Maximizing the life you have: personal development

To be frank: I kind of hate the self-help industry. Which I understand is wildly hypocritical because I am in the most self-help of all careers…but let me be specific about what I dislike.

I dislike the larger than life personalities who make promises and claims that if you only do THESE THREE THINGS or change THESE TEN HABITS you can UNLOCK YOUR POTENTIAL! The books that tell you that the reason you’re unhappy is because you aren’t thinking positively enough or that you just need to try harder.

In the last several years we’ve seen the next reincarnation of the self-help guru of the 80’s in the instagram influencer of the 2020’s. Everybody and their brother wants to sell you their oils, their self-esteem tips or their nutritional secrets to get you the “life you want now!”. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help people improve their lives. There’s everything wrong with claiming to strangers who you’ve never met that you know exactly what they need and it just happens to be one-size-fits all and guess what – you’re selling it! These approaches pedal in personal failure and claim that you are just not doing enough or you haven’t found the ‘secret’.

I know the secret. Do you want to hear it? There is no secret. There is no oil or supplement that will magically give you the life you want.

Especially when it comes to mental health, anxiety, depression or mental illness. That needs professional help and it’s unethical to claim that anything but research backed professional intervention can ‘cure’ mental ailments.

For areas such as career development or personal life fulfillment there is, rightfully so, a large market for improvement. Everyone, especially in our culture, worships at the altar of productivity and success. We compare and contrast and look to our neighbor and ask ourselves – am I measuring up?

Whether you are or aren’t only matters in the context of what you’re comfortable with. But if you are looking for improvements it can be tempting to look for the quick fix, find that oil, or gain those new habits and just hope it ‘works’ and quick. It probably will not. Like I said – there is no secret and no easy fix.

But there is work that can be done. There are strategies and ways to point you in a direction you want to go. There are patterns of thinking to examine and rewrite. There are family histories and core beliefs that shape what may be holding you back. You can set goals and set plans for yourself and customize what personal achievement looks like for you. But it takes WORK. Whatever your plans for a fulfilling life, know that you can do it, but please save yourself the disappointment and the time and resist falling for the modern day snake oil salesmen knocking at your instagram door.