If you walked into one of the most successful people in the world's home or office, would you expect to find row after row of self help DVDs/CDs and books? Have you seen any on MTV's ‘Cribs’ and 'Who lives in house like this?' Thought not.
Americans spent $11 billion in 2008 on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching and stress-management programs. I suspect that that this figure is much lower in other parts of the world but the Americans are doing their best to export their brand of motivation of “You can't love someone until you learn to love yourself”, “Being healthy means being in touch with your feelings”, “Never lose hope” and “Be Positive”. We, at least in the UK, are a little bit more cynical about all this but this branded help is a growing market here too. I’ll admit to having a few of those resources around the house.
One of the most disturbing effects of this self help movement is the need to consistently ‘go back’ for more. This article describes this situation better than I can. Surely, success must come at some time. Steve Salerno, in his book “SHAM: How the Gurus of the Self-help Movement Make Us Helpless” explains just how this industry and its message is not really helping to make people happy but certainly make the ‘gurus’ richer. Psychologist Paul Pearsall in his provocative book ‘The Last Self-help Book You'll Ever Need’ uses scientific evidence to support the anti-motivation cause and I suspect there is a growing cynicism amongst many people.
One of the biggest dampeners of personal happiness is the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ pressures, the meeting of others’ expectations, the constant comparing of yourself with your peers. These books and CDs and DVDs and all the other stuff are designed to tell you, you are not good enough, you can be better if you really try. Just buy this please!
Before going out and buying these resources, it is probably best to try and understand who you are and what you really want. I believe that many people need the constant reinforcement because they are trying to be someone or something that they are not. Can you be that master salesperson, can you think positively in the face of cancer, are you comfortable spending other people’s hard earned cash on real estate that, fingers crossed, will deliver a profit? Will those riches and successes really, really make you happy? If you really are a master salesperson or the insanely positive person, do you need a book to tell you so? Most successful people seem to get by with reading ‘The Secret’.
Otherwise aim for a more rounded life, understand who you are and your limitations and embrace them in the search for your place in this world. You might not get rich but you might just get happy.
May you find the balance.
[First published on my Talking2Myself blog on specified date]