I’d like to talk about self-help and why I feel it isn’t helpful. I’d even go so far as to say that it can make life feel worse as it’s the junk food of life’s journey.
It started today when I listened to a shortened audiobook on Headway. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to or read any self-help books but I just choose one with a catchy title.
I listened to it and instantly started to get annoyed by it. What was getting to me? Maybe it was how it was trying to explain how to solve life’s biggest problems into a singular thing.
I really don’t like this approach but I feel this is the current state of the world we live In. Books, TV, socials, websites.
Everyone is preaching how X thing will make everything better. I just don’t believe this to be true and I am just exhausted by this mentality being the main voice across media.
But I get it. People want book sales, they want clicks on articles, and they want to be known for something easily digestible.
Nobody wants nuance - everyone wants binary.
Do this or don’t do that.
And I get that. Life can feel so complicated at times that we just look around and be like
“Someone just tell me what the hell I should be doing here”
Because it just feels like the amount of information we receive is just an all-time high. There is so much confusion and misinformation that it gets so overwhelming.
Overwhelming to the point where someone comes along and goes. “Hey if you just do this 1 thing it will make that feeling go away”
How attractive this proposal is to us. If you don’t believe me just look at the book sales for self-help. Then look at the titles of the best-selling books.
From a marketing and selling point of view, it makes so much sense. It works so who am I to judge on how people want to sell ideas?
But I see it the same as junk food.
Choose your weakness - sweets, chocolate, McDonald’s, pizza, crisps, ice cream.
Just because it is tasty and easily digestible doesn’t mean that it is good for you in the long term.
These products have been designed to hijack the pleasure points in your body. Of course, they’re amazing and delicious and we get hooked on them.
That’s the whole point.
We get hooked and we continue to buy and consume.
Self-help for the most part taps into the same dopamine fix.
Are you struggling?
You have fears, stresses, anxieties, insecurities - here’s a thing that will fix that.
This is essentially marketing and sales 101.
What is the emotional discomfort that you are looking to relieve in someone?
You feel insecure about your body - here’s a pill, a workout routine, a diet that will make that insecurity go away.
You feel miserable about your job - here’s an easy way to make money so that you will feel happy again
You are angry at yourself for not being productive - here’s a quick 10sec tip or product that will make you be able to do that thing
I could go on and on.
Just insert your reference point and follow this structure
Pain → sexy solution
But here’s the thing.
Just like junk food. It helps initially but it doesn’t solve the long-term issue it just makes you feel worse
Hungry → McDonald's → long term problems increase
Because the solution was never designed to help.
It was designed to sell.
They don’t want to solve your problem because then they would all be out of business.
Instead, you hook people on the idea. And even if it doesn’t work you keep feeding them the idea that they just need more to make it better.
Dam this all feels negative and a downer.
It is sad. It does get me annoyed.
Because I just think it makes life worse for people rather than better.
So what’s the answer?
Here is where it starts to get tricky.
I’ve hidden away or at least tried to, from advising or recommending anyone anything.
Most of the time it just isn’t worth it.
Am I not doing the thing that I am so against above?
So I try my best not to say anything. It’s a big reason why I’ve never wanted to share my life and thoughts online or in person.
What’s the point? I’m happy living my life and I don’t want to try to tell anyone else how they should live theirs.
Easier to keep my mouth shut and allow people to be and do whatever they want.
And maybe I’ll move back to that - who knows.
But for now, I feel drawn to writing and creating.
So what is that sweet answer that I can give that makes it all feel better and for this all to go away?
Here’s my proposal and if it feels gross or wrong please toss it in the bin immediately.
I believe there are 2 options
- Either you look to find the solution to your discomforts, pains or suffering from someone else or something else.
- You figure out how to find and deal with it yourself.
This isn’t earth or world-shattering. Or maybe it is what do I know how you interpret the ideas and meanings.
But let me expand on the idea then you can decide if it feels good for you or it deserves to go into the bin.
We have a sea of knowledge and information out there. Which is all designed to be the quick fix to whatever you’re experiencing.
And don’t get me wrong - I’m not saying the ideas and the information you can get from these aren’t good, helpful and beneficial.
But the idea that I want to throw out there.
Is that the thing you are consuming: the book, the social media post, the article, the course, the workshop.
That in themselves is nothing but a piece of subjective information. It’s an idea.
But you are the one who decides if it’s good for you.
Just by doing this. You are now in the driver's seat. You don’t have to look at these things as the answer to all your problems.
Because you have the answer to all your problems.
No one knows you better than you.
And let’s be honest.
We barely know ourselves to start with.
So let’s not look to outside sources for the answer but see them as an idea that we decide if it fits us or not.
I believe that by doing this approach we are more likely to find a way that we can live happier, more joyful and more fulfilling lives.
Because no one has the answer to how to get there apart from ourselves.
So let’s not hand that over.
But this is an idea and like I said feel free to throw this in the bin too.
Because really, I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.
That’s all your personal choice.
Even when I talk about what I do, the things that help me or even give suggestions of what might be helpful.
I would highly encourage just to just see it as a piece of information.
It’s not the answer to anything it’s an idea that you can choose to explore or not - that’s it.
Because I’m just doing what makes me happy and I’m figuring out what works for me.
But that could be totally different to what you need want or desire.
There are just so many different variables in life for us to try and fit everyone into the same box.
Again this isn’t a sexy post. It’s not an easy post to digest but I believe that the journey is often like that.
Just like junk food. Wow doesn’t it feel good in the moment?
But keep going back to it and you’ll quickly find yourself with negative health effects.
The solution of eating natural foods fruits, vegetables etc.
But isn’t that so boring and unsexy?
But the truth is in the results and not in the packaging and the catchy titles.
But here’s my best attempt to give you something practical that you can take with you.
As I keep repeating - if this is useless throw it in the bin.
But here’s the idea and if it’s helpful then that’s an idea worth sharing.
Take note of the life you’re living then mindfully choose the paths for yourself.
Because only you know what path will lead you to a place where you are happy, joyful and fulfilled.
A lovely idea but again it doesn’t fill the appetite, does it?
It holds everything and nothing at the same time. But let me try and expand further.
Figure out what you’re unhappy with and explore the ideas and ways to make it better for yourself.
The ideas you will find, are only ideas. They are suggestions but they aren’t the answer. You have to piece together that for yourself.
Okay a little bit better possibly.
For me, the idea of life design helps with this but again this is just how my brain likes to work and see the world.
Maybe it was all the years of gaming and playing things like the Sims.
But lifestyle design - (again choose any label that makes it feel digestible- mindful living, intentions, CBT) same ideas and different labels.
But just like in the game of Sims.
We all have different personalities, attributes (talents) and goals.
But whenever you play the sims it’s all broken down nicely into little categories.
This helps you understand what you choose to focus on to progress in life.
So you play the game. You tell the little sim to read more books to increase intelligence so that he can get the job promotion.
You tell the little sim to go talk to the neighbour because you want to build a relationship and hopefully ask for a date.
You’ve got to take care of all the other needs too. If you make the sim read all day for the job promotion - they’ll get miserable.
They will shout to go socialise or do something playful or fun.
Doesn’t that sound so familiar?
But the idea that I’d like you to take away with you if you choose to find it useful.
Life is made up of little areas.
Understanding those areas and how we can fill them up is how we play the game of life.
We’re each playing our own game so it’s your responsibility to find those areas and what fills up your bars of life.
Here are my categories
- Health: Focus on your body and wellness.
- Learning: Grow your knowledge and mind.
- Feelings: Understand and handle your emotions.
- Self: Develop your values and ethics.
- Beliefs: Explore your spiritual or personal faith.
- Love: Build and maintain your love life.
- Family: Everything about being within a family.
- Friends: Your social circle and community ties.
- Work: Your job and professional ambitions.
- Money: Managing and growing your finances.
- Lifestyle: Your daily life and personal fulfilment.
- Dreams: Your overall life goals and vision.
Feel free to take, leave or modify them.
This week I’m planning to build an assessment tool or quiz that you can use to figure out where you sit with each of these
Because sometimes that’s the hardest part isn’t it?
We just have no idea why we’re unhappy, unfulfilled or unsatisfied.
So my hope is a quiz of questions that you answer will give you an idea.
What you do after that is a whole other piece of writing.
But awareness and understanding is always the first step
Stay tuned if you’d like to use the quiz
I’m hoping it will help some people start to look forward to 2024 and look at it with fresh eyes full of hope and understanding.
Don’t worry it’s all free so if you like the idea just use it.
If you don’t, don’t :)
But as always
Thank you for reading if you’ve got this far.
Every week I am amazed by how people get value from these thoughts and ramblings.
It gives me the confidence and courage to speak up when I’ve been silent for so long.
So thank you for giving your precious time over.
I will do my best to make sure it’s worth your time.
As always let me share some dope things that have been happening the past week
1. Interesting thoughts on relaxing from Andrew D. Huberman, Ph.D.
Professor of Neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford Medicine.
I love it whenever science gets involved in trying to discover the things that make our lives better and easier. Especially when it doesn't come in a pill form and isn't being sold to you.
Meditation, NSDR, and breathwork are all free and available to everyone. Ways in which we can rest beyond sleeping.
2. Descript released a new clipping feature
I'm going big into video content if you haven't started to see across the socials. Over the past few weeks and months I've learned how to write more authentically and that has helped me a lot in being able to get ideas of my head and out into the world.
I see video as one of the best ways to get ideas across to people in the most authentic and genuine way. There is one thing to read some writing but whenever you see a persons face and hear their voice I feel this is how we are designed to connect with each other.
So I'm upping my video production game. I've got Decript, got the gear, I've got the ideas in writing, I've got clipping software and I have help with the edits.
I'm super excited to get out there.
I'm going to start talking to people in a Podcast format. I'm nearly excited about this more than anything else.
I can't wait to talk to people that I love, admire and respect. And get a chance to allow them to tell their stories and share their ideas.
3. Managing Expectations - James Clear
Let's end this week's newsletter on a high note. This is a quote from James Clear the author of Atomic Habits which I found to be true in many ways.
And that's all folks.
Wishing you a great week ahead.
P.s I'm now on a mission to get people to come chat to me on a recorded call 'Podcast'. If I know you then I'd love to talk to you. Everyone has mountains of value and interest that are just begging to be shared. My goal is to make you shine so you can share ideas that are worth sharing. Maybe it's a laugh, an inspiration or a thought. There is something there worth talking about so please drop me a DM if you would find it fun. I'll also be reaching out as well ❤️