How long have you been reading self help books? One year? Two? Five?!
And are you successful yet?
Are you where you want to be in your life?
Or are you still going around in circles unable to break away from the life you don’t want to lead?
It’s frustrating isn’t it? You’ve worked your rear-end off trying to make a difference in your life and yet you encounter the same difficulties over and over again. It’s like groundhog day.
Smile, breathe and be in the moment. Arrggghhh!!!
The same blog posts keep appearing telling you to smile, breathe, be in the moment.
You do these things and wait for the clouds to break and reveal a shaft of bright sunlight to welcome you to the promised land.
But instead you’re brought back to your own miserable reality with a bump when you realise that the home business you’ve been working on for months isn’t working, your bank account is hemorrhaging money and your wife’s eyes are pleading with you to go out and get a proper job.
Honestly, I read those posts and it makes me want to scream because this kind of thinking (as useful as it is later in the process) is no use to the person so consumed by frustration, fear and anger that they can barely function on a daily basis.
The people who most need help are often those in the most desperate circumstances. They feel closed off, entrenched, hemmed in, trapped, lost, scared, uncertain, hopeless, helpless and anguised. Telling these people that the solution to their problems is to smile, breathe and be in the moment is ridiculous.
I suspect there are legions of people who feel disconnected from much of the self development wisdom found in books and floating around the web.
It feels like it makes sense on some level, but somehow it also feels like it’s been written with someone else in mind.
When your life feels unbearable, when you’re scared and vulnerable and physically sick with fear, the high-level concepts offered by the self-help books is too much of a leap for many people to take.
The principles and concepts from the self help books are great and really do work, but it takes time to learn them. How long? Being realistic… months and years. We’re certainly not talking days and weeks here.
If you need to change the way you think… and you probably do… it’s going to take a while. If you’ve spent 30 years as a pessimist you cannot expect to become an optimist by the end of the week.
Unfortunately, failing at the self development game becomes another reason to beat yourself up for being useless and stupid and it’s incredibly damaging. I often wonder how many people’s lives have been made worse because they read self-help books.
So what’s the answer?
Do what you were born to do. Survive!
I wrote a pretty crappy survival metaphor or allegory (not sure which) in which I describe your life as having crash landed in the wilderness.
It was a bit surreal to say the least, because there in the middle of the wilderness, was a helicopter which you could fly to freedom. The problem being that a helicopter is so complex that most people couldn’t hope to even start it let alone fly it.
And that’s the way I feel about a lot of the self help stuff. I feel it’s pretty useless in helping to deal with the immediate problems that many people face.
In my little story (which I will improve over time) there was also knife. The knife was meant to represent a simple but effective tool, something that could be used immediately to improve the situation.
The point was you have to use the tools you already know and learn to use the more complex tools as you go.
Don’t let the tantalizing promise of the helicopter distract you from improving your present situation.
Your first goal is survival
I know, it doesn’t really fit with the ‘aim high’ and ‘live the dream’ messages, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.
Believe me, surviving, is one fantastic exhilarating step up from existing – which is exactly what many of us do.
Survival is living – there’s a vibrancy to surviving – whereas existing is merely tolerating the misery while waiting for it all to end.
Survival is triumph over adversity through persistence and determination.
Survival is mastering yourself and your environment.
Survival involves improvising and ingenuity.
Survival teaches us to adapt to changing circumstances and make the best use of the resources we have, while searching for or creating other resources.
Through survival we can find happiness and contentment in the most challenging circumstances and still foster hope for a better future.
Survival is something that is baked into our DNA
It’s what we’ve done for thousands of years.
It’s what we do best.
Survive. Adapt. Thrive.
Have self help books changed your life? Have they made it better or worse?
Image used under creative commons attribution and share alike Mark Sebastian