A brief, informal survey of the internet reveals that, behind pornography, one of the chief exports of cyberspace is self help. Everywhere you look, on thousands of blogs (including occasionally, this one) writers are cranking out words to help readers improve their lives. I suppose this is a symptom of the times, an outgrowth of some cultural idea that one should never be content unless they are at the absolute top (which is a totally different topic). Indeed, the burgeoning self help industry may be a sign of unprecedented discontent coinciding with unprecedented laziness. We want to be happier, richer, sexier, funnier, more together, less frazzled, in control and on top of things, but we don’t want to have to figure out how to do it ourselves, we want to be told.
Here’s the big secret to self-help: there is no big secret. Self improvement is an inner journey over unknown topography, not a formula in a math textbook. The best, hell, the only useful self help blogs out there will admit that they can merely suggest a path that has worked for the writer, the direction the reader takes is entirely up to them. Any self improvement project, be it gaining public speaking confidence or kicking a drug addiction, has to begin with willingness to change. There is no magic pill yet that can change a stubborn fool set in his ways into an dynamic and inquisitive self helper.I would venture to guess that a large portion of self help readers are subconsciously looking for this pill, but the difficult truth of self improvement is that you can read all you want, but unless you are willing to do the work, and apply what you encounter to your own behavior and thought patterns, the words are meaningless.
So once you identify where you would like to be and are willing to do the work to change to get there, what should you do? What blog should you follow, what books should you read? Well, In my opinion the answer here is “none”. Those blogs and books are looking to profit off of your resolve to improve. That is their purpose: making money, not helping you improve. You can help yourself without someone telling you what to do; after all, it is called “self-help” for a reason. You can help yourself by just doing a whole lot of the thinking you would need to do anyway. On your own terms. Trust me, the lessons are stronger when you learn them yourself.
What lessons do you need to learn? Well, that depends what you want out of life. Why do you want it? What is keeping you from achieving it? How do you get from here to there and what will you do when you encounter something else in between? These are the basic tenants of self improvement and there isn’t a twelve step program or four week course that will give you anything you cant give yourself by pondering these questions. The road this leads you on may be harder, it may be more frightening and you may have a few setbacks, but in the end the hard work of self help will pay off in ways you didn’t expect and couldn’t have gained from any perspective but your own.