the book or blog and actually do something.
It's one thing to have an “ah ha” moment but quite another to transform that moment into an actionable strategy for life change. (That's where our practical non-NF's might come in handy!)
You can't just sit on your enlightened butt. As the old African proverb goes, “When you pray, move your feet.”
And any personal development or self-help writer or blogger worth their salt isn't going to leave you at the “ah ha.” They're going to give you the next steps toward creating a better life. They are going to offer you possible ideas and strategies for taking action. Of course, foot-moving batteries are not included.
Here's what I've gained from being a personal development and self-help devotee for most of my adult life. Feel free to add to this list of 15 darned good reasons why self-help actually helps!
1. Joy of learning. I have a profound curiosity about people, the meaning of life, our purposed here on Earth, and what different people have to say about it. Learning about these things makes me happy.
2. Humility. The more I read, study, and learn, the more I realize that I do not have all of the answers. In fact, pulling one thread of questioning often leads to the unraveling of your entire life philosophy. Which in turn leads to more study and reflection. I have learned that I am not the final word on anything.
3. Self-acceptance. This is one of the most liberating results of my self-help pursuits. Through all of my reading and study, especially of from people like Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle, I've come to like and accept myself just as I am.
4. Conflict resolution. Learning to handle conflict, especially in your love relationship, is a skill that must be mastered. It doesn't come naturally to most of us. Left to our own devices, we are like children fighting over candy.
5. Prioritizing. Personal development reading has helped me prioritize what is most important in my life. You can't do or have everything, and this knowledge has forced me to sit down and make tough decisions about where I want to focus my time and energy. But I am so much more productive now in areas I really like.
6. True happiness. It took a long time of study and introspection to really grasp that sustained happiness didn't come from a lot of money, a big house, or nice things. It comes from relationships, experiences, altruism, creativity, and meaning.
7. Meaningful work. Without personal growth and self-work, I never would have discovered the work I feel passionate about and that is meaningful to me. Loving my work has hugely impacted my life for the better.
8. An easier life. Through reading personal development blogs, I've come to embrace that simplifying your life in all areas makes life much easier, less stressful, and much more enjoyable.
9. Freedom from anxiety. I'm still working on this one every day, but I've learned through my reading that living in the moment frees you from anxiety about the future. Rarely is there something in the moment that is anxiety-producing (except fear of the future).
10. Appreciation for people. I have learned that you cannot control or change other people. So you can choose to continue to battle against their “flaws” or accept and appreciate them for who they are. The latter is much nicer.
11. The power of perception. My friend and fellow coach Steve Chandler really helped me with this one in his books. How you perceive things defines the reality for you. Change your perceptions and you change the situation.
12. Creative impetus. I've learned you don't have to wait for life to come to you. You can create what you want rather than react to events. And if you can't create for some reason, you can be creative in your reactions.
13. Freedom from struggling. Through my learning, I've discovered that struggling against anything isn't nearly as productive as flowing with. When I find myself struggling, I've learned to stop and find a path with less resistance.
14. The real art of attraction. For a while, I was all over “the law of attraction.” But I've since learned that “the law of action” works far better. In fact, when I act, I become more attractive.
15. A constant support system. I have stacks of great books, lists of amazing blogs, all at my fingertips whenever I need inspiration, reminders, emotional support, guidance, and wisdom. Having access to self-help materials is like having a stable of wise and loving counselors at your beck and call.
Frankly, I don't know what I'd do without them!
What about you — how has self-help helped you? Please share in the comments below.